Spieth among early leaders in Hawaii, veteran Choi flies the Asian flag with 66 -
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Spieth among early leaders in Hawaii, veteran Choi  flies the Asian flag with 66

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K.J. Choi of South Korea reacts to his putt on the tenth green during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 12, 2023 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images).

Khel Today Bureau

Honolulu: Jordan Spieth got off to a fine start with a 6-under 64 that gave him a share of the clubhouse lead in the yet-to-finish first round of the Sony Open. Spieth shared the lead with Taylor Montgomery and Chris Kirk.

Asian golfing legend, K.J. Choi wielded a hot putter and rolled back the years with an opening 4-under 66 in Hawaii.

A total of 10 players will return Friday morning to complete their opening rounds which did not conclude due to fading light. They include Korean rookie S.H. Kim, who was 5-under with two holes remaining.

Si Woo Kim opened his 2023 campaign with a 67 which featured five birdies against two bogeys, a score matched by Chinese Taipei’s rookie, Kevin Yu. Another Korean, K.H. Lee shot a 69 while Tom Kim, who finished tied fifth last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, returned a 72.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama shot 2-under 68 and was tied 41st.

Choi was pