HONOLULU – Brendan Steele atoned for one bad swing with three straight birdies for a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the early lead with Cameron Davis on another windy day at the Sony Open.
The wind didn’t fee quite as strong as the opening round. It still wasn’t a breeze to play.
Justin Thomas could attest to that. Coming off a playoff victory last week on Maui, he made only one putt over 10 feet in two rounds, made two double bogeys on Friday and was headed toward his first weekend off since the U.S. Open.
“Just a rough couple of days,” Thomas said.
Steele and Davis, who also had a 66, were at 6-under 134. First-round leader Collin Morikawa was among those playing in the afternoon. He finally made his first bogey of the tournament on the par-3 fourth hole.
Russell Knox and Cameron Smith each had a 65, joining the large group at 5-under 135 that included Keegan Bradley and past Sony Open champion Ryan Palmer.
Bradley finished last year at No. 51 in the world ranking, just outside the top 50 who earned invitations to the Masters. There’s another world ranking cutoff the week before the Masters. He also could take care of an invitation by winning.
That’s a long way off, especially in the gusts that approached 30 mph in the second round and greens at Waialae that have rarely been this soft. The course is getting soaked by rain every night, with occasional pop-up showers — even when the sun is shining — during the day.
Approach shots that typically bounce forward are now spinning back. Pitch marks are found more easily than an ABC Store in Waikiki Beach.
That’s usually a recipe for low scoring anywhere, but not in this kind of wind.
“I have not played in wind this tough,” Palmer said “You’re pumping 6-iron from 145.. That says a lot of what the winds are doing.”
It was worse on Thursday, but no less a test.
Steele was poised for a big finish when he holed a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 4 and a 35-footer for birdie on No. 5, moving up the board with four holes to play in his second round.
And then the wind helped carry his tee shot out-of-bounds on the next hole, leading to double bogey.
Steele bounced back with a tee shot into 4 feet on the par-3 seventh, a 12-foot birdie on the eight and an up-and-down for birdie at the par-5 ninth.
“It was a wild finish,” Steele said. “I made one bad swing and made a double in between there. I was really happy with how I bounced back to make those good swings and good putts on the last few holes.”
Thomas has not finished out of the top 20 in the last seven months, and his confidence was high after winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The last time he won at Kapalua, he came over to Waialae and shot 59 on his way to a PGA Tour record of 253 for 72 holes.
That won’t be the case this time. Thomas couldn’t get anything to fall, and it didn’t help when he put his tee shot in the water on No. 2, his 11th hole of the round.
“I think honestly, playing the course as often as I have in the past hurt me this year because it’s just so weird, the greens being as soft as they are,” Thomas said. “You have to get adjusted to that. But everybody has to — it’s not just me.”