Canadian Adam Svensson shoots impressive 61 to lead the Sony Open


Andrew Putnam arrives at the 10th green during the first round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event on Thursday, January 10, 2019 at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. (AP Photo / Matt York)

The Associated Press

Ocean views along the golf course seem to suit the Canadian Adam Svensson.

A year after his victory in the Bahamas, which paved the way for the PGA Tour, Svensson completed a rookie round to remember Thursday with a 10-foot birdie in his final hole for a 9-under 61 and a one-shot in the Sony Open.

"It was all a blur," Svensson said. "I do not even remember what holes I've seen."

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Throw on an eagle, too, a 6-iron in the ninth-ninth pair he picked up thin and was hopeful that would clear the bunker. You did better than that, rolling to 5 feet. But it was the turn nine, as the wind began to calm down along the shores, west of Waikiki Beach, where the 25-year-old of Surrey, BC, made his move.

It started with a 50-foot putt on the 11th hole. He hit 2 feet on 12, thrashed an 18-foot birdie in 13th, and finished his run with a 10-foot birdie in 14th. A hard up-and-down right from the green in the par-5 18 gave Svensson the shortest round of professional career.

He filmed a 61 while at Barry University where he won the Jack Nicklaus Award in 2014 as the Division II player of the year.

His only significant professional win was his second event last year on the Tour at the Great Abaco Classic in the Bahamas and he took his place in the top 25 of the year's list of awards for the PGA Tour.

Andrew Putnam fired a 62 in the morning and seemed hard to beat until Svensson appeared.

It was the first time Putnam had played Waialae all week because of a bee sting, and apparently that did not bother him. He did birdie in half of his holes, none of them tap-ins, and took only 23 putts to the smallest score of his career on the PGA Tour.

Putnam had a four-shot lead among starters. By the end of the day, Matt Kuchar had 63, and 75 field players of 144 men were under par.

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That did not include Jordan Spieth, who made his debut in 2019 with a bit of rust and showed. He had to wait until his 16th hole, the par-3 seventh, for his first bird of the year. And that was all he did in a 73-round that left him needing a low round just to make it to the weekend.

He still managed to keep it fun, especially with the new rules.

Spieth, like most players, does not understand the visually awkward shift from falling from knee height instead of shoulder height. Six holes in his round, his tee shot went up in front of a sprinkler head. He called for a decision and was given relief because of the potential for injury or damage to the club. So he did what he did all his golf life – he held the ball at the level of his shoulder.

Slugger White, tour's vice president of competition, stopped him. If he had fallen and thrown the throw, it would have been a penalty. If not, it could have fallen off again from the proper height.

"I'm like," Would not it just be a re-drop anyway? "What's the big deal?" Spieth said. "It's unusual."

He stopped himself from dropping shoulder-height behind the 18th green. He also patted the opening hole with the flag still in the cup, another change that is getting a lot of attention earlier this year. And he hit a mark on the line of a 4-foot putt.

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"Overall, I've tested most of the new rules today," he said.

Justin Thomas, who set the PGA Tour's 72-hole record at the Sony Open two years ago, opened with a 67 playing the last five holes in pair – a birdie, three straight bogeys and a bunker shot for the eagle.

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., Took a 2 under 68 and Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., has 1 under. Nick Taylor, of Abbotsford, B.C., David Hearn, of Brantford, Ont., And Mackenzie Hughes, of Dundas, Ontario, are still. Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., (71) and Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford (72), are well behind the leadership of Svensson.

Putnam, out of 23 players who were in Maui last week at the Sentinel Champions Tournament, made everything seem so easy. This is his third year playing the Sony Open, so the course is not new to him. But it's unusual that he does not have at least one round of training.

He was by the pool Tuesday when the bee stung him in the foot.

"I could not walk, so I had to withdraw from the pro-am," he said. "I was sitting yesterday and I could not get a shot. It's bizarre how it all worked out.

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He shot his 62, despite a bogey in the 15th hole, when his pitch went 12 meters less and he lost the putt.

Putnam did not lose many in the first round. Statistically, he made just over 70 feet of shots, from a 5-foot heel in the closing hole (his shorter bird putt) to his longest bird on day 14, just under nine feet.

"The hole was too big and the ball was coming in," he said. "It was fun."


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