Justin Thomas Shoots 59, Leads Sony Open By 3

Justin Thomas tees off on the first hole at Waialae CC during the first round of the Sony Open on Jan 12, 2017 in Honolulu, HI. Photo by Chris Condon/PGA Tour via Getty Images

It did not take long for 2017 to yield its first eye-popping low score on the PGA Tour, and based on recent form, it came from an unsurprising place.

Justin Thomas, winner of last week’s SBS Tournament of Champions in Maui, put together an unforgettable Hawaii encore during the first round of the Sony Open at Waialae in Honolulu: a 59, golf’s magic number.

With eagles on his first and last holes, the 23-year-old Thomas, who also won the 2016-17 CIMB Classic in Malaysia less than three months ago, became just the seventh player in PGA Tour history to shoot a sub-60 round.

With the dazzling 11-under round, Thomas leads the Sony Open by three strokes over fellow American Hudson Swafford, and four strokes over South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini.


Top 10

1. Justin Thomas -11
2. Hudson Swafford -8
3. Rory Sabbatini -7
4. Russell Henley, Russell Knox, Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Cameron Smith, Jamie Lovemark, Billy Hurley III, Shawn Stefani -6


Other Notables

12. Vijay Singh, Jordan Spieth -5
21. Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama -4
38. Bill Haas, Y.E. Yang -3
54. William McGirt -2
74. Smylie Kaufman, Billy Horschel, Fabian Gomez, Zach Johnson -1
119. Jimmy Walker +1
142. Paul Casey +3


How the Leader Did It

Justin Thomas talks with caddie at Waialae CC during the first round of the Sony Open on Jan 12, 2017 in Honolulu, HI. Photo by Chris Condon/PGA Tour via Getty Images

These historically great rounds are usually flawless, but in the case of Justin Thomas’ 59, it really wasn’t. He shot the -11 score despite a bogey on his second hole, several missed putts down the stretch, and hitting just 8 of 14 fairways. Although in defense of Thomasm, Waialae is traditionally a very difficult place to hit fairways.

He also finished a surprisingly low 88th in the field in driving distance. That being said, everything Thomas did well, he did very, very well. There were the two eagles, including the clutch one on the par-5 9th (his 18th hole of the day). He also got off to a very hot start, with eight birdies in a 10-hole stretch that got him to -9 through 13.

From there, Thomas had pars on his next four before draining the 15-foot eagle putt on the last. He was immaculate on the greens, leading the 144-man field in strokes gained: putting and putts per GIR. In addition, he hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation.


Better Than Expected

Rory Sabatini
Rory Sabatini plays a shot during the first round of the Sony Open on Jan 12, 2017 in Honolulu, HI. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Going into the week, not much was expected from Rory Sabbatini, who has had so little success recently that he is now remembered more for his abrasive personality than anything else.

In 2016-17, a season here he earned just $150,000, a T25 at the second event of the season was his best finish of the whole year. Sabbatini was able to put his recent struggles aside, as he shot a 5-under on his front nine, and matched Thomas with an eagle on nine.

On the day, he had six birdies, an eagle, and just one bogey. Billy Hurley III was 29th in the 32-man field at last week’s Tournament of Champions, but was phenomenal down the stretch in round 1, with birdies on four of his last seven holes to shoot a bogey-free six-under 64. A T8 at the Deutsche Bank Championship was his only top 10 since his breakthrough victory at last year’s Quicken Loans National in June, but is in good position for another, currently sitting T4.

Among the Japanese contingency on the PGA Tour, Hideki Matsuyama has been getting all the press lately, and justifiably so, but Japan’s best on Thursday was the unknown Satoshi Kodaira.

Kodaira, playing in his first PGA Tour event, birdied holes 1 and 2, in addition to three others on the front nine to go out in a surprising five-under 30. He looked on the verge of losing the round after two bogeys on his first four on the back nine, but rebounded by going -2 over his last five. He is tied for 12th place, one stroke ahead of Matsuyama.

