Johnson seizes share of Sony Open lead
Two-time major winner Zach Johnson rolled in a five-foot birdie putt at the 18th on Thursday to seize a share of the first-round lead at the US PGA Tour Sony Open in Hawaii.
Johnson, the 2009 winner at Waialae in Honolulu, had seven birdies in his seven-under 63, joining early pace-setter Chris Kirk atop the leaderboard in the US PGA Tour's first full-field event of 2018.
Kirk, a four-time winner on the US tour, nabbed five of his seven birdies on the back nine. He had a look at eagle on the par-five 18th, where he holed a two-footer for birdie.
Johnson got off to a hot start in his pursuit of Kirk, with birdies at the first three holes. He added another birdie at the ninth, and after a near-miss at the 12th rolled in birdie putts of 24 feet and 21 feet at 13 and 14 to move within a stroke of the lead.
Johnson, winner of the 2007 Masters and the 2015 Open championship, broke away from the second-placed bunch at the final hole, despite finding a fairway bunker off the tee.
Johnson admitted his round was a pleasant surprise, after a bout of flu cost him some pre-season practice time.
"I came here later than I anticipated -- like four or five days later and I had zero expectations on my game," the 41-year-old said.
"That being said, sometimes it's nice, you just kind of go out there, find a rhythm and then just stick with it."
Kirk, whose most recent victory was at Colonial in 2015, said a return to his old putting routines had paid off on the greens.
"I'm kind of going back to some of the drills that I did four, five years ago when I was putting week-in, week-out really well, and trying to do those drills every day," Kirk said.
"I had a great day today, and I'm about to go do it. It takes about five or 10 minutes. It's laziness, I guess, not doing it consistently over the last couple of years."
The leading duo were one stroke in front of a group of four players on a crowded leaderboard. Vaughn Taylor fired six birdies in his six-under 64 and was tied with Brian Harman, Kyle Stanley and Talor Gooch.
Stanley capped his round with an eagle at the par-five ninth, rolling in a 41-footer.
Gooch rocketed out of the blocks with three straight birdies, finishing with eight birdies overall against two bogeys. Harman, playing in the afternoon, had eight birdies that included three in a row at the fifth, sixth and seventh.
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