Davis, Steele share 36-hole lead at Sony Open

Halfway through the Sony Open, Brendan Steele and Cameron Davis have handled the winds best at Waialae Country Club and share the lead. Here’s what you need to know:

LEADERBOARD

T-1. Brendan Steele (-6)

T-1. Cameron Davis (-6)

T-3. Cameron Smith (-5)

T-3. Keegan Bradley (-5)

T-3. Russell Knox (-5)

T-3. Ryan Palmer (-5)

T-3. Sam Ryder (-5)

T-3. Collin Morikawa (-5)

T-3. Bo Hoag (-5)

T-3. Rob Oppenheim (-5)

T-3. Rory Sabbatini (-5)

Click here for full leaderboard.

WHAT IT MEANS

A day after 22-year-old phenom Collin Morikawa grabbed the solo lead, tied atop the leaderboard are two players ranked outside the top 300 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Davis (310) and Steele (403), who are at two different stages in their career.

Davis, a 24-year-old Australian, is coming off a rookie season on Tour in which he needed to retain his card via the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Steele, a three-time Tour winner and 12 years older than Davis, was inside the top 50 in the world just two years ago.

With marquee names such as Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed missing the cut, the weekend will feature less star power, leaving the stage for the veteran types like Steele, Bradley and Knox, and unproven types like Davis, Hoag and Oppenheim.

HOW IT HAPPENED

After brilliant ball-striking led to a bogey-free round Thursday, Morikawa carded three bogeys in his second round. Two late birdies, at Nos. 17 and 18, got him to even par on the day, but at 5 under, Morikawa is no longer in the lead.

Instead, Steele totaled six birdies and an eagle, closing his round with five birdies and a double bogey in his final six holes, to rise to the top of the leaderboard. Davis had a less up-and-down round, making five birdies, including two in his last two holes.

SHOT OF THE DAY

Sabbatini joined the 5-under group thanks to an incredible second shot into the 18th green. From 232 yards, Sabbatini hit it to 21 inches to set up the tap-in eagle.

BEST OF THE REST

There weren’t a ton of low scores again Friday, but four players tied for third – Smith, Knox, Oppenheim and Hoag – managed to shoot the round of the day, 5-under 65. That foursome combined to make just three bogeys while Oppenheim went bogey-free.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

A week ago, Thomas and Reed were battling in a playoff at Kapalua. On Friday, they were packing their bags as each finished at 3 over. Thomas’ second-round 71 included two double bogeys while Reed shot 5-over 40 on the front nine before shooting 74.

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Morikawa (65) grabs first career 18-hole lead at Sony Open

Collin Morikawa set the pace during a blustery opening round Thursday at Waialae Country Club, taking a two-shot lead at the Sony Open. Here’s what you need to know:

LEADERBOARD

1. Collin Morikawa (-5)

T-2. Ted Potter Jr. (-3)

T-2. Matt Jones (-3)

T-2. Ryan Palmer (-3)

T-2. Sam Ryder (-3)

Click here for full leaderboard.

WHAT IT MEANS

Morikawa seems to be enjoying his fortnight in Hawaii. After tying for seventh in his debut last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Morikawa fired the only bogey-free round of the day at Waialae, a 5-under 65, which marks the best round of his young PGA Tour career and ties his best Tour round in relation to par.

For as much as Morikawa has been compared to peers Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland since turning pro last summer, the Cal product is well ahead of both in the world rankings (Hovland is No. 92, Wolff No. 98) and top-10s (Morikawa has six while Hovland has three and Wolff has one, albeit a win at the 3M Open).


Sony leader Morikawa (65): ‘Made the ones I needed to’

Sony leader Morikawa (65): 'Made the ones I needed to'

But despite winning the Barracuda Championship last season, Morikawa, unlike Wolff, is not yet in the Masters field. However, at No. 55 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Morikawa is on the cusp of earning his invite to Augusta National. The top 50 as of March 30 qualify. He is already qualified for the PGA Championship but he could also secure U.S. Open and Open Championship berths via his world ranking. Two top-60 cutoffs remain for Winged Foot while top 50 earns a ticket to Royal St. George’s.

