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Chris Kirk, Jordan Spieth share early lead on gorgeous day at Sony Open

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HONOLULU — Jordan Spieth played more or less as he expected Thursday in another sign of growing confidence in his game as he started from 6 to 64 and quickly tied the lead with Chris Kirk at the Sony Open.

Harris English had 65 on a great day at the Waialae Country Club, with a scorching sun and enough wind to keep players thinking at times.

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Spieth ended almost four years without a win when he won the Texas Open in 2021 and then added another win at Hilton Head last year. What was missing that day was a slow swing rehearsal to solidify the changes he had made to his swing.

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Full results from the Sony Open tournament in Hawaii

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His key word is freedom, and that’s what it looked like in Waialai. He had three birds on the four-hole stretch around the turn, and aside from his only scarecrow on the 13th hole, his only disappointment was that he had to settle for par on the last hole on the par-5 of the ninth.

KJ Choi, who rarely started on the PGA Tour at age 52, was in a group at age 66 that included Stuart Sink, who turns 50 in May.

If there was a hit that stood out for Spit, it was his 426-yard hit on the 12th hole, which rolled through the dry turf and ended at 83 yards. It wasn’t so much the distance that left him with a 12 foot birdie wedge, but the backswing.

“I call it ‘before the fade’, meaning it’s just that my sequence was fantastic. It was on the plane. That was exactly what I was working on,” Spit said. “And I just hit this 5-yard fade that kept the wind in the middle of the fairway.

“When I made that throw, I walked away saying, ‘This could be a really good day if I keep insisting on how I just felt,'” he said.

And it turned out that way.

Waialae keeps happy memories for Kirk. Two years ago, after he left to deal with alcoholism and depression, he entered treatment one last time to keep his card, and on the last day he scored 65 points to tie the score and finish in second place, regaining full playing privileges.

Now he is in good condition, and he made birds against one scarecrow.

Kirk, like most of the participants in the first full-length tournament of the year, did not play for seven weeks after the RSM Classic in Sea Island. But he worked hard in the off-season, especially on his fitness, and he hit the ground running.

Kirk’s hard work included some hilarious moments. He hired a new coach, Jake Crane, who has baseball experience, and Kirk said he would pitch or take hits during the downtime.

There are not many chances to change profession. His fastball tops out at around 65 mph, though he prides himself on his breakout serve. But mostly it concerns his condition.

“I always come to this tournament in a good mood,” said Kirk. “That’s my #1 goal this year to try to keep it up and work harder at the gym when I’m at home on the weekends.”

Those playing in the afternoon included Adam Scott and 20-year-old Tom Kim, two of the 19 players who also played at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui last week.


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