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Niemann finishes with eagle, grabs share of lead at Sony Open

Joaquin Niemann follows through on his tee shot on the 14th hole during the first round of the Sony Open on Thursday at Waialae Country Club. AP / JAMM AQUINO photo

The Associated Press

HONOLULU — Joaquin Niemann had no regrets about the 18th hole at the Sony Open.

Four days after a pair of pars on the final hole at Kapalua led to a playoff loss, Niemann holed a 50-foot chip for eagle on the 18th hole Thursday for an 8-under 62 and a share of the lead with Jason Kokrak and Peter Malnati.

“It was a good way to finish,” Niemann said. “Spent a few days thinking about that last hole, but taking all the positives from the week and pull it out for this week.”

They weren’t easy days for Niemann. The 22-year-old from Chile is still too young to have experienced the inevitable losses that pile up in this sport. He played Sunday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions with Sergio Garcia, who has experienced plenty of failure, and who told him to think about what all went right.

So much did on a breezy afternoon at Waialae on a course with dry fairways and smooth greens and low scoring. Niemann’s only bogey was when he fell asleep on a 25-foot birdie putt above the hole at No. 12, ran it 10 feet by the hole and three-putted. The finish was exquisite.

Kokrak played bogey-free, and he was as pleased with a 15-foot par putt on No. 1 — his 10th hole of the round — than any of his nine birdies. He had a 25-foot eagle putt for 61 on his closing hole that narrowly missed.

Malnati was the only one at 62 who played in the morning, though conditions were similar for much of the day.

The group at 64 included Daniel Berger, among the 31 players here who played last week on Maui, and Jim Herman, who should have been there.

Herman made it to Hawaii a week later than he had hoped and was happier than ever. He recovered from the coronavirus and had his lowest score in his 10th appearance at the Sony Open to get his year off to a good start.

He qualified for the Tournament of Champions by winning the Wyndham Championship. But his COVID-19 test came back positive as he prepared to go to Maui, and self-isolation for 10 days left him no time to get to Kapalua.

“I feel pretty good,” Herman said. “Obviously, the low score today helps you feel a little bit better. Didn’t know what to expect coming out this week.”

Herman said he had a miserable four days dealing with the virus and still doesn’t have his full taste and smell back. The biggest concern was slight inflammation of the lungs, which pressed against his back and made it difficult to sit. He finally was able to hit some golf balls last weekend and only played one round of golf.

Scoring was ideal for different reasons than Kapalua on a very different course. The wind off the Pacific shores on the edge of the course is normal. But it’s been dry enough for the ball to roll, helpful on tee shots in the fairway, not so much when it’s off line and headed into the rough.

It sure was different from last week for Niemann, who missed a 6-foot birdie in regulation (and shot 64) and then in a playoff on the par-5 18th, he pulled it slightly and went down a slope left of the green, leaving a tough chip and a par. Harris English won with a birdie putt.

“It was the first time that it really hurt me, like finishing a golf tournament,” he said. “Probably one or two days I just keep thinking on how I couldn’t make birdie on 18 and get it done. I was talking with my coach, with my psychologist. We talked for an hour about the whole tournament, not for that 18th hole. It was a good way to take all the positives from that week.”

English, hopeful of being only the third player to sweep the Hawaii swing, had three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on his second nine and had to birdie two of the last three holes for an even-par 70.

Scoring was so low that only 30 players from the 144-man field were over par.

Eric Dugas, a golf pro at Makena Golf & Beach Club, opened with a 1-over 71.

