Sang-Moon Bae: First Round Leader at Sony

The first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii got off to a running start with Sang-Moon Bae the first across the line on the way to Sunday. The 27-year-old and winner of the HP Byron Nelson and 11 International tournaments in Korea, Japan and the Asian Tour, made good use of his early arrival in Honolulu. He arrived December 20th — it was too cold in Korea he said — and spent quality time learning the course and playing in the Hyundai in Maui. All that effort was good for a 1-shot lead at 7-under 63.

Chris Kirk was also in Maui last week as a result of his win in the McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Georgia, his home. He finished T16 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua and so his 6-under start for 2nd by himself seems a smooth transition into this week. 

Brian Stuard and Ryan Palmer are T3 and another stroke back at 5-under. Stuard joined the Tour in 2010 out of Q-School, took 2012 off for some remedial work on the Tour, and then came back strong in 2013 with over $1 million won in 25 starts. Good solid work.

Palmer on the other hand has three Tour victories including the Sony Open. So while we don’t hear a lot from him on a regular basis, it’s no surprise that he’s tucked in close to the leaders. He’s 29th in Driving Distance on Tour this year if he had met the minimum rounds requirement and 24th in Total Driving, good indications of his ability. I followed him in Phoenix a couple of years ago in a four-man practice round and he comfortably out drove his fellow competitors on every hole.

Here’s a summary list of notables at T5 and 4-under:

  • Retief Goosen
  • Harris English
  • John Daly

T12 and 3-under:

  • Adam Scott
  • Jason Dufner
  • Boo Weekley

T25 and 2-under

  • Ken Duke
  • Matt Kuchar
  • Justin Leonard
  • Zach Johnson (2009 Sony Open Champion)
  • Mark Wilson (2011 Sony Open Champion)

It’s too early to be making any predictions that would be anything but an educated guess, but as the tournament sorts itself out, these guys are the most likely suspects.

But then, you never know, which is what makes the PGA Tour so intriguing. Every once in a while a guy who has devoted his life to the game walks out of the darkness and into the light.

It’s why we watch.

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