The Roundup: Svensson strikes

Matt Cooper
Unheralded Canadian Adam Svensson grabbed the first round lead in the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club, but veteran Matt Kuchar is just two swings back

The Roundup: Svensson strikes

Unheralded Canadian Adam Svensson grabbed the first round lead in the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club, but veteran Matt Kuchar is just two swings back

Recap of the day


Morning wave: Andrew Putnam’s nine birdies helped him set the pace with an 8-under-par 62 which no-one else could get within four swings of. Three men ( Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner and John Chin) carded 4-under 66 to grab a share of second in the clubhouse. Defending champion Patton Kizzire posted a 67, whilst Jordan Spieth’s return to competitive action as a married man already threatens to be a short one after he shot 73.

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Afternoon wave: A flawless seven birdie/one eagle lap of 61 saw Canada’s Adam Svensson sweep to the top of the leaderboard, his first 18-hole lead (solo or shared) on the PGA Tour. Behind him there were significant moves as another four men eased past those who were T2 in the morning wave. Matt Kuchar carded 63 for solo third, whilst Chez Reavie, Hudson Swafford and Shugo Imahira claimed 65s.


Leaderboard: -9 Adam Svensson, -8 Andrew Putnam, -7 Matt Kuchar, -6 Chez Reavie, Hudson Swafford, Shugo Imahira


Notables: -3 Patton Kizzire, Justin Thomas, -2 Patrick Reed, +2 Adam Scott, +3 Jordan Spieth


Revised outright betting: Thomas 11/2, Kuchar 13/2, Putnam 7/1, C. Smith 14/1, Leishman 18/1, Svensson 20/1



Friday weather forecast


Low wind is the key factor (predicted 6mph, expect gusts of more), but there is also a 40% chance of rain and it is likely in the afternoon. 



Leaders after at 18 holes


Adam Svensson (61) – Missed just two of 18 greens in regulation and gained 4.118 strokes on the greens. Drained his eagle from just 5’4” on 9 and made two enormous birdie putts (41’2” at 6, 52’11” at 11).


Andrew Putnam (62) – Missed five greens in regulation, but was even more impressive than Svensson on the putting surfaces with a SG: Putting number of 6.871 and converting 174’3” in total, a figure bettered by only four players in the last ten years at the Sony Open.


Matt Kuchar (63) – A career-low first round on the PGA Tour. Five of his seven birdies were completed from within five feet.



Fate of the favorites


Justin Thomas (67) – Eagled both the par-5s (9 and 18), but the latter was preceded by a run of three consecutive bogeys and he dropped four shots in all, struggling to -1.478 SG: Putting.


Bryson DeChambeau (69) – Fared even worse than Thomas on the greens (-2.297) but less volatile as he traded three bogeys and four birdies.


Gary Woodland (71) – Got off to a terrible start with three bogeys in his first six holes and only got the shots back late in the day (at 7 and 9 having started on the back nine). Seven missed greens.


Jordan Spieth (73) – Landed just 7 of 14 fairways and 9 of 18 greens in regulation, then managed only -2.878 SG: Putting. Just the one birdie all day and didn’t give himself many looks.





Adam Svensson (61) - “I played one practice round on Tuesday and I felt like my strength is ball striking. Off the tee you got to be in the fairway. If you're not in the fairway you know 90% of the time it's going to be a flier. So fairways are huge, and greens in regulation as well.”


Andrew Putnam (62) - “I actually got stung by a bee two days ago out by the pool on my foot and I couldn't walk, so I had to withdraw from the pro-am. But today my putter was hot. I don't know how many feet I made with putts, but it was getting a little ridiculous out there. I actually putted really well last week at Kapalua. I think I was second in putting so I think it’s just a carry over.”


Matt Kuchar (63) - “This course is tricky, it's tight, there are a lot of doglegs. Finding fairways are a tough thing to do and I drove it really well. Certainly this course is unique. We don't play many like it. Reminds me a little bit of Hilton Head, a little bit of Colonial. It's tight, it's narrow, it's flat, but, man, it's tricky.”


Jordan Spieth (73) - “I went through like a couple different swings today. It was kind of a test I guess. It's very unusual. I don't feel like I've been in this situation before. It's okay. It could take a while, but I got pretty far off and I'm trying to backtrack significantly. It's humbling … I'm over the ball and I'm uncomfortable. It's going to happen in the course of a career. As long as I don't let it get to me like I did a little bit last year, I'll be able to get back on track sooner rather than later.”


Brandt Snedeker (66) - “I am fully healthy. Body feels great. I drove it great last week, same today. This place seems to suit me pretty well. Should have fun the next three days.”



Road to victory at Waialae


2018 Patton Kizzire – R1: 20th, R2: 7th, R3: 2nd

2017 Justin Thomas – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

2016 Fabian Gomez – R1: 68th, R2: 15th, R3: 5th 

2015 Jimmy Walker – R1: 12th, R2: 8th, R3: 1st

2014 Jimmy Walker – R1: 5th, R2: 5th, R3: 4th 


Notes: 15 of the last 23 winners were top ten after 18 holes, but plenty were off the pace, notably Gomez (not only T68 but six swings back), Johnson Wagner in 2012 (T30, five back) and Paul Stankowski in 1997 (T70 and nine adrift).



Fate of the first-round leaders at Waialae – where did they finish?


2018 – Chris Kirk 10th, Zach Johnson 14th

2017 – Justin Thomas 1st

2016 – Brandt Snedeker 2nd, Kevin Kisner 5th, Morgan Hoffman 13th, Vijay Singh 50th, Ricky Barnes 56th

2015 – Webb Simpson 13th, Paul Casey 30th

2014 – Sang-Moon Bae 32nd


Notes: Quite a volatile collection because whilst Justin Thomas went wire-to-wire, so many of the others fell a long way back and it’s a trend that has persisted in the 21st century. There have been 37 players to have some sort of grip on the R1 lead in that period, five won, but 15 finished T20 or worse.



Focus on – Adam Svensson


Four factors jump out about the young Canadian player. The first is that he is raw at this level (this is his just his 12th start on the PGA Tour). The second is how much the Tour has done for his development. “It’s huge,” he said. “Traveling to different countries, getting to know what to do every week. Then it also just helped me a lot with nerves and how to play the game, how to get around, how to score, stuff like that.”


Third factor? The success of his fellow Canadians in recent years: “It’s always good to see Canadians up there on the leaderboard. It almost makes you wants to practice harder and just work out and do all the right things to get better. I was on Team Canada with Corey Connors and Mack Hughes.”


And the fourth – why show up on the leaderboard here? Well, he’s not yet collected a top 30 on the PGA Tour, but the one time he ended a round in the top ten was in Puerto Rico, a blustery seaside venue on grainy greens. And he might have no experience of heading the field at this level, but he shared the lead in the 2017 Panama Championship and was T2 in the 2018 Louisiana Open, both after 18 holes (he has top ten finishes at both courses). Former winners in Panama include Andrew Putnam and Jimmy Walker, past champions in Louisiana number Johnson Wagner, Fabian Gomez and Walker again. In other words, there are Waialae links.



Focus on – Keeping the foot to the floor


Notwithstanding the fact that the wind has a big impact on scoring at this venue, in recent years one scintillating round has not been enough to claim the win. In fact five of the last six winners needed to complete two circuits of the Seth Raynor design in lower than 65 blows. Kizzire had a pair of 64s, Thomas opened 59-64, Gomez had a 64 and 62, Walker’s second win a weekend of 62-63, and Henley made three 63s.

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