Carl Yuan gets a gift from Jon Rahm going to LIV. He's already taking advantage of it at Sony Open

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Carl Yuan watches his shot on the 14th tee during the second round of the Sony Open golf event, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Matt York)

HONOLULU – Carl Yuan soaked up the views at the Sony Open, not just his name atop the leaderboard when he finished his second round Friday but just being in Hawaii to start his PGA Tour season.

If not for Jon Rahm, the 26-year-old Yuan wouldn't be here.

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Yuan finished at No. 126 in the FedEx Cup last November by one point and was getting ready to earn his card back through Q-school. And then Rahm bolted for the Saudi riches of LIV Golf. The tour suspended Rahm and removed him from the FedEx Cup standings.

Yuan moved up one spot to No. 125, had his full card and got into the Sony Open. And then he posted a 5-under 65 on Friday, finishing with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 closing hole at Waialae, for a three-way share of the lead.

“I was very thrilled,” Yuan said. “It gives me another chance to improve and get better.”

Yuan was at 9-under 131. Former Oklahoma State star Austin Eckroat had a 66 and Byeong Hun An, coming off a strong start at Kapalua last week, shot 64 to join him.

The big drama as darkness fell was the cut. Joel Dahmen had a 5-foot birdie putt on his final hole that would have moved the cut to 3-under 137. He missed, letting 17 players into the weekend, a group that includes Hideki Matsuyama, who birdied his last two holes.

Among those missing the cut was Gary Woodland, playing for the first time after his Sept. 18 brain surgery to remove a benign tumor that was causing anxiety and fear of dying.

Woodland's voice choked during his Golf Channel interview when he talked about the support he had while trying to overcome such a frightening period.

“There was a time where I didn’t know if this was going to be possible,” said Woodland, who shot a second straight 71 on Friday. “It was a good week for me from a mental standpoint. I needed to be mentally sharp to get where I want to be in the world. It’s coming back.”

Stewart Cink, the 50-year-old whose two-week Hawaii swing includes the PGA Tour Champions opener next week on the Big Island, had a 65 and was among nine players who were one shot behind going into what figures to be a hectic weekend.

That includes Chris Kirk, who won last week at Kapalua. He shot another 66 in his bid to become only the third player to sweep the two Hawaii events.

Yuan's rookie year was a struggle, but the Chinese player at least saved himself in the fall. He finished the regular season at No. 151, but did enough over the last three months to at least give himself a chance. But he was bumped out by Ryan Moore in the final event.

He played a practice round at the TPC Sawgrass to get ready for Q-school — “My wife was going to caddie for me and it was raining,” he said — and then later that night got word that Rahm was suspended and he was in.

Yuan wasn't overly concerned because he would have had limited status. As it turns out, even some of the rookies with full cards didn't get into the Sony Open.

“Before I learned the news, I was really trying to get myself ready and come out and play good in Hawaii and on the West Coast and try to earn myself back on tour,” Yuan said. “Luckily I got full status, but I’m still trying to do the same thing and come out here and play the best I can.”

Cink turned 50 last year and began to split time on the two tours. He figures he'll play about two dozen events this year, a mixture of both. He's not in the $20 million signature events and might play on the PGA Tour Champions when that's the best option.

“I’m not going to pick one and stick to it,” he said. “I’m not making the FedEx Cup or the Schwab Cup my top priority to try to capture one of those cups. I just want to play good golf and I don’t care where it is. Just play the best I can play and get as much out of myself as I can. If that means playing half here and half on the Champions Tour, I'm OK with that.”

An finished fourth at The Sentry last week on Maui — a signature event that paid him $975,000 — and kept up his form. He had been worried about his fourth-month break from competition. But he has only one bogey over 36 holes.


AP golf:

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