Vijay Singh, one of just three 50-pluses in the field (Fred Funk, David Toms) looked like 2002-2008 Vijay. He was nearly unstoppable on the greens, and after three birdies over his last four holes, Vijay is at -5 and in a tie for 12th.


We Expected More

Paul Casey
Paul Casey plays a shot during the pro-am of the Sony Open at Waialae CC. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Maybe the most surprising development in the field is that Paul Casey is tied for 142nd place in the 144-man field, leading only Derek Fathauer, whose disastrous back nine (eight-over 43) has him at 6-over.

Casey’s 3-over 73 is a bewildering result from the man who finished in the top 4 of the last three FedEx Cup Playoff events (two runner-ups and a solo-fourth), and had his 2016-17 season off to a good start posting finishes in the top 21 of all three events he has played. Casey was a nightmare on the greens, finishing last in the field in strokes gained: putting.

is trying to become the first three-time winner of the Sony Open (he won in both 2014 and 2015), but after a one-over 71, Walker is already 12 strokes back of Thomas.

Walker has been up-and-down since his 2016 PGA Championship victory, and this round was a microcosm of that. He bogeyed his first four holes, but then birdied three of his last four.

Fabian Gomez was not terrible, but after a frustrating start where he had one bogey and seven pars on his first eight holes, the 2016 champion (-1) sits at T74 after 18 holes of his title defense.


Quotable

“It has been a good, whatever, week or so. It was a fun day out there; it was the most I’ve ever had it rolling. My birdies were all very easy, I just had a lot of very good looks, I kept leaving it in the right spots, and I was driving it well. I didn’t drive it quite as well on the back nine, but I got down to the magic number, so that’s all that matters.”
Justin Thomas


