HONOLULU – The PGA Tour clearly is growing younger and, in many ways, unrecognizable.
Twentysomethings Adam Svensson and Andrew Putnam set the pace Thursday in the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii. Svensson, 25, of Canada, shot 9-under 61 at Waialae Country Club to hold a one-stroke lead over Putnam, 29, an American. They top a leaderboard dotted with fresh faces in the Tour’s first full-field event of the year (scores).
Just 10 years ago here at the Sony Open, the first-round leader was Shigeki Maruyama, closely followed by Brian Gay, Nathan Green, Geoff Ogilvy, Webb Simpson and Boo Weekley.
Gay is playing this week at Waialae Country Club, and Simpson is still part of the PGA Tour, though he’s not here. The others no longer compete regularly on Tour.
Putnam, a Pepperdine graduate, made Waialea resemble a putt-putt course as he rolled in 174 feet of putts and made nine birdies.
“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 out of the pro-am,” said Putnam, who did not play a practice round. “I was just sitting around all yesterday and couldn't even hit a shot. Yeah, kind of bizarre how it all worked out.”
The leaderboard included some familiar faces, too, led by Matt Kuchar, who was third at 63. Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner were among those tied for seventh at 66.
It’s what the PGA Tour has become in an era of young, emerging new stars.
Two of them, Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau, were paired together Thursday morning with fellow American Gary Woodland. They drew a large following but didn’t justify it with their first-round scores. Spieth, in his first competitive round after getting married in the off-season, made four bogeys and only one birdie in posting a 3-over 73.
“I went through, like, a couple different swings today,” said Spieth, 25, a three-time major champion who is coming off his first winless season on Tour since the 2013-14 season. “I mean, 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 OK. I felt like I was patient out there and still am right now.”
On the other side of the course, Putnam played some of the best golf of the morning wave, and in relative anonymity. It’s just the nature of the Tour as fans turn out to watch the stars, even if they might not play like headliners on a given day.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli