HONOLULU – Andrew Putnam didn’t get a practice round in for the Sony Open because of a bee sting, and he apparently didn’t need one.
Putnam made birdie on half of his holes Thursday at Waialae, none of them tap-ins, and took only 23 putts for an 8-under 62. It was the lowest score of his PGA Tour career and gave him a four-shot lead among the early starters.
Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner and John Chin were at 66, with defending champion Patton Kizzire among those at 67.
Jordan Spieth was hopeful of better in his 2019 debut. He had to wait until his 16th hole, the par-3 seventh, for his first birdie of the year. And that was all he made in a round of 73 that left him needing a low round just to make it to the weekend.
He still managed to keep it entertaining, especially with the new rules.
Spieth, like most players, doesn’t understand the visually awkward change of dropping from knee-height instead of shoulder-height. Six holes into his round, his tee shot came up inches short of a sprinkler head. He called for a ruling and was given relief because of the potential of injury or damaging the club. Then, he did what he has done his entire golfing life – he held the ball at the level of his shoulder.
Slugger White, the tour’s vice president of competition, stopped him. Had he dropped and played the shot, it would have been a penalty. If not, he could have dropped again from the proper height.
“I’m like, ‘Wouldn’t it just be a re-drop anyway?’ What’s the big deal?’” Spieth said. “It’s unusual.”
He caught himself from dropping shoulder-height behind the 18th green. He also tapped in for par on the opening hole with the flagstick still in the cup, another change that is getting plenty of attention early in the year. And he tapped down a spike mark in the line of a 4-foot putt.
“All in all, I got a test of most of the new rules today,” he said.
Putnam, among 23 players who were on Maui last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, made it all look so easy. This is his third year playing the Sony Open, so the course is not new to him. But it’s unusual for him not to at least get in a practice round.
He was poolside Tuesday when the bee stung him in the foot.
“I couldn’t walk, so I had to withdraw out of the pro-am,” he said. “I was just sitting around all yesterday and couldn’t even hit a shot. Yeah, kind of bizarre how it all worked out.”
He shot his 62 despite a bogey on the 15th hole when his pitch came up 12 feet short and he missed the putt.
Putnam didn’t miss many in the opening round. Statistically, he made just over 174 feet of putts, from a 5-footer on the closing hole (his shortest birdie putt) to his longest birdie on the 14th at just under 30 feet.
“The hole was very large and the ball was going in,” he said. “It was fun.”
Snedeker found it a bit more enjoyable, too, once he got his round going. He wasn’t under par until a birdie at the turn on the par-5 18th, and he shot 32 on the front, which typically is the slightly tougher side.
It’s the same state, different island, but the course couldn’t be any different from last week. Kapalua was built on the side of a mountain, with enormous greens and large undulations. Waialae is old school, flat and lined by palms, with smaller greens.
“They are faster and a lot flatter,” Snedeker said. “The biggest break you’ll see here is maybe a foot of break on a putt. Last week, if you had anything under a foot, you would be excited.”