Former University of Georgia golfer Russell Henley is in second place in the PGA Tour’s first full-field event of the season.
Scott Piercy and Tim Clark shot 64s.
Jay Overton is tied with Stephen Ames for fifth place at 65.
Augusta native Charles Howell, who has a strong track record in this event, is tied for seventh place after 66.
Howell has won more than $1.85 million here, with six top 5’s including a pair of seconds.
“I like it here,” Howell said after his round. “I don’t know why I can’t win. I wish I could sort of figure that out. But I like it. I’ve always enjoyed coming here since the first time. It’s a nice week. It’s an easy way to start, coming to Hawaii.”
Howell hasn’t won since 2007, so he wants to win anywhere, but especially here.
“I really like this golf tournament,” Howell said. “I would love to win this one. This one is right up there at the top. I’ve come close quite a few times now.
Piercy, the Canadian Open champion, was among 20 players who started their season last week on Maui, even though it took until the fourth day – when the Tournament of Champions was supposed to end – that the tournament actually began.
He tied for 13th and said waiting three days for the tournament to start might have been more draining than playing a 54-hole tournament in 29 hours.
“I think I was almost as tired those days as I was after the 36-hole day. More mentally tired,” he said.
He was at the course Wednesday for more than eight hours, mostly on the putting greens.
“Seven three-putts and a four-putt last week,” he said before leaving.
No two courses are more different in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour than these two – the Plantation Course at Kapalua build on the side of a mountain, with dramatic changes in elevation and fairways some 80 yards wide, the other built along the shores of Oahu, with tight fairways that wind through skinny palms.
And then there was the wind.
“The wind wasn’t even blowing today compared to last week,” Piercy said. “I just played solid today, hit it in a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens, made two fairly key putts and took care of the par 5s.”
Kapalua winner Dustin Johnson reached 3-under on the back nine until he made three bogeys on the last six holes and shot 70.
On the par-5 ninth, Johnson’s second shot from the back side of a bunker sailed right and bounced off a tent and onto the road, out-of-bounds. He reloaded, hit the middle of the green and two-putted for a bogey, which felt like a double bogey at best on the easiest hole at Waialae.
Overton felt like a new man at the start of a new season, though not so much from his golf.
A former Ryder Cup player, he still is looking for his first win. The change was in the offseason, when he took his girlfriend to Italy and got engaged. But there was still time for work, particularly his bunker play.
“I don’t think I’ve ever shot this low here,” Overton said. “It’s been weird because I should play good here because all the other courses that are extremely windy I generally play good. But I think I was a lot more prepared this year.”
EUROPEAN TOUR: In Durban, South Africa, Thongchai Jaidee shot 7-under-par 65 to take a three-stroke lead on the opening day of the Volvo Champions.
Thongchai birdied six of his first 10 holes to end the day three shots ahead of two of South Africa’s major winners, Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen.
Els, a two-time South African Open winner on the same Durban Country Club course, showed his fondness for the layout on the Indian Ocean shoreline with birdies on his first three holes.
Then he double-bogeyed the fourth and finished with a 4-under 68. Oosthuizen finished out with three birdies in his 68.
Retief Goosen, who lost in a playoff a year ago, returned to competition after a five-month layoff following back surgery to shoot an even-par 72.