Cam Davis handles the wind at Waialae for a 62 to lead Sony Open

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Cam Davis hits from the 17th tee during the first round of the Sony Open golf event, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Matt York)

HONOLULU – Cam Davis hopped islands in Hawaii and was happy to see the rust stayed back on Maui. He faced the strongest wind Thursday and produced the best opening round in the Sony Open, an 8-under 62 for a two-shot lead.

Davis lingered around the bottom of the pack last week at Kapalua until he finally got his game in order with a closing 65. Four days later on a flat but windy Waialae Country Club course, it felt even better.

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“I started figuring out what wasn’t working, what was working and Sunday last week I started to put some consistent shots together,” Davis said. “I thought as long as I can build off that round and continue that on to this week and next week, that is the sort of momentum I was looking for. It was very cool to back it up with a really good round.”

Taylor Montgomery had it easier, playing six holes before 30 mph gusts arrived along the shores around the bend from Diamond Head. He also had birdies on half his holes in a 64.

The Sony Open marked the return of former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, who had brain surgery on Sept. 18 to remove part of a tumor that was causing fear and anxiety, most of those thoughts centered around death.

He only decided in the last week or so that he was ready to play. And then he found himself getting emotional when his name was announced on the tee.

“Hearing Topeka, Kansas, hearing my name called, there was a time when I didn’t know if that was going to be called again, so it got me a little more than I thought it was going to,” Woodland said.

The score was a 71, and in some respects, it was irrelevant.

“Probably the happiest I’ve ever been shooting over par, tell you that,” Woodland said. “The goal this week was to see how I was mentally, and I was really, really good. This was one of the hardest rounds I’ve ever had here. And got off to a rough start. I was excited and was doing a lot of breathing trying to slow everything down because I was moving fast.

“I settled in, especially the last nine holes, and played really, really well. A lot to build on.”

Davis had the loudest gallery at Waialae, and not just because he was making birdies. His wife's entire family from Seattle came to cheer the Australian, and they even stuck around to cheer his post-round interview with Golf Channel.

“A lot of them haven’t seen a golf tournament before and it was really fun to put a good round together in front of them,” Davis said. “I'm glad I gave them something to cheer about.”

The wind was so strong that Webb Simpson, among those at 66, hit 5-wood into the 490-yard first hole. Harris English hit one of the best shots on that hole, a bullet of a 3-iron to just inside 10 feet for one of only nine birdies on the day.

The wind eventually brought thick clouds and light rain, and it became too dark for everyone to finish. Eighteen players didn't conclude their rounds.

Chris Kirk, who won The Sentry last week on Maui and is trying to join Justin Thomas (2017) and Ernie Els (2003) to sweep Hawaii, was among those at 66.

Kirk never gets too high or too low on the golf course, though he said winning made it hard to sleep for the first few nights on Oahu. The feeling of winning can linger, as can the crush of a tough loss in a playoff. There is one difference.

“You don't mind lying awake after you win,” Kirk said with a grin.

Woodland hasn't played since August. Medication wasn't working, doctors feared the tumor might be growing and surgery was the only option. He brought his family to the Big Island and played some golf, but only after walking 18 holes with no big issues did he feel ready to play.

He was in the rough far too often. The speed of his putts was off. But he felt his levels of energy and focus were fine. It took 12 holes to record a birdie, but he played bogey-free over the last 10 holes.

“I tried to eliminate expectations,” Woodland said. “It’s hard to do, especially when you play in a result-oriented world. I tried to eliminate expectations and focus on what I can control, focus on slowing everything down, having the energy stay up, which it did.”


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