Recap of the day
It blew, it blew and then it blew again as the tradewinds of the Pacific Ocean buffeted Waialae Country Club. The gusts were regularly 30 mph, but Collin Morikawa, who has a lot of family on Oahu, was well equipped to cope and carded a brilliant 5-under-par 65 to grab a two shot lead over the field. He was chased into the clubhouse by Matt Jones, Ted Potter Jr., Ryan Palmer and Sam Ryder who all notched 67s. No fewer than ten men share T6 on 68 including Marc Leishman, Rory Sabbatini, Pat Perez and the current hottest man in golf (of sorts) Brendon Todd. But not everyone thrived. Course specialist Charles Howell III could only manage a 72 and Hideki Matsuyama struggled to a 74. Defending champ Matt Kuchar landed a 69. A handful of players didn’t complete their rounds due to darkness, but none were threatening the top of the leaderboard.
Revised outright betting
Morikawa 7/2, Reed 11/1, Thomas 16/1, Leishman 16/1, Kuchar 16/1, Todd 25/1
Friday weather forecast
The wind will continue to blow at between 20 to 25 mph, but expect gusts to be stronger than that if the forecast is accurate. Temperatures in the mid to high 70s, and 20% chance of rain.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Collin Morikawa (65) – In the conditions his bogey-free card was a wonder. He missed five greens in regulation and saved par every time; he ranks first for SG: Tee to Green (4.445) and Approach the Green (3.825).
Matt Jones (67) – An early bogey and then a strong finish with birdies at 17 and 18. Like the leader he missed five greens in regulation, but failed the once to save par. Thus far he doesn’t rank top five in any SG categories.
Ted Potter Jr. (67) – Made two errors, but weighed in with multiple par breakers. Not in the top ten for any SG category, his missed seven greens in regulation and saved par five times.
Ryan Palmer (67) – Like Jones he made an early error before closing with a pair of birdies. He missed just one fairway all day, landed 14 greens in regulation and failed to save par from that situation just the once.
Sam Ryder (67) – Swapped three bogeys and three birdies on the front nine, then closed with a par breaking hat trick. Ranks fourth for SG: Tee to Green (4.107)
Fate of the favorites
Not a great day for them. Pre-tournament, Justin Thomas was deemed the man most likely to win after his success last week, but he need 72 shots, making five bogeys and ranking outside the top 100 in SG: Putting and Around the Greens. Patrick Reed had a better time of it, grinding hard for a 69 – nothing stood out statistically which adds to the notion that he fought for what he got. Webb Simpson made two double bogey-6s in his 71 whilst Hideki Matsuyama found only 7-of-14 fairways on his way to 74.
Collin Morikawa (65) – “It's tough out here. If you have a 20-foot birdie putt you’ve got to factor in the wind, the rain, everything. Playing last week got me prepared for today in the wind. I think the harder conditions the better for me. Ball strikers just want to control everything, control the ball, and I had complete control today.”
Matt Jones (67) – “I think it’s the golf course and the conditions that leads to why Australians play well here. We love the wind to we love to keep it low.”
Matt Kuchar (69) - “It was hard work out there. This I don't recall in a long time. What a challenge. The wind is blowing as hard as I recall it blowing.”
Justin Thomas (72) – “Not exactly what you're looking for after a week like last week. It was a grind, which was what last week was, so it was really hard to stay focused. Felt like I didn't do a good job of that to start, but then played pretty well the last 13 or so holes.”
Zach Johnson (69) – “We've all probably experienced wind like this at some point, but it's rare. I've not experienced it here.”
Road to victory at Waialae
2019 – Matt Kuchar R1: 3rd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2018 – Patton Kizzire R1: 20th, R2: 7th, R3: 2nd
2017 – Justin Thomas R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 – Fabian Gomez R1: 68th, R2: 16th, R3: 5th
2015 – Jimmy Walker R1: 12th, R2: 8th, R3: 1st
2014 – Jimmy Walker R1: 5th, R2: 5th, R3: 4th
Notes: Of the last 24 winners no less than eight were T12 or worse after 16 holes and six were T20 or worse. Playing catch-up can work, but those with aspirations to win will need to make their move on Friday. Only four of the 24 were outside the top ten at halfway.
Fate of the first round leaders at Waialae – where did they finish?
2019 Adam Svensson 43rd
2017 Justin Thomas 1st
Notes: The last three years have proved that going very low in round one can give you a big head start … and it can also indicate that the only way is down. Thomas thrashed a 59 in 2017 and never relented, Svensson carded a 61 and was nine shots back after 36 holes, eventually 15 strokes back by the end of the week. Since Brad Faxon went wire-to-wire in 2001 34 players have held or shared the lead and only three of them claimed the win.
Focus on – the wind
Just how blowy was it? Well, when Svensson thrashed his 61 last year it left him with just a one shot advantage and no less than 74 players joined him under-par. This year only 30 achieved that and the stroke average further revealed the difficulties: 72.04 against 69.64 in the opening round last year (albeit those few laps remain to be completed).
Focus on – the Mayakoba Connection
It might sound like a 1970s movie inspired by paranoia regarding the military industrial complex, but it’s rather more simple than that. In the last two years the winner at Mayakoba has claimed victory here a couple of months later (Patton Kizzire and then Matt Kuchar), whilst Mark Wilson and Johnson Wagner have also ticked victories at both venues. So how is the current champion at El Camaleon faring? The answer is very nicely. Brendon Todd, of course, not only hinted that his game was well set for this test with his win in Mexico, but with the one which preceded it in Bermuda and a week later he very nearly won at Sea Island – another track similar to this week. He opened with a 68 to sit in that pack tied sixth.
Focus on – Charles Howell III
On his 19th visit to the course the 40-year-old from Georgia finds himself in a very unusual position because only twice has he ever missed a cut in the tournament and after a 72 he’s right on the edge (T63). In those 18 previous appearances he has collected 14 top 30s and ten of them were top tens. The good news is that he has form when it comes to needing an excellent effort on Friday. The four times he has ended round one outside the top 60 he has produced a lap that got him into the weekend. Moreover, he has broken 70 in each of his last eight second rounds on the course.