Kevin Na’s title defense at the Sony Open in Hawaii got off to a promising start with a 9-under 61 for the first-round lead. He was still “a little disappointed.”
The 38-year-old threatened 59 on Thursday at a windless, par-70 Waialae County Club. He opened with five birdies and an eagle over his first 10 holes to get within one of Jim Furyk’s clubhouse mark and then tied the lead, at 8 under, with a birdie at the par-4 12th.
Na’s iron play was spectacular in Round 1. None of his birdie makes were longer than 7 feet and his eagle-3 at the par-5 ninth was from 6 feet.
After turning in 29, Na admitted to thinking about shooting the magic number, but while he hit every fairway and every green in regulation – save the par-3 17th – coming home, he only recorded one birdie over his final six holes. That came at the par-5 18th, where he got up and down from a greenside bunker to take the top spot, walking in a 6-footer for birdie.
“I played unbelievably well. I did everything well today and my iron play was amazing. My distance control has been great,” Na said. “I had a chance for a 59. I gave it all I could. I’m a little disappointed my putts didn’t fall, some of the good putts that I hit didn’t fall. But it’s still a good round.”
Na leads Furyk and Russell Henley by a shot. Four others share fourth place, at 7 under.
Na opened in a more modest 67 last year, but shot 61 in the third round en route to his fifth career PGA Tour title. That win earned him an invite into last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, in which Na shot 21 under par only to finish T-13, 13 shots behind champion Cam Smith.
Na’s 61 is his 11th career round of 62 or better on Tour, which, according to the circuit, is the most of any player since the Tour began tracking hole-by-hole scores in 1983. Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods are T-2 with nine. Furyk, who opened in 62, is now T-4 with eight.