Cameron Davis goes low, Gary Woodland and Tyler McCumber return among 5 things to know at Sony Open

HONOLULU – Cam Davis didn’t envision an 8-under 62 at Waialae Country Club in his future Thursday. But he didn’t mind signing for one to take a two-stroke lead when play was suspended due to darkness during the opening round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.

“I think when I was standing on the first tee staring into a 30-mile-an-hour wind on a 500-yard, par-4 I was thinking, well, pars are good today,” he said.

On a windswept afternoon, the 28-year-old Aussie birdied five of the last six holes, building off a final-round 8-under 65 at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course at The Sentry.

“I thought, well, as long as I can build off that round and continue that on to this week and next week, that is the sort of momentum I was looking for,” he said. “It was very cool to back it up with a really good round.”

Davis made nine birdies in all – his lone bogey came at the fifth, which played the toughest on the day – and his putter heated up even as the temperature dipped below 70 (and felt like 50) on this island paradise.

“I was seeing the green reads pretty well for some reason today. Sometimes they don’t come too clearly, but today I felt like I was seeing them well and putting decent speed and just hitting good putts on top of that,” said Davis, who canned a 37-footer on No. 13 and a 21-footer at 15. Yet he was proudest of the 5-foot par putt he sank at 17.

“Made a lot of really good putts today,” he said. “That one on 17 just to keep the score moving forward was really nice.”

All round long, he had his wife’s family visiting from Seattle following his group and he gave them plenty to cheer about.

“They cheered for a couple pars as well,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t seen a golf tournament before and it was really fun to put a good round together in front of them.”

Here are four more things to know from the first round at the Sony Open.

Montgomery and his first-round 64s at Waialae

Taylor Montgomery likes to drive to the North Shore and watch the surfers hang 10 and to shoot 64 in the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club.

Making his second career appearance at this event, he opened with 6-under 64 for the second straight year, which left him alone in second, two strokes off the pace.

“I just like being here,” he said. “Month and a half without a tournament you don’t really know what is going to come out because you start working on things and just practicing, and to come out here, it was nice to have this kind of start.”

Montgomery is still in the midst of a swing change under the watchful eye of Butch Harmon. Montgomery made 10 consecutive cuts during his rookie season but in the middle of his season he missed five cuts in six starts as his ballstriking suffered.

2024 Sony Open in Hawaii
Taylor Montgomery plays his shot from the fifth tee during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 11, 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

“It was never going to work,” he said of his swing. “My hands are in about a foot different spot than they were in the middle of the season.”

And what exactly is he trying to do? “Compressing the ball a little bit more,” he said. “Hitting it with less loft. I was kind of scooping everything and wasn’t really a consistent strike.”

He worked hard on it during the off-season and said he’s still getting comfortable with it. Thursday’s round lifted his confidence.

“I was telling myself to commit to it, stick with it and let’s see what happens,” he said.

There were a few hiccups along the way, including a three putt at the first, but he settled down to make three birdies in a four-hole stretch beginning at the third. Montgomery chipped in for birdie at 15, a shot he classified as 1-in-100.

“So nice to get that one,” he said.

Woodland Strong

Gary Woodland made his return to the PGA Tour four months after brain surgery. He posted 2-over 72, but the score was an afterthought given all that he has been through.

“Probably the happiest I’ve ever been shooting over par, tell you that,” he said after the round.

Woodland acknowledged how special a day it was.

2024 Sony Open in Hawaii
Gary Woodland plays his shot from the 16th tee during the first round of the 2024 Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“Took an extra second being deep breath, hearing Topeka, Kansas, hearing my name called, there was a time when I didn’t know if that was going to be called again, so it got me a little more than I thought it was going to,” he said. “After a couple holes I was able to settle down. Didn’t drive it very well and didn’t make any putts, but outside of that iron play was beautiful.”

You can read more about Woodland’s inspiring story here.

“A lot to build on,” he said. “The energy stayed up. Focus stayed up. A lot to be proud of.”

Welcome back, Tyler

Woodland isn’t the only player coming back from a long layoff. Tyler McCumber played his first competitive round on the PGA Tour since the 2022 Players Championship after undergoing surgery to his left shoulder and hip. McCumber opened with an even-par 70.

“It’s just not a good feeling in your backswing and shoulder doesn’t feel like it’s in its socket,” he said. “That whole left side needed some love, so I had to do it.”

2024 Sony Open in Hawaii
Tyler McCumber plays his shot from the fifth tee during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 11, 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

McCumber previously had surgery on his shoulder in late 2017. He’s become as proficient on human anatomy as someone studying to go to medical school.

“I know parts of my body that I never heard the words before,” he joked.

He tried to avoid surgery, trying to rehab and strengthen it, injections and PRP but he had no choice and went under the knife July 1, 2022. But after the shoulder healed up, he discovered his left hip lacked stability and he had to start the process of surgery and recovery all over. His Uncle, Mark McCumber, a 10-time winner on the PGA Tour, has helped Tyler’s game with course management but he had a relatively healthy career.

“He was pretty fortunate for the most part,” Tyler said of his Uncle. “So the (last) two years, we kind of had to figure that one out on our own.”

Blustery conditions and even a spot of liquid sunshine

Juicy rough, gusting winds and already one of the hardest courses to hit fairways on Tour made for some turbulence during most rounds at Waialae.

“We had this wind I remember on Sunday on 2021,” Brendon Todd said. “I remember hitting 5-wood into No. 1. It does, it makes – gosh, it makes 16, 18, 1, 5, just beasts of holes. But you do get the bonus of 9 and 10 downwind. I think out here it tends to even out a little bit, but this was the tougher wind and obviously blowing really strong today.”

2024 Sony Open in Hawaii
Eric Cole walks on the eighth green during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 11, 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Chris Kirk, who won last week at The Sentry, agreed with his fellow Georgia teammate that it been a few years since they played in “this much wind here. A lot of years since we played in this wind direction.”

He added: “From what I remember, usually when it blows out of the west like this it’s relatively light. So some of those holes, some of the par-4s — No. 1 we’re used to hitting driver and a wedge in and it’s a drive to mid to long iron. Five was kind of the same way. Miss-hit my drive a little bit on 5. Had 4-iron in. I am usually hitting a wedge in there.”

Gary Woodland concurred. “Been here nine times,” he said. “This was one of the hardest rounds I’ve ever had here.”

Leader Taylor Montgomery took advantage of being first off the tee. “We definitely got a good tee time being able to play the first like six holes with no wind, and so that definitely helped,” he said.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek