Canadian rookie Adam Svensson fired seven birdies and an eagle in a nine-under par 61 to seize the first-round lead Thursday in the US PGA Tour Sony Open in Hawaii by one stroke from Andrew Putnam.
Svensson’s capped his round at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu with a birdie at the par-five 18th to nip past early pace-setter Putnam, who had nine birdies and a bogey in his eight-under par 62.
Veteran Matt Kuchar was alone in third in the tour’s first full-field event of 2019 after a bogey-free seven-under par 63.
Svensson, a 25-year-old graduate of the developmental Web.com Tour, was four-under through nine holes after birdies at the fifth and sixth and an eagle at the ninth.
A 53-foot birdie putt at the 11th launched a string of four straight birdies that pulled him level with Putnam. He grabbed the lead at the last with a 10-foot birdie.
“My putting,” he said when asked the key to his round. “That arm-lock helped me out a lot today,” he added of the putting technique he’s been using for about five months.
Putnam set an early target, his eight-under round standing as the lead for most of the day. He needed just 23 putts, making 12 of 12 from 10 feet and rolling in birdie putts of 27, 21 and 28 feet during his round.
“The putter was hot,” said Putnam, a 29-year-old who claimed his first US PGA Tour title at the Barracuda Championship in August. “I don’t know how many feet I made of putts, but it was getting a little ridiculous.”
As Putnam was burning up the course, former world number one Spieth slogged his way to a three-over 73.
“I went through a couple of different swings today,” said Spieth, who said before the tournament that he was hoping to knock a little rust off his game after a late-year layoff. “I’m over the ball and not comfortable.”
Spieth, who endured a disappointing 2018 without a victory, said he remained confident he could get back on track.
“As long as I don’t let it get to me like I did last year at times,” Spieth said.
Shugo Imahira, who received a special invitation this week to play in this year’s Masters at Augusta National, led a seven-strong Japanese contingent with a 65 that put him tied for fourth with Americans Chez Reavie and Hudson Swafford.
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)