Kirk leads Sony as Spieth goes from leading to a missed cut

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Jordan Spieth plays his shot from the second tee during the second round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Matt York)

HONOLULU – Chris Kirk in the lead might have been the only shred of normalcy in the Sony Open.

Jordan Spieth started Friday with a share of the lead. He walked off the 18th green at Waialae in a minor state of shock after missing the cut.

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“I felt I had a really bad deck of cards today,” said Spieth, the first player since Matt Every in Bay Hill in 2020 to go from a share of the 18-hole lead to an early exit. “It was a weird, weird day.”

He had a 5-over 75 after opening with a 64.

Rory Sabbatini birdied the 18th hole in the morning and was within one shot of the lead as he headed to the front nine. He hit his tee shot out-of-bounds. Double bogey. He pulled his drive into the water on No. 2. Double bogey. He pulled his second shot on No. 3 into the same water and got the same score. He shot 41 on the final nine for a 74 and missed the cut by 1.

J.J. Spaun had a happier time until the end, when one bad swing sent his tee shot into the canal on the par-5 ninth, leading to a bogey on the easiest hole at Waialae. He still shot 64 and was one shot behind.

But imagine showing up on the first tee on a PGA Tour event located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and seeing your high school principal watching. Rita Kear, retired from San Dimas High School, happened to be on vacation with her husband.

“I saw her on the first tee and I was like, ‘Oh my God, is that Mrs. Kear?’ Sure enough was,” Spaun said. “Small world.”

A strange world Friday, at least down the shore from wild, wacky Waikiki.

Kirk dropped only one shot in his round of 5-under 65, putting him at 11-under 129 for a one-shot lead over Spaun and Taylor Montgomery, the PGA Tour rookie who is playing his eighth tournament of the season and only once has finished out of the top 15.

He is polite to a fault, so to hear Montgomery talk about his teenage years in Las Vegas and the time he caddied at Shadow Creek and was trash talking Michael Jordan (it didn't end well for Montgomery), it was hard to imagine. Then again, that was par for the course on Friday at Waialae.

Kirk was one of the feel-good stories from the Sony Open two years ago. He had stepped away from golf to seek help for alcoholism and depression. He received a medical extension, and the Sony Open was his last chance to keep his full card. He did that by closing with a 65 to tie for second.

Kirk was among those tied for the lead when he began the second round. He birdied the first three holes and, aside from a bogey on No. 6, didn't have too much press. But he can appreciate the difficulty of trying to maintain good form from one day to the next.

“It's so difficult to be great at this game professionally in the mental side,” he said. “I don’t know if I did a good job today or not, but thankfully did on the back nine. I always remind myself that pressure is a privilege when you start feeling a little bit of nerves.”

Spieth wasn't sure what he was feeling. He was even for the day, right in the mix, when he went from the rough to a funky lie in the bunker. Next up was the par-5 ninth that is the easiest birdie on the course until the ball is sailing right toward the canal.

He took a drop close to the red hazard line with his left foot on the cart path. To take further relief would have brought a tree into play, but then he worried about his left foot slipping and his ball didn't fade the way he wanted. It was a mess, and he had to make a 10-foot putt for bogey.

It felt like that happened all day.

“I've never led a tournament and missed the cut before,” Spieth said. “Just got the ball in the wrong spots at the wrong places.”

The cut won't officially be made until Saturday morning because darkness again kept everyone from finishing. But it will be at 2-under 138. Davis Thompson was 2 under and facing an eagle putt from just inside 60 feet. As long as he doesn't four-putt, he'll be around for the weekend. Given how Friday went, it was probably a good idea to wait.


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