Johnson, Kirk tied atop leaderboard, Spieth falters late at Sony Open

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk each made seven birdies and shared the lead in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Jordan Spieth made eight birdies and for the second straight year walked away from Waialae Country Club amazed that he could be six shots behind.

A year ago, it was because Justin Thomas shot 59 playing in the same group.

On Thursday, it was one hole.

Spieth hit four trees with four shots on the par-4 eighth hole — his 17th of the opening round — starting with a tough break when his tee shot caromed off the trunk of a tree and down an 8-foot deep ditch that left him no good options. He wound up with a quadruple-bogey 8 and had to settle for a 69.

He signed his card, signed autographs and declined requests to speak to the media.

Johnson and Kirk kept clean cards playing on opposite sides of the draw and closed with different brands of birdies on the par-5 18th hole — Kirk two-putted from about 10 feet, while Johnson found a bunker, laid up and hit a wedge to five feet.

They were a shot ahead of Brian Harman, Vaughn Taylor, Kyle Stanley and PGA TOUR rookie Talor Gooch.

Thomas, who set the PGA TOUR scoring record for 72 holes in his wire-to-wire victory, opened with a 67 and was all smiles at the end. Thomas, an Alabama alum, won a bet on the College Football Playoff National Championship that required Georgia graduate Kevin Kisner to wear a Crimson Tide jersey on the par-3 17th.

“It’s definitely the best Kis has ever looked in a jersey,” Thomas said.

Kisner kept the jersey and plans to auction it off for charity. He shot 68.

More than half of the field — 77 players — broke par in the mild trade wind and relentless sunshine down the road from Waikiki Beach.

Kirk had only one top 10 last year — his final event of the year in The RSM Classic at Sea Island — and nearly two months off didn’t appear to half any momentum. He might have been rusty, but not when it comes to island life.

Because of the chilly weather in the South, Kirk brought his family out to Oahu a week ago Monday. He practiced a little in the morning at Ko Olina and hung out with his wife and children in the afternoon. He realized how little golf he had played during the short offseason when he reached into his bag and found golf balls that he had marked for the final round at Sea Island.

“I’ve probably been off long enough now that you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I really had no expectations whether I was going to play good or bad after having some time off. But this is a golf course that I’ve traditionally done pretty well on, and a place that I really love. So you always feel like it’s possible.”

He hit wedge to about three feet on the 15th and 16th, and that final birdie on the par-5 18th was a two-putt from 10 feet.

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