by Ronan MacNamara
Seamus Power. Photograph by Golffile
Seamus Power is happy with the state of his game and is looking to keep his foot on the gas over the next 54 holes after he shot an opening round of 63 on Thursday at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
The Waterford native extended his bogey-free run to 72 holes as he carded seven birdies, taking advantage of the benign conditions on a day of low scoring in Waialae.
Power is in a share of 4th place on seven-under just two strokes adrift of Kevin Na who showed no signs he is in the mood to relinquish the title he won twelve months ago.
“Everything was kind of in decent order,” said Power. “Wouldn't mind hitting maybe a couple extra fairways, but overall it was pretty good. Made some nice putts here and there. Hit some nice wedge shots close, and overall nice and solid.”
After the Plantation Course rendered itself defenceless at last week’s Tournament of Champions, a tougher test was expected in Honolulu but with little to no wind during the first round action, Power was surprised at how low the scoring was, despite the more old-fashioned layout and the length of the rough.
“Cam [Davis] and I were talking about it a couple times, it's bizarre to see it so calm. I certainly don't remember that the years I played it. You want to be aggressive but the fairways are starting to firm up a little bit. A couple times, like on 9 my last hole, hit a good shot runs into very thick rough.
“It's certainly a tradeoff but you know, if you can get it in the fairway you can be aggressive with the wind conditions.”
The 34-year-old has missed the cut in his last two visits here but is a completely different player now as he attacked the golf course.
Five birdies in a six-hole stretch proved the catalyst for Power’s opening round. After four opening pars, the Las Vegas resident carded a hat trick of birdies between the 14th and 16th before a birdie on 18 saw him turn in 31.
He followed that with a birdie on the 1st as he played the course from back to front and a brace of birdies on the 5th and 6th catapulted him into contention.
After getting to twenty-under but still finishing a whopping fourteen strokes behind Cameron Smith, the world number 63 is aiming for three more low rounds to be in contention on Sunday.
“The PGA TOUR is tough. If you want to win, you have to have four good rounds. That's the mentality you have to go in. Nice start and puts me in a good position but there's a long ways to go. I need to have three more good rounds to have a chance on Sunday.”
Power’s approach play was its usual stellar quality ranking 7th in strokes gained approach to green which made up for losing 0.111 strokes off the tee.
After a frustrating week on the greens last week, Power was solid on the putting surfaces last night ranking 25th in strokes gained putting.
Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell is well off the pace on level-par after an opening 70.
The 2010 US Open champion went on a run of bogey, birdie, bogey, birdie in his first five holes before a bogey on his 8th hole was followed by a birdie on his 9th. Nine consecutive pars saw him into the clubhouse in a share of 100th place.
Na, defending his Sony Open title looked in ominous form as he stormed to four-under through six holes before an eagle on the 9th saw him turn in 29 and move within two of early leader Jim Furyk who rolled back the years with an eight-under 62.
Na opened his back nine with two birdies in three holes before finishing with a closing birdie on 18 for a joint career-low round of 61 and he leads Furyk and Russell Henley by one on nine-under.
“I played unbelievably well,” said Na. I did everything well today and my iron play was amazing. My distance control has been great.
“You know, for playing a brand new ball, I'm doing pretty well controlling my distance. And I tell you what, I had a chance for a 59. I gave it all I could. I'm a little disappointed my putts didn't fall, some of the good putts that I hit didn't fall.
“But it's still a good round.”
51-year-old Furyk stole the show with a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in a round where he held 150-feet of putts in the other 17 holes.
“I thought I was in-between clubs but Fluff assured me it was a 6-iron for me, it was the right club and I had it teed up a little bit trying to get the ball in the air and hit down on it,” said the 2003 US Open champion.
“Caught it just a smidge high in the face. And so I loved the line it was on but I wasn't quite sure I caught enough of it to cover it. And carried on the green probably two or three yards and landed in a perfect spot and then released towards the pin.
“I guess that's kind of the line I was looking. You never want to miss that green right. Want to make sure I hit it solid to cover.”