Adam Svensson chips onto the 18th green during the first round of the Sony Open golf tournament Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Matt York)

B.C. golfer Svensson has career day to lead Sony Open

PGA Tour rookie from Surrey fires sizzling first-round 61

HONOLULU — Ocean views along the golf course seem to suit Canadian Adam Svensson.

A year after his victory in the Bahamas that paved his way to the PGA Tour, Svensson capped off a rookie round to remember Thursday with a 10-foot birdie putt on his final hole for a 9-under 61 and a one-shot lead in the Sony Open.

“It was all a blur,” Svensson said. “I don’t even remember which holes I birdied.”

Throw in an eagle, too, a 6-iron on the par-5 ninth that he caught thin and was hopeful would clear the bunker. It did better than that, rolling out to 5 feet. But it was the back nine, as the wind began to calm along the shores just west of Waikiki Beach, where the 25-year-old from Surrey made his move.

It started with a 50-foot birdie putt on the 11th hole. He hit it to 2 feet on the 12th, holed an 18-foot birdie on No. 13 and finished his run with a 10-foot birdie on the 14th. A tough up-and-down from right of the green on the par-5 18th gave Svensson the lowest round of professional career.

He did shoot a 61 while at Barry University, where he won the Jack Nicklaus Award in 2014 as the Division II player of the year.

His only significant victory as a pro was the second event last year on the Web.com Tour at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, and he held his position in the top 25 on the money list the rest of the year to reach the PGA Tour.

Andrew Putnam shot a 62 in the morning and looked tough to beat until Svensson came along.

It was the first time Putnam had played Waialae all week because of a bee sting, and it apparently didn’t bother him. He made birdie on half of his holes, none of them tap-ins, and took only 23 putts for the lowest score of his PGA Tour career.

Putnam had a four-shot lead among the early starters. By the end of the day, Matt Kuchar had a 63, and 75 players from the 144-man field were under par.

That did not include Jordan Spieth, who made his 2019 debut with a little rust, and it showed. He had to wait until his 16th hole, the par-3 seventh, for his first birdie of the year. And that was all he made in a round of 73 that left him needing a low round just to make it to the weekend.

He still managed to keep it entertaining, especially with the new rules.

Spieth, like most players, doesn’t understand the visually awkward change of dropping from knee-height instead of shoulder-height. Six holes into his round, his tee shot came up inches short of a sprinkler head. He called for a ruling and was given relief because of the potential of injury or damaging the club. Then, he did what he has done his entire golfing life — he held the ball at the level of his shoulder.

Slugger White, the tour’s vice-president of competition, stopped him. Had he dropped and played the shot, it would have been a penalty. If not, he could have dropped again from the proper height.

“I’m like, ‘Wouldn’t it just be a re-drop anyway?’ What’s the big deal?’” Spieth said. “It’s unusual.”

He caught himself from dropping shoulder-height behind the 18th green. He also tapped in for par on the opening hole with the flagstick still in the cup, another change that is getting plenty of attention early in the year. And he tapped down a spike mark in the line of a 4-foot putt.

“All in all, I got a test of most of the new rules today,” he said.

RELATED: South Surrey golfer wins first-ever Web.com Tour event

Justin Thomas, who set the PGA Tour’s 72-hole record at the Sony Open two years ago, opened with a 67 by playing the last five holes in even par — a birdie, three straight bogeys and holing a bunker shot for eagle.

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., shot a 2-under 68 and Roger Sloan of Merritt is 1-under. Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., and Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., are even. Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., (71) and Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin (72) are both well back of Svensson’s lead.

Putnam, among 23 players who were on Maui last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, made it all look so easy. This is his third year playing the Sony Open, so the course is not new to him. But it’s unusual for him not to at least get in a practice round.

He was poolside Tuesday when the bee stung him in the foot.

“I couldn’t walk, so I had to withdraw out of the pro-am,” he said. “I was just sitting around all yesterday and couldn’t even hit a shot. Yeah, kind of bizarre how it all worked out.”

He shot his 62 despite a bogey on the 15th hole when his pitch came up 12 feet short and he missed the putt.

Putnam didn’t miss many in the opening round. Statistically, he made just over 174 feet of putts, from a 5-footer on the closing hole (his shortest birdie putt) to his longest birdie on the 14th at just under 30 feet.

“The hole was very large and the ball was going in,” he said. “It was fun.”

Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press

PGA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Tahsis has raised concerns about the condition of Head Bay Road with the provincial ministry of transportation. (Photo courtesy, Martin Davis)
It’s 2021 and Tahsis still has to fight for good roads

Overuse by logging trucks, safety concerns at blind corners and potholes are still a reality on Head Bay Road that connects Tahsis to Gold River and Highway 28

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of North Island conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

RCMP officers provide policing for 63 B.C. municipalities under a provincial formula based on population. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. communities warned of upcoming RCMP unionization costs

Starting salaries for city police officers are 30% higher

(Pxhere)
B.C. nurse suspended after using Tensor bandage to trap long-term care patient in room

Susan Malloch voluntarily agreed to a three-day suspension of her certificate of registration

Most Read