HONOLULU – Justin Thomas became the seventh player to post a sub-60 round on the PGA Tour, making eagle at his final hole to shoot a 59 at the Sony Open.
Although Thomas is bidding to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to claim the Aloha Slam, there was plenty of other Day 1 action worth noting.
Hudson Swafford knew he was poised for a good round, but it just wasn’t good enough.
Swafford began his week in Hawaii with an 8-under 62 and was in second place. He said a tip from his swing coach Scott Hamilton clicked just before he began his season and that he was confident his game was Tour-ready.
Unfortunately, that left him a field goal off the lead set by Thomas.
“I saw some good golf last week. I knew that I was doing some good things,” he said. “[Thomas] is playing some good golf right now. Hats off to him, because I felt like I played a pretty good round.”
Russell Henley had no idea what to expect at Waialae Country Club. Although he won the event in 2013, Henley, like all the other Nike Golf athletes, had a busy offseason restocking his golf bag.
Henley said he didn’t play a round during the Tour’s fall schedule with the same settings on his driver, and he arrived in Hawaii unsure of what to expect.
“It’s taken me a little bit to change to the right driver,” said Henley, who is tied for third after an opening 64. “I’m finally getting comfortable with the driver.”
There’s something to be said for momentum, with Thomas fresh off his three-stroke victory last week in Maui picking up where he left off at Kapalua, but he wasn’t the only player enjoying the benefits of momentum.
Russell Knox, who tied for 17th at the SBS Tournament of Champions, opened with a 64 and is tied with Tony Finau, who finished ninth last week, at Waialae.
“In Justin’s case the week after you win is like a free-for-all so he’s obviously super confident, he’s out here trying to birdie every hole,” Knox said. “I played decent at times last week, and I know I’m going to play well here eventually.”
This isn’t shaping up to be a normal January for Jim. Jimmy Walker acquired the nickname “January Jim” after winning the Sony Open in back-to-back years (2014 and ’15) and finishing second in ’15 at the Tournament of Champions in Maui.
But that moniker was put to the test on Thursday when Walker opened with a 1-over 71 at Waialae. It was his first over-par round at the Sony Open since 2012 and left him in a tie for 116th and in danger of missing the cut in Hawaii for the first time since ’12.