HONOLULU - Graham DeLaet has never been happier to be on the PGA Tour, and it showed Thursday in the Sony Open.
One year after back surgery that made him wonder if he could ever play golf again, DeLaet chipped in for eagle and twice holed 35-foot birdie putts for a 7-under 63 that gave the Canadian a two-shot lead at Waialae Country Club.
Carl Pettersson and former Sony Open champion K.J. Choi were among those at 65, while Kapalua winner Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson and Bud Cauley were among those at 66.
Graham DeLaet blasts out of a bunker on the 13th hole during the first round of the Sony Open on Thursday at Waialae Country Club.
"I'm just so excited to be back out," DeLaet said. "I had a good season my rookie campaign, and then it was all basically just taken away. And I realize now how fortunate we are to be playing golf for a living. My whole attitude is definitely better."
For Stricker, a minor adjustment was in order.
He is trying to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to sweep the Hawaii events, and Stricker was noticeably tired during his pro-am Wednesday, and parts of the opening round.
PGA Sony Open
Thursday's First-Round Leaders At Waialae Country Club
|Doug LaBelle II||33-33—66||-4|
|Charles Howell III||34-33—67||-3|
|Billy Hurley III||34-34—68||-2|
|Ted Potter, Jr.||31-37—68||-2|
|Tom Pernice Jr.||36-33—69||-1|
|Davis Love III||36-34—70||E|
|Richard H. Lee||36-34—70||E|
Part of that was a Monday finish at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He took the day off Tuesday, and he couldn't take three steps Wednesday without dozens of players congratulating him.
"A nice problem to have," Stricker said.
He picked up four birdies on the back nine, though, and was right in the hunt.
"I was a little sluggish at times. I'm still excited from last week," he said. "You turn around and you're right back in the competition. You've got to be focused. And I was, for the most part."
Cauley, who last year became the sixth player to go from college to the PGA Tour without Q-School, didn't show any signs of rust from having not played in nearly two months. He ran off four straight birdies around the turn until he stalled, then dropped a shot on the 17th and missed a birdie opportunity on the 18th when he tried to hit fairway metal out of a bunker and topped his shot.
"I did a lot of things right," he said. "I did a lot of things I was doing last summer."
Thursday was a gentle start of the season in the first full-field tournament of the year on the PGA Tour, with the ocean breeze barely strong enough to move fronds on the palm trees that line the fairways. Sixty-three players in the 144-man field broke par, including Moanalua High School graduate Tadd Fujikawa, given a late sponsor exemption.
Fujikawa shot a 1-under 69 and was tied for 45th place. Punahou graduate Parker McLachlin was tied for 80th after a 1-over 71.