A victory – or even another top-10 – could go a long way in getting Morikawa a spot in every major this year.

HOW IT HAPPENED

On a windy day in Honolulu, Morikawa hit half his fairways and missed five greens. He also led the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green – that’s how tough the conditions were Thursday. Morikawa also topped the field in proximity to the hole (23 feet, 6 inches), which explains why he also didn’t make a single putt of 10 feet or longer.


Sony Open in Hawaii: Full-field scores | Full coverage


Morikawa birdied Nos. 11 and 18 before adding three on his second nine, at Nos. 4, 5 and 9. Three of those birdie putts came from 7 feet and in.

SHOT OF THE DAY

The wind tried to help Brian Harman at the 183-yard, par-3 17th hole. Instead, Harman, who fired 68, settled for a tap-in birdie.

BEST OF THE REST

While the 22-year-old Morikawa tops the leaderboard, the chasing pack, for the most part, is anything but youthful.

Aside from 30-year-old Sam Ryder, the three other players tied for second have a combined age of 108 – Ryan Palmer (43), Matt Jones (39) and Ted Potter Jr. (36). Palmer has three straight top-20s entering this week while Jones is coming off his victory at the Australian Open. Potter, though, has missed five straight cuts and has just one top-10 finish since his victory at the 2018 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The group three shots back includes Rory Sabbatini (43), Pat Perez (43), Tim Wilkinson (41) and Brendan Steele (36).

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

A week after winning in a playoff at Kapalua, Justin Thomas bogeyed three of his first five holes and ended up with an opening 2-over 72. Shockingly, Thomas led the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee. He also lost more than two strokes on the field on and around the greens.

Fourteen players did not finish their first round before play was suspended due to darkness at 6:10 p.m. local time. Those players will resume play at 7:45 a.m. Friday morning to finish their opening round. 

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McIlroy to begin year at Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines

Rory McIlroy has confirmed he will begin his year at the Farmers Insurance Open, which will be played Jan. 22-26 at Torrey Pines.

Ranked No. 2 in the world, McIlroy will join 12 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking in San Diego, including notable names such as Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose and Gary Woodland. 

McIlroy, who has 18 PGA Tour titles to his name, finished T-5 in his Farmers Insurance Open debut last year. 

In his first start of his Tour season, he won the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, besting Xander Schauffele in a playoff. 

The field is not yet final, as the commitment deadline is Friday, Jan. 17. 

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Niemann cracks top 50 for the first time after maiden win

Joaquin Niemann on Sunday became the first player from Chile to win on the PGA Tour.

Another first for the 20-year-old: He cracked the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 50.

The former amateur No. 1 is now OWGR No. 50 coming off his win at the Greenbrier. 

The victory earned him full-time PGA Tour status through the 2021-22 season and secured him exemptions into next year’s Players, Masters and PGA Championship. 

Niemann is now slated to make his first appearance in a World Golf Championship next year in Memphis but can do so months sooner at the HSBC Champions in China if he’s still inside the top 50 on Oct. 14.

In Amsterdam, Sergio Garcia picked up his 16th European Tour title at the KLM Open. The victory advances Garcia to 32nd in the world and vaults him past Rafa Cabrera Bello (No. 42) in the race for the second Spanish Olympic berth to next year’s Games in Tokyo, behind No. 6 Jon Rahm.

The runner-up to Garcia, 18-year-old Nicolai Hojgaard managed to rocket up 622nd spots, from 1002nd to 380th. Hojgaard, who turned pro earlier this year, also secured himself a spot in the field at this month’s Alfred Dunhill Links, where he’ll look to further his nascent career. 

The only move inside the top 10 this week, Francesco Molinari jumped from No. 11 to No. 9, dropping Xander Schauffele to 10th and Bryson DeChambeau to 11th.

Here’s the OWGR top 10 for the week of Sept. 16: 1. Brooks Koepka, 2.  Rory McIlroy, 3. Dustin Johnson, 4. Justin Rose, 5. Justin Thomas, 6. Jon Rham, 7. Patrick Cantlay, 8. Tiger Woods, 9. Francesco Molinari, 10. Xander Schauffele.

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