Carl Yuan owes Jon Rahm, birthday birdies for Austin Eckroat among 5 things to know from second round of Sony Open in Hawaii

Carl Yuan shouldn’t be at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

However, this PGA Tour season and golf world in general are unlike anything before it. So, he is. And he’s taking advantage.

Yuan finished last season No. 126 in the FedEx Cup standings, which meant he wasn’t supposed to have a Tour card for 2024. He wasn’t going to be able to play in the Sony Open in Hawaii or have full status on the PGA Tour.

Thanks, Jon Rahm.

Yuan shot 5-under 65 on Friday in the second round, moving to 9-under 131 for the tournament. He’s in the field thanks to Rahm and his move to LIV Golf, which shuffled Yuan up a spot to retain his PGA Tour card.

And in his first tournament of 2024, Yuan is taking full advantage. He’s tied for the lead heading to the weekend in Hawaii.

Sony Open: Photos

“Hopefully not,” Yuan said when asked whether he thinks he’ll be known as the last guy in. “Hopefully I have my score and performance will kind of cover that part. Yeah, I mean, just looking forward to another year on Tour. With all the learning experience from my rookie year, definitely feel like I’m more prepared for being out here.”

He started his day with a birdie at the first and then bogeyed the third. However, Yuan made birdie on three of his next four holes to turn 3 under and added two more on the home stretch to sign for his 65. At 9 under, Yuan is tied with Austin Eckroat and Byeong Hun An for the lead.

The 26-year-old had two top-10 finishes coming last season, both in the fall at the Sanderson Farms Championship (T-6) and the Butterfield Bermuda Championship (T-4). At the Sanderson, he finished one shot out of a playoff.

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“I had a couple chances last year being the final two groups, have a shot on the weekend,” Yuan said. “Yeah, I feel like I just got to do what I did last two days: be patient and stay committed, know exactly what I’m going to do before I hit a shot and see how it turns out.”

Here are four more things to know from the second round of the 2024 Sony Open in Hawaii.

Happy Birthday, Austin Eckroat

2024 Sony Open in Hawaii
Austin Eckroat of the United States reacts after a shot on the fifth hole during the second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 12, 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Austin Eckroat’s 25th birthday was Friday. It’s safe to say his dinner is going to be a good one.

Eckroat birdied his final hole, the par-5 ninth, to shoot 4-under 66 and sits at 9 under along with Yuan after 36 holes at Waialae. His round got started quickly, turning in 31. He bogeyed the par-4 second hole after failing to get up-and-down from short of the green, but the birdie at the last put him at the top.

“Hit the golf ball really well,” Eckroat said. “Didn’t get as many putts as I would like to fall, but easy to look back and say that. Really solid round.”

“Shooting 66 isn’t a bad birthday.”

Last season, Eckroat co-led after 54 holes at the AT&T Byron Nelson, fired a bogey-free 6-under 65 in the final round and lost by one thanks to Jason Day’s spectacular 9-under Sunday. He has experience being in the lead, and the second-year Tour pro will look to use that to his advantage this weekend.

That is, if he can find his way to Waialae on Saturday.

“I don’t know how I’m going to get to the golf course,” he said. “Yeah, the Waikiki… the whatever the beach front road is, so going to have to figure out how to get to the golf course.”

Chris Kirk lurking for Hawaii double

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Chris Kirk walks off the 18th hole during the second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii golf tournament at Waialae Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Only six golfers have ever won both of the PGA Tour’s stops in Hawaii, The Sentry and the Sony Open. Just two of those (Justin Thomas and Ernie Els) have won them in the same year.

Chris Kirk is in great position to add his name to both of those exclusive clubs come the weekend at Waialae. Kirk shot his second straight round of 4-under 66 and is at 8 under and in a huge chasing pack one shot behind the leaders.

Also at 8 under and one back of the lead is Stewart Cink, Keith Mitchell and first-round leader Cam Davis, among others.

Kirk is 37 under in his first six rounds on Tour to begin the year. He had back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 4-5 but managed to shoot 1-under 34 on the front and added circles at 10, 11 and 16 on the back to get within one of the lead.

Byeong Hun An having great start to the year

2024 Sony Open in Hawaii
Byeong Hun An smiles after making his putt on the 18th hole during the second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii golf tournament at Waialae Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Six straight rounds in the 60s to begin your 2024 season? Yeah, that’ll do Byeong Hun An.

The South Korean finished fourth at last week’s The Sentry, and this week his strong play is continuing. An fired a 6-under 64 on Friday, including a birdie on the final hole to join Yuan and Eckroat in the lead going into the weekend.

“Pretty calm and nice. 6 under, ended up pretty good,” An said. “Hit some poor shots out there that I would like to hit a little better; I also hit some great shots out there. Great drives. Gave myself good birdie looks. Yeah, flawless. Bogey-free, and I’ll take it.”

The 32-year-old hasn’t won on the PGA Tour during his career, but he has won the DP World Tour’s BMW PGA Championship by six shots back in 2015. His last professional victory was the Korn Ferry Tour’s Lecom Suncoast Classic in February 2022.

He has been a runner up four times in his Tour career.

“Played well here last year, too. I guess something suits me in this golf course. Maybe type of grass or something. I’ve been playing pretty good here,” An said. “Hopefully I can get two more rounds out of it and hopefully a little bit better in the weekend.”

Ben Griffin ties low round of tournament

2024 Sony Open in Hawaii
Ben Griffin of the United States plays his shot from the 17th tee during the second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 12, 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Ben Griffin has a busy offseason.

Just in December, he flew nine times, including a trip to the Bahamas to play in the Hero World Challenge Pro-Am (he wasn’t in the 20-player field) and the on to Turks and Caicos for some time away. He essentially went for free to the Caribbean island thanks to his travel points from his rookie PGA Tour season.

He agreed he probably should’ve stayed put a bit more to refresh his body before the season, but there are no signs of rust nor wear and tear for Griffin in Hawaii.

He tied the low round of the event Friday, shooting 8-under 62 to move to 8 under for the tournament. He had seven birdies, an eagle and one bogey.

“Hit a lot of fairways and made a lot of putts,” Griffin said. “Only had one kind of hiccup. Hit it in a hazard, really it was almost the ocean, on 11.

Got up and down and made a bogey there. But otherwise, I mean, I had it rolling. Missed a couple putts that you wish you made, but I made a lot more other ones that I probably shouldn’t have.”

He has eagled the par-5 ninth hole both days, a favorite of his at Waialae.

“We need more of those holes out here,” Griffin joked. “I wish there was 18 No. 9s, because I would be like 49 under. That would be cool. I’ve had short irons into that par-5. It is one of those holes if you hit the fairway you know you’re going to have a good chance at an eagle. If not, hopefully a tap-in birdie.

“Had a couple 15-footers. Rolled them pretty much right in the middle. Hopefully can eagle the next two days, too.”

Kurt Kitayama also shot 8-under 62 on Friday, joining Griffin one shot off the lead.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek