Matt Kuchar in contention as stars struggle at Sony Open
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 14/01/19 1:32pm
Matt Kuchar played himself into contention for his second win of the PGA Tour season after a low-scoring opening day of the Sony Open in Hawaii.
<a href='https://www.skysports.com/golf/scorecard/1991/sony-open-in-hawaii' target='_blank' class='instorylink'>Sony Open in Hawaii</a>
Kuchar took advantage of the benign conditions at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu as he fired a bogey-free 63 to lie two strokes behind early leader Adam Svensson, whose 61 led the way on nine-under par.
While Kuchar prospered, it was a difficult day for a number of star names as Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey were all over par while a bunker hole-out for an unlikely eagle at the last salvaged a 67 for 2017 champion Justin Thomas.
Svensson, making only his 12th career start on the PGA Tour, eagled the ninth after a superb second to five feet and then reeled off four straight birdies before adding another at the last to surpass long-time leader Andrew Putnam at the top of the leaderboard.
Putnam had set the early clubhouse target on eight under after he birdied four of the last six holes, while Kuchar rolled in his seventh birdie of the day at the 18th to claim outright third as he comfortably outscored playing-partners Thomas and Charles Howell III.
Kuchar, who won his first PGA Tour title for four-and-a-half years in Mexico in November, said: "I feel good about my game. I love coming here and I love the state of Hawaii. I love playing golf here. It's a treat, and this is certainly a fun place to be."
Former US Ryder Cup stars Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner are well placed on four under, while defending champion Patton Kizzire is one stroke further back alongside Thomas and veteran Davis Love III.
Thomas, who fired a stunning 59 on his way to a commanding seven-shot win over current world No 1 Justin Rose two years ago, eagled the ninth to turn in four under before a series of mistakes on the back nine saw him plummet down the leaderboard.
The 25-year-old bogeyed three straight holes from the 15th, but his perfect splash-out from the front-left bunker at the last hopped into the cup for his second eagle of the day and lifted him back to three under par.
English stalwarts Luke Donald and Ian Poulter both carded steady 69s, but Casey has his work cut out just to make the halfway cut after a disappointing start and finish to his round.
The Valspar Championship holder started bogey, double-bogey before starting his recovery with an eagle at nine and, after a birdie at the 11th hauled him back to level par, he dropped shots at each of the final two holes to close on two over.
Spieth, still winless since his memorable 2017 Open triumph at Royal Birkdale, was a shot worse after managing only one birdie against four bogeys in his 73.