Piercy powers his way to early lead

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Associated Press

Posted on January 10, 2013 at 8:00 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — Scott Piercy made it look like a breeze Thursday in the Sony Open.

Coming off a wild and windy week at Kapalua, Piercy kept bogeys off his card on a day of gentle wind just south of Waikiki Beach for a 6-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Jeff Overton among the early starters at Waialae Country Club.

The only disappointment might have been a pair of birdies on the lone par 5s. Piercy, who spent most of his round poking his way around the course to keep it in play, unleashed his driver on the two longest holes. That led to a 12-foot eagle putt on the ninth and a 6-foot eagle putt on the 18th. He missed them both.

Tim Herron, who by one shot kept his PGA Tour card last year, overcame a slow start with a 30 on the back nine and joined the group at 66 that included Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell III and PGA Tour rookie Morgan Hoffman.

Ben Kohles, another rookie who won his first two starts on the Web.com Tour last year right after turning pro, was in the group at 67.

Kapalua winner Dustin Johnson reached 3 under on the back nine until he made three bogeys on the last six holes. On the par-5 ninth, Johnson's second shot from the back side of a bunker sailed right and bounced off a tent and onto the road, out-of-bounds. He reloaded, hit the middle of the green and two-putted for a bogey, which felt like a double bogey at best on the easiest hole at Waialae.

"Anything under par would have been good," said Johnson, trying to become the first player in 10 years to sweep the Hawaii swing. "I was pleased with my round until that last hole. That kind of ruined it."

It was a solid start for Piercy, and the best news of all was that he finished.

Piercy, the Canadian Open champion, was among 20 players who started their season last week on Maui, even though it took until the fourth day — when the Tournament of Champions was supposed to end — that the tournament actually began.

He tied for 13th and said waiting three days for the tournament to start might have been more draining than playing a 54-hole tournament in 29 hours.

"I think I was almost as tired those days as I was after the 36-hole day. More mentally tired," he said.

He was at the course Wednesday for more than eight hours, mostly on the putting greens. "Seven three-putts and a four-putt last week," he said before leaving.

No two courses are more different in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour than these two — the Plantation Course at Kapalua build on the side of a mountain, with dramatic changes in elevation and fairways some 80 yards wide, the other built along the shores of Oahu, with tight fairways that wind through skinny palms.

And then there was the wind.

"The wind wasn't even blowing today compared to last week," Piercy said. "I just played solid today, hit it in a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens, made two fairly key putts and took care of the par 5s."

Most pleasing to Piercy was a 5-iron that he hit to about 18 inches for birdie on the par-3 11th.

Overton felt like a new man at the start of a new season, though not so much from his golf. A former Ryder Cup player, he still is looking for his first win. The change was in the offseason, when he took his girlfriend to Italy and got engaged. But there was still time for work, particularly his bunker play.

"I don't think I've ever shot this low here," Overton said. "It's been weird because I should play good here because all the other courses that are extremely windy I generally play good. But I think I was a lot more prepared this year."

Some of the rookies made a quick impression. Hoffman made an 8-foot eagle on the 18th to get within two shots of the early lead. Also at 67 with Kohles was Brad Fritsch of Canada, who is wearing an Ottawa Senators logo to support his hometown team. At least hockey is getting ready to start.

Fritsch wasn't the only hockey supporter at Waialae. Johnson's companion the last few weeks is Paulina Gretzky. Her parents — Wayne and Janet — joined her in the gallery to watch Johnson, who hit some powerful drives, made an amazing par save from well behind the seventh green and was generally pleased with his week on Oahu until bogeys on his last two holes.

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