The 2018 golf season is officially underway as a group of 34 recent winners got things going at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Here’s how things look after the opening round at Kapalua, where Marc Leishman has built a one-shot advantage:
Leaderboard: Marc Leishman (-6), Brian Harman (-5), Jhonattan Vegas (-5), Rickie Fowler (-4), Si Woo Kim (-4), Dustin Johnson (-4)
What it means: The par-73 layout in Maui is prone to giving up low numbers, but birdies were hard to come by during an opener that featured brisk winds and few lengthy makes on the greens. Leishman kept busy during the final months of 2017, playing at home in his native Australia, and the lack of rust paid off as he grabbed the early lead.
Round of the day: Leishman hasn’t played this event since a tie for 23rd back in 2013, but he’s in position to improve on that result after a 67 that included eight birdies. Leishman qualified thanks to wins at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and BMW Championship, and his opener featured four straight birdies from Nos. 7-10.
Best of the rest: Harman is used to windy conditions having played plenty of golf at Sea Island, and he put that experience to use en route to a 5-under 68. The southpaw turned in a blemish-free scorecard that featured three outward birdies as well as circles at Nos. 14 and 16, although he failed to get up and down from the front edge of the final green to equal Leishman.
Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished third or better in each of his first three trips to Maui, but he’ll struggle to keep that streak alive after faltering to a 2-over 75 in the opening round. Two years after cruising to victory at Kapalua, Spieth needed 36 putts to complete his round and failed to make a single birdie on the back nine while beating only three players.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Leishman is certainly an accomplished player in the pole position, but keep an eye on the group of players at 4 under. Fowler sparked crowds with his eagle make on the final green, while Johnson has a long history of success at this event that includes a 2013 triumph. Expect one or both to make a move on the Aussie.
Shot of the day: Attired in an untucked Hawaiian shirt for his opening round in the Aloha State, Fowler rolled in a 22-foot eagle putt on No. 18 that closed his round in style – and canceled a surprising double bogey on the par-4 13th.
Quote of the day: “Really happy. There were some tough conditions out there today, but I managed to hit a few close and knock in a couple putts.” – Leishman