Leaderboard

RankNameRound 1Total 
1Justin Thomas59-11 (59)
2Hudson Swafford62-8 (62)
3Rory Sabbatini63-7 (63)
4tRussell Henley64-6 (64)
4tRussell Knox64-6 (64)
4tGary Woodland64-6 (64)
4tTony Finau64-6 (64)
4tCameron Smith64-6 (64)
4tJamie Lovemark64-6 (64)
4tBilly Hurley III64-6 (64)
4tShawn Stefani64-6 (64)
12tRichy Werenski65-5 (65)
12tJason Dufner65-5 (65)
12tDaniel Berger65-5 (65)
12tVijay Singh65-5 (65)
12tJordan Spieth65-5 (65)
12tJon Curran65-5 (65)
12tMichael Thompson65-5 (65)
12tCharles Howell III65-5 (65)
12tSatoshi Kodaira65-5 (65)
21tSean O'Hair66-4 (66)
21tSoren Kjeldsen66-4 (66)
21tWill MacKenzie66-4 (66)
21tStewart Cink66-4 (66)
21tJim Herman66-4 (66)
21tJason Bohn66-4 (66)
21tBrian Stuard66-4 (66)
21tRyan Palmer66-4 (66)
21tDaniel Summerhays66-4 (66)
21tBoo Weekley66-4 (66)
21tBrian Harman66-4 (66)
21tOllie Schniederjans66-4 (66)
21tBen Martin66-4 (66)
21tWebb Simpson66-4 (66)
21tJustin Rose66-4 (66)
21tHideki Matsuyama66-4 (66)
21tScott Piercy66-4 (66)
38tMichael Kim67-3 (67)
38tKevin Na67-3 (67)
38tY.E. Yang67-3 (67)
38tBill Haas67-3 (67)
38tHideto Tanihara67-3 (67)
38tBrandon Hagy67-3 (67)
38tRicky Barnes67-3 (67)
38tChez Reavie67-3 (67)
38tGonzalo Fernandez-Castano67-3 (67)
38tBranden Grace67-3 (67)
38tDavid Lingmerth67-3 (67)
38tPat Perez67-3 (67)
38tTim Wilkinson67-3 (67)
38tLuke List67-3 (67)
38tMiguel Tabuena67-3 (67)
38tHenrik Norlander67-3 (67)
54tSung Kang68-2 (68)
54tMackenzie Hughes68-2 (68)
54tRobert Streb68-2 (68)
54tJames Hahn68-2 (68)
54tMorgan Hoffmann68-2 (68)
54tAndres Gonzales68-2 (68)
54tHyung-Sung Kim68-2 (68)
54tWhee Kim68-2 (68)
54tRyan Brehm68-2 (68)
54tJohn Huh68-2 (68)
54tDavid Hearn68-2 (68)
54tMarc Leishman68-2 (68)
54tGreg Chalmers68-2 (68)
54tNick Taylor68-2 (68)
54tWilliam McGirt68-2 (68)
54tVaughn Taylor68-2 (68)
54tRod Pampling68-2 (68)
54tYusaku Miyazato68-2 (68)
54tJ.T. Poston68-2 (68)
54tJared Sawada68-2 (68)
74tCameron Percy69-1 (69)
74tBen Crane69-1 (69)
74tMatt Every69-1 (69)
74tJ.J. Henry69-1 (69)
74tBilly Horschel69-1 (69)
74tSmylie Kaufman69-1 (69)
74tKevin Tway69-1 (69)
74tBryson DeChambeau69-1 (69)
74tTrey Mullinax69-1 (69)
74tXander Schauffele69-1 (69)
74tBrent Grant69-1 (69)
74tBrian Gay69-1 (69)
74tPeter Malnati69-1 (69)
74tFabian Gomez69-1 (69)
74tZach Johnson69-1 (69)
74tCarl Pettersson69-1 (69)
74tSteven Alker69-1 (69)
74tMiguel Angel Carballo69-1 (69)
74tKelly Kraft69-1 (69)
74tSeamus Power69-1 (69)
94tWesley Bryan70E (70)
94tHarris English70E (70)
94tChad Collins70E (70)
94tJerry Kelly70E (70)
94tKeegan Bradley70E (70)
94tKevin Kisner70E (70)
94tBrandt Snedeker70E (70)
94tDavid Toms70E (70)
94tKyle Reifers70E (70)
94tHarold Varner III70E (70)
94tDaisuke Kataoka70E (70)
94tColt Knost70E (70)
94tTag Ridings70E (70)
94tJonas Blixt70E (70)
94tTyrone Van Aswegen70E (70)
94tScott Brown70E (70)
94tJohn Senden70E (70)
94tK.J. Choi70E (70)
94tZac Blair70E (70)
94tMark Hubbard70E (70)
94tAnirban Lahiri70E (70)
94tJohn Peterson70E (70)
94tJohn Oda70E (70)
94tRyan Blaum70E (70)
94tJ.J. Spaun70E (70)
119tBob Estes71+1 (71)
119tSteve Marino71+1 (71)
119tChris Kirk71+1 (71)
119tTroy Merritt71+1 (71)
119tKyle Stanley71+1 (71)
119tPatrick Rodgers71+1 (71)
119tParker McLachlin71+1 (71)
119tKen Duke71+1 (71)
119tJimmy Walker71+1 (71)
119tChad Campbell71+1 (71)
119tFred Funk71+1 (71)
119tHiroshi Iwata71+1 (71)
119tNicholas Lindheim71+1 (71)
119tKevin Hayashi71+1 (71)
119tCheng Tsung Pan71+1 (71)
134tBud Cauley72+2 (72)
134tCody Gribble72+2 (72)
134tSeung-yul Noh72+2 (72)
134tSpencer Levin72+2 (72)
134tBryce Molder72+2 (72)
134tCamilo Villegas72+2 (72)
134tJohnson Wagner72+2 (72)
134tJohn Chin72+2 (72)
142tTadd Fujikawa73+3 (73)
142tPaul Casey73+3 (73)
144Derek Fathauer76+6 (76)

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