In what could have been a letdown week for the PGA Tour, a superstar emerged on the first day of the Sony Open and shares the lead going into Friday’s second round.
Jordan Spieth shot a 64 at Honolulu’s Waialae Country Club on Thursday and is locked up with Chris Kirk and Taylor Montgomery atop the leaderboard, one ahead of a group of six other golfers after play was suspended due to darkness. Though Spieth has won in Hawaii before at the Tournament of Champions, he has never won this particular event. A win here, however, could portend a monstrous 2023 for the three-time major winner.
Let’s take a look at his round along with what to expect the rest of the week.
T1. Jordan Spieth, Chris Kirk, Taylor Montgomery (-6): Warning: This is going to be a very Spieth-heavy article (for obvious reasons). The good news for the Golden Child is that he’s leading a golf tournament. The bad news is that he nearly needed to lead the field in putting to do so. Spieth nearly had a perfectly clean card Thursday only sullying it with a bogey on the par-4 13th hole. He said after his round that the putter is starting to feel good again.
“Half my putts today were like, ‘Wow, I knew exactly where that was going.’ Some of them went in and some of them didn’t, and the others I didn’t and I made some of them,” Spieth said. “It’s just — but I know once I get to a certain feel through the ball that I can beat the field. I can be No. 1 in strokes gained for the week because I know what that feels like.
“So I’m just trying to get that way. It’s getting there, and that’s exciting.”
The numbers agree. Spieth’s 50-round rolling average in strokes gained putting is above PGA Tour average (0.0 SG) for the first time since the Texas Open last year.
I’m not sure Spieth has anything to prove to anyone given that he’s already won three majors and 13 times before turning 30. But a win here and a little momentum rolling into a big time stretch of golf leading into the Masters would certainly elevate him in my mind back to somebody who could feasibly be the No. 1 player in the world by the end of the year. A long way to go, and he needs to hit it a bit better than he did today, but something is certainly brewing.
T4. Harris English, Denny McCarthy, Brendon Todd, David Lipsky, Rory Sabbatini (-5)
T11. Stewart Cink, K.J. Choi, Cam Davis (-4)
We could talk about English (which we do below), but how about Cink and Choi (combined age 101) in the mix at this event! Both shot 66s and both did it by gaining strokes in every statistical category, which is remarkable.
Also, Sabbatini’s scripting on Thursday was all-time.
Quote(s) of the day
Spieth had some gems after his 64. The first was about where his game is at compared to where it has been in recent years.
“I believe I can shoot 5 or 6 under each day out here,” Spieth said. “Not to say that that means it’ll happen, but there are other times I would be sitting there going, ‘How do I hold this shit together,’ to be honest. Seriously.”
I can’t think of a better way to sum up his entire career.
The second was a big-time flex following that quote about his game and the revelation that he and his family recently purchased an RV to travel around to PGA Tour events.
Q: When was the last time you flew coach?
Spieth: “The 27th — oh, coach, sorry, no. … I thought you said commercial.”
Sure, sure, sure.
Harris English resurfaces
Harris English was out for much of 2022 with an injury, and it’s clear that he’s had a difficult time bouncing back. In 15 starts since returning last June, English has just one top 10 finish (the Fortinet Championship in September). His 65 in Round 1 marked just the third time he’d gained at least 4.4 strokes on the field in a single round since the summer of 2021. English said after his round that this is as close to 100% as he’s felt in a long time so hopefully this is the start of a nice run for him in 2023.
2023 Sony Open updated odds and picks
- Jordan Spieth: 4-1
- Taylor Montgomery: 8-1
- Harris English: 14-1
- Chris Kirk: 18-1
- Denny McCarthy: 20-1
- Cam Davis: 20-1
This is a tough board. I don’t particularly love anybody on it, but if you made me choose, I think Davis at 20-1 is really interesting. He’s just two back and led the field from tee to green on Thursday. A big time year from him wouldn’t be a surprise at all, and it’s very easy to envision — even if his game doesn’t seemingly fit Waialae perfectly — to envision him starting to roll this weekend.