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Lost clubs? No problem for Daniel Berger and Viktor Hovland.
Berger, the winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Hovland, who defended his title at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, both had their clubs go missing en route to Hawaii and had limited prep time with their game sets once they arrived. But it didn’t seem to matter during the opening round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua’s Plantation Course. Berger fired 7-under 66, a stroke back of leader Cameron Smith, while Hovland posted 4-under 69.
“Didn’t really hit a bad shot the entire day,” said Berger of his eight birdie, one bogey round marred only by a 3-putt at the 17th hole. “I think it’s a great score today. I’m a little surprised that the scores aren’t lower just with the greens being softer and the only defense right now is the fairways are soft, so a lot of the holes that you would be hitting low, short irons in, you’re hitting long irons in because you’re not getting that roll off the tee.”
.@DanielBerger59 opens up with 66 at Kapalua.
Since May 1 of last year, Berger leads the @PGATOUR in strokes gained approach per round (+1.13).
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) January 7, 2022
Berger’s 7-under 66 marked his lowest opening round to par in a PGA Tour event. That despite arriving in Maui on Sunday from his home in Florida and being without his clubs until Tuesday.
“I was a little stressed out because I knew I needed to play some golf,” Berger said. “A lot of phone calls with American Airlines, that’s for sure.”
But he didn’t sit back and work on his tan. Instead, Berger, 28, borrowed a set of clubs from veteran caddie Brett Waldman. Berger went so far as to change the lie and loft on the irons to his liking and also developed a fondness for Waldman’s driver.
“I think I stole his driver. I still have his driver,” Berger said. “I just needed to hit some balls. Especially after a long flight of coming across the world to get here, I just had to get the body moving, so whatever I had was going to work.”
The practice did the trick as Berger hit all 15 of the Plantation Course’s spacious fairways and 16 greens.
“It’s definitely a less challenging golf course off the tee than we see at a lot of other places around the year,” he said. “But you have to hit some great irons shots, especially when the wind’s blowing. You know, the greens are challenging. So there’s nothing easy about it, but if you play well you can make a lot of birdies, and that’s a nice thing to come out when you haven’t played in a while.”
Viktor Hovland hits his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort – The Plantation Course. (Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Whereas Berger only had to wait two days for his sticks, Hovland flew in on December 29, but his clubs didn’t arrive until January 5. Unfortunately, his driver shaft was broken in transit. It didn’t slow Hovland’s pursuit of birdies. He made five in his first 10 holes to grab the early lead before making a double bogey at 14. But the 24-year-old bounced back with an eagle at 15. A bogey at 17 dropped him to 4 under for the day.
“Definitely a good start,” Hovland said. “A little disappointing that I didn’t shoot more than 4-under par. Putted so good the front nine, and then the back nine not so much, but that’s how it is sometimes.”