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The defending champion did not skip a beat as Kevin Na opened his Sony Open with a bogey-free 9-under 61 to take the first-round lead. Finishing last week’s Tournament of Champions ranked ninth in Strokes Gained: Approach, Na carried his strong iron-play from Maui to Honolulu.
Gaining 4.23 strokes on approach on Thursday, the 38-year-old trailed only Patton Kizzire – the 2018 Sony Open Champion – in said category. Propelling him to a front-nine 6-under 29, Na was officially put on 59 watch as he made the turn home.
Na admitted the thought of a sub-60 round crept into his mind after converting an eagle on the short par-5 ninth. Adding a birdie on No. 10 and another on No. 12, the American got to 8-under with six holes to play. Unable to connect on three additional par-breakers, the disappointment was evident in Na’s voice in his post-round interview.
When asked how it felt to tie his career low round on Tour, Na said, “I played unbelievably well. I did everything well today and my iron play was amazing. My distance control has been great. You know, for playing a brand-new ball, I'm doing pretty well controlling my distance. And I tell you what, 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.”
Our first-round was unfortunately not as eventful as Na’s. Michael Thompson gave it a good run for us, coming in with a round of 7-under 63, but a few short misses on the greens were his eventual downfall. Hoping to recuperate our small loss from Round 1, we will look to a three-ball in Round 2.
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Updated Odds to Win (Odds Via PointsBet Sportsbook):
+400: Kevin Na
+700: Russell Henley
+1200: Seamus Power
+1400: Corey Conners
+1800: Jason Kokrak
+2200: Patton Kizzire
+5000: Adam Svensson
Round 2 Plays (Odds Via PointsBet):
One should not be surprised with the Canadian’s ball-striking these days as he finished Round 1 ranked third in SG: Tee-to-Green and third in SG: Approach. Carding a 6-under 64 without the assistance of his short-game, I am expecting to see a bit more life out of his putter in Round 2.
As over the course of his career at Waialae Country Club, Conners has actually found some success with the putter in hand. Posting a combined +13.10 SG: Putting in his three prior appearances, the 30-year-old has proven he is capable on these putting surfaces before. Drawing just about even to the field on the greens in Round 1, if able to improve on this effort, he should once again take care of the two elder statesmen in this group.
Cink and McDowell both had their issues on Thursday signing for rounds of 2-under and even-par. If not for a cooperative putter, Cink’s round would have likely mirrored that of the Northern Irishman’s as the former Open Champion ranked 127th in SG: Tee-to-Green. Never one to wow you on the greens, I am expecting Cink’s putter to come back down to earth on Friday, giving Conners the clear advantage in this three-ball.
2/3-Balls YTD: +2.05 units, 62.12%
Total YTD: +31.16 units, 358.38%
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