Honolulu (AP) — Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose and Zach Johnson did their parts to stay in the game Friday at the Sony Open.
Then it was up to Justin Thomas.
Johnson birdied his last three holes for a 9-under 61, and Rose shot a 64. They joined Hudson Swafford (68) at 10-under 130. That allowed them to get within one shot of Thomas, who played Friday afternoon after opening with a 59.
“Today was an important round to keep pace with them and obviously Justin Thomas, I also anticipate him playing well,” Rose said. “It’s about consistently playing well the whole week and waiting for your hot round.”
The conditions were so pure again — fast fairway, soft green and barely enough wind to blow a palm frond — that Rose isn’t sure his 64 will be his best this week.”
Johnson, who has posted a 60 at the Tour Championship and at the Texas Open, holed a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 18th as he made the turn, and he closed with a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 7, a birdie from 6 feet on No. 8 and a two-putt birdie from 30 feet on the par-5 ninth.
“There wasn’t any major stress,” Johnson said.
Swafford, who opened with a 62, could only manage a 68.
Webb Simpson (65) and Charles Howell III (66) were among those at 9-under 131, while the group at 132 included former Navy lieutenant Billy Hurley III (68) and Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines, who had his best year in 2016 on the Asian Tour.
Thomas posted the eighth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history on Thursday with a 15-foot eagle putt on the final hole. The only other player to shoot 59 in the first round was Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic. He finished second that week to Steve Stricker, who opened with a 60.
Rose knows the feeling of a hot start.
Just over 10 years ago, he flirted with a 59 on the Palm course at Disney and settled for a 60. He was just as good the next day, but only for a short time, and had to settle for a 67. On the weekend, rounds of 72-69 left him in fourth place, five shots behind the winner, Joe Durant.
The message from that: It’s a long week.
“I think I started strong the second day … and then yeah, stalled a bit,” Rose said. “The rest of the field is going to keep making birdies, especially when they’re playing free with nothing to lose when you are up ahead of them. You definitely need the mindset when you’re that far ahead to keep the accelerator down. But it’s hard to keep that sort of momentum going, for sure.”