Defending champion Kevin Na cards a 61 to claim the first round lead in the Sony Open

The 38-year-old was “disappointed” some good putts didn’t drop in his quest for a 59.

Kevin Na has history when it comes to tagging a series of absurdly low scores together at one particular course.

Take the 2018 and 2019 seasons, when he carded two 62s and a 61 on his way to finishing fourth and first in the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club.

Now he's at it again. Twelve months on from claiming the Sony Open with weekend rounds of 61-65 he produced a sparkling repeat of that first number to grab a one shot first round lead at the Waialae Country Club.

"I played unbelievably well," he said after making seven birdies and an eagle-3. "I did everything well and my iron play was amazing. My distance control was great.

"You know, I'm playing a brand new ball, so 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 that some of the good putts that I hit didn't fall, but it's still a good round."

Na was far from the only player enjoying the easy conditions. Veteran Jim Furyk thrashed an 8-under-par 62 to join Russell Henley in a tie for second, just the one shot shy of the leader's mark.

There's a five-way share for fourth on 7-under and no less than 23 players shot 65 or lower in an early cavalry charge.

It was undoubtedly a day when conditions dictated the leaderboard. Na, Furyk, and Kevin Chappell (63) are not just known to be players capable of going low in a round, they are all part of an exclusive dozen golfers who have gone sub-60 on the PGA Tour.

And course specialists were also to the fore, with six past champions of the event among the top 15 players on the leaderboard - Na, Furyk, Henley, Patton Kizzire (63), Matt Kuchar and Ryan Palmer (both 64).

Na explained that the wind briefly got up to 10mph, but for the most part the key defence of the course was non-existent. Aware of the forecast, officials have not mown the rough and it has had an impact, albeit limited.

"If you hit it in the rough, you're going to catch fliers," Na said. "It's going to be very difficult to get the distance right and hit the green.

"But if you're playing well, if you're driving the ball well, you're going to have plenty of birdie chances.

"Overall, the rough is up a little bit higher (than normal) but the wind is a little down and the greens are a little softer. They can firm up as the week goes but it's still early to say."

Of the bigger names, Jason Kokrak is in the best position (tied ninth after a 64). Billy Horschel carded a 65, with Abraham Ancer, Harris English and Hideki Matsuyama all opening with a 66 to lie T24th.

Tournament trends

No less than 10 of the last 26 winners at Waialae were outside the top 10 after 18 holes so the field has plenty of hope, despite the fast start made by the defending champion and others.

Five of those eventual winners were T30th or lower on the leaderboard at the end of the first lap, but that was often prompted by variably wind conditions which are not currently expected to be repeated this week.

Since the 2011 event 19 players have held or shared the first round lead and just one of them completed the win (Justin Thomas in 2017). Na himself has held six previous 18 hole leads (just the one solo) and is yet to convert the victory.

Jim Furyk on going low

The 51-year-old became the oldest man to card a 62 on the PGA Tour and then admitted: "I started the day with a three-putt, but from there just putted beautifully."

At the 17th he didn't even need the short stick, completing the 12th hole-in-one of his career.

"I thought I was in-between clubs but (my caddie) Fluff assured me it was a 6-iron," he said. "It was the right club and I had it teed up a little bit trying to get the ball in the air and hit down on it. Caught it just a smidgeon high in the face.

"I loved the line it was on but I wasn't quite sure I caught enough of it. It carried on the green probably two or three yards, landed in a perfect spot, then released towards the pin in and in."

Being back at Waialae makes him happy. "I've always loved being here," he said. "I love the Sony Open. It's a place I've had a lot of success. I think I lost in a playoff in 1997, had a lot of Top 10s here. Love the course.

"I'm not hitting the ball far enough to compete out here in a regular basis on a lot of the golf course. But Waialae is a place I still feel I can get around and shoot under par so it's fun."

READ MORE: The Sony Open's finest moments - ranked

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