Russell Henley grabs lead over Bae Sang-Moon as US PGA Tour resumes
Russell Henley had eight birdies in an eight-under 65 on Friday to grab a narrow lead over early pace-setter Bae Sang-Moon at the first round of the US PGA Tour Tournament of Champions.
Henley birdied five of the first seven holes on the par-73 Kapalua Plantation Course, and gained sole possession of the lead with a birdie at the last.
The birdie gave him a one-shot lead over Bae.
"Today was good," said Henley, whose birdies included a 20-footer at the 12th.
"It`s not every day you`re going to hit the putts right where you want to and read them correctly, but I did today."
Henley won The Honda Classic last season to earn his spot in the winners-only field.
The tournament is the first of 2015, as the 2014-15 campaign resumes after a December break.
Henley, 25, played the tournament last year after winning the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii. He failed to break 70 en route to a 27th-place finish but is feeling much more comfortable this time around.
"I feel good," Henley said. "I like Bermuda grass. I`ve putted well on Bermuda grass -- both of my wins have come on Bermuda grass."
South Korea`s Bae also mastered the big, grainy greens at Kapalua.
"I think I was in a zone," said Bae, who birdied six of the first eight holes but gave a shot back with a bogey at 11 before back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15.
Bae said the greens were hard to read but some help from his caddie did the trick.
"He`s really good," said Bae, who won the first tournament of the 2014-15 campaign, the Frys.com Open back in October and finished tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
Jimmy Walker, a three-time winner last season, carded a six-under 67 and shared third place with Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings, Ben Martin and Robert Streb.
Defending champion Zach Johnson opened with a five-under par 68. He shared eighth place with world number 11 Matt Kuchar, Australian John Senden and Chris Kirk.
It was a further stroke back to a group of six on 69: Canadian Nick Taylor, Australians Steven Bowditch and Matt Jones, Kevin Streelman, J.B. Holmes, and Brendon Todd.
Reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson headed a group of seven players on three-under 70 that also included Japan`s Hideki Matsuyama and Australian Jason Day.
Watson won the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions at Shanghai in November, a victory that helped boost him to fourth in the world.
He`s the highest-ranked player in this week`s $5.7 million tournament, which concludes on Monday.