Z. Johnson beats the flu at Sony Open

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OBSERVATIONS

KIRK EYES PUTTING REDEMPTION: Four-time PGA TOUR winner Chris Kirk has rid himself of some lazy behavior as he eyes a return to his best golf. And it might be working as he opened the Sony Open with a 7-under 63 to share the lead.

Kirk has pinpointed his putting as the biggest key if he is to return to his winning ways with the last of his four wins coming at the 2015 DEAN & DELUCA at Colonial.

His T4 finish at Sea Island last November was his first top five PGA TOUR finish since being runner-up at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October 2016.

Last season Kirk played well in the fall, with three top 10s, before failing to do so again. It added up to a 92nd-place finish in the FedExCup.

“The real reason I didn’t play well last year is I’ve had my worst putting year I had since I’ve been on TOUR,” he said bluntly after being ranked 125th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

“I actually hit it fine, but I’m not somebody that’s going to overpower a golf course ever. My game is hit fairways, hit irons close, and make some putts. To have a year like that where I really struggled putting made it very difficult mentally and difficult in every possible way that it could.”

As such Kirk has reverted to using the putting drills that helped him at his best a few years ago, forcing himself to do them post round regardless of his scores. He ranked 17th in the field in the opening round.

“I had a great day today, and I’m about to go do it. It takes about 5 or 10 minutes. It’s laziness, I guess, not doing it consistently over the last couple of years,” he said.

“I’m hoping that will stay consistent this year, and if I putt consistently well, then I think I’ll have a good year.”

HARMAN ALONG: Brian Harman kept his Hawaii vibes going after putting himself in contention again this week. A week after finishing runner-up behind Dustin Johnson’s exploits at the Sentry Tournament of Champions Harman notched an opening round 6-under 64 to share third place just one shot off the lead at Waialae. “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything heroic or special,” Harman said. “I’ve been working pretty hard. My tee shots, I feel like I’ve kind of tightened up just a little bit. I think I only missed three, four greens maybe, which is pretty tough to do around here.”

KISNER PAYS OFF DEBT: Kevin Kisner cannot be accused of failing to deliver on his bets after the Georgia alum adorned an Alabama jersey on the 17th hole at Waialae Thursday. Kisner, a very proud Bulldog, lost his bet with Justin Thomas, a Crimson Tide alum, over the result of the National Championship football game this week. As such Kisner threw on the jersey as they walked from tee to green on the par-3, a hole he bogeyed. “I’m blaming that bogey on him. I would have never hit that bad of a shot if I wasn’t thinking about that ‘Bama jersey,” Kisner laughed. “No, it’s all in good fun. We’re going to do a lot of good with that and raise a bunch of money. We’re going to raffle it off through my foundation, sell a bunch of raffle tickets, pick out a winner, and then give that money back to the children in our community. Justin is good enough to let me do it, and I’ll get him back in the future.”

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