PGA Sony Open

Thursday’s First Round

At Honolulu

Peter Malnati 31-31–62 -8

Jason Kokrak 31-31–62 -8

Joaquin Niemann 31-31–62 -8

Vaughn Taylor 32-32–64 -6

Jim Herman 32-32–64 -6

Aaron Baddeley 33-31–64 -6

Patton Kizzire 30-34–64 -6

Daniel Berger 33-31–64 -6

Si Woo Kim 31-33–64 -6

Harry Higgs 32-33–65 -5

Henrik Norlander 33-32–65 -5

Billy Horschel 32-33–65 -5

Brendan Steele 33-32–65 -5

Chris Kirk 31-34–65 -5

Hudson Swafford 33-32–65 -5

C.T. Pan 35-30–65 -5

Webb Simpson 33-32–65 -5

J.T. Poston 31-34–65 -5

M. Hughes 32-33–65 -5

Tom Hoge 32-33–65 -5

David Hearn 31-34–65 -5

Chase Seiffert 32-33–65 -5

Russell Henley 33-33–66 -4

S. Muñoz 31-35–66 -4

Brice Garnett 32-34–66 -4

Carlos Ortiz 31-35–66 -4

Troy Merritt 32-34–66 -4

Nick Taylor 31-35–66 -4

Robby Shelton 34-32–66 -4

Emiliano Grillo 34-32–66 -4

Charley Hoffman 33-33–66 -4

Brian Stuard 32-34–66 -4

Collin Morikawa 32-34–66 -4

Marc Leishman 34-32–66 -4

H. Matsuyama 34-32–66 -4

M. Thompson 33-33–66 -4

Sung Kang 32-34–66 -4

Brian Harman 35-31–66 -4

Mark Hubbard 31-35–66 -4

Kyle Stanley 31-36–67 -3

Erik van Rooyen 35-32–67 -3

Cameron Smith 35-32–67 -3

Kevin Na 34-33–67 -3

Roger Sloan 32-35–67 -3

K.J. Choi 32-35–67 -3

Matt Every 33-34–67 -3

Charles Howell III 34-33–67 -3

Stewart Cink 33-34–67 -3

Michael Kim 33-34–67 -3

Brian Gay 34-33–67 -3

Grayson Murray 33-34–67 -3

Nelson Ledesma 33-34–67 -3

MJ Daffue 32-35–67 -3

Kramer Hickok 33-34–67 -3

Jamie Lovemark 35-33–68 -2

Chez Reavie 33-35–68 -2

Sungjae Im 33-35–68 -2

Ted Potter, Jr. 34-34–68 -2

William McGirt 33-35–68 -2

Austin Cook 34-34–68 -2

Wesley Bryan 34-34–68 -2

Sam Ryder 34-34–68 -2

R. Kinoshita 32-36–68 -2

Ben Taylor 36-32–68 -2

Jerry Kelly 33-35–68 -2

Will Gordon 36-32–68 -2

James Hahn 32-36–68 -2

Pat Perez 34-34–68 -2

Lanto Griffin 34-34–68 -2

Cameron Davis 33-35–68 -2

Mike Weir 32-36–68 -2

Kevin Kisner 34-35–69 -1

Ryan Armour 34-35–69 -1

Adam Scott 34-35–69 -1

Robert Streb 35-34–69 -1

Jim Furyk 32-37–69 -1

Abraham Ancer 34-35–69 -1

Bo Van Pelt 34-35–69 -1

Danny Lee 35-34–69 -1

Rhein Gibson 37-32–69 -1

Mark Anderson 36-33–69 -1

Rafael Campos 34-35–69 -1

Rob Oppenheim 34-35–69 -1

Nick Hardy 35-34–69 -1

Matt Jones 35-34–69 -1

Kyoung-Hoon Lee 36-33–69 -1

Y.E. Yang 36-33–69 -1

Sepp Straka 35-34–69 -1

Branden Grace 36-33–69 -1

Davis Love III 34-35–69 -1

Vijay Singh 35-34–69 -1

Satoshi Kodaira 34-35–69 -1

Tim Wilkinson 35-34–69 -1

Xinjun Zhang 34-35–69 -1

Anirban Lahiri 35-34–69 -1

Matthew NeSmith 34-35–69 -1

Chris Baker 33-36–69 -1

Jinichiro Kozuma 34-35–69 -1

Seamus Power 34-36–70  E

Talor Gooch 37-33–70  E

Brendon Todd 35-35–70  E

Parker McLachlin 35-35–70  E

Martin Trainer 35-35–70  E

Harris English 36-34–70  E

Matt Kuchar 35-35–70  E

Ryan Palmer 37-33–70  E

Keegan Bradley 34-36–70  E

Russell Knox 36-34–70  E

Kevin Tway 34-36–70  E

Scott Brown 35-35–70  E

Takumi Kanaya 35-35–70  E

Ryo Ishikawa 33-37–70  E

Sergio Garcia 37-33–70  E

Andrew Landry 38-32–70  E

Bo Hoag 35-36–71 +1

Adam Schenk 35-36–71 +1

J.J. Spaun 34-37–71 +1

Fabián Gómez 36-35–71 +1

Scott Piercy 35-36–71 +1

Zach Johnson 36-35–71 +1

Keith Mitchell 37-34–71 +1

Bronson Burgoon 36-35–71 +1

Eric Dugas 36-35–71 +1

D.J. Trahan 35-36–71 +1

Andrew Putnam 32-39–71 +1

Nick Watney 37-34–71 +1

In-hoi Hur 33-38–71 +1

Shane Bertsch 36-35–71 +1

Andres Gonzales 38-34–72 +2

Rory Sabbatini 36-36–72 +2

Tyler McCumber 38-34–72 +2

Hank Lebioda 37-35–72 +2

Doug Ghim 34-38–72 +2

Luke List 35-37–72 +2

Richy Werenski 35-37–72 +2

Michael Gligic 34-38–72 +2

M. Gellerman 35-37–72 +2

Hunter Mahan 36-37–73 +3

Brandt Snedeker 37-36–73 +3

Jimmy Walker 36-37–73 +3

Brandon Hagy 37-36–73 +3

Nate Lashley 37-37–74 +4

Evan Kawai 37-37–74 +4

Bill Haas 38-37–75 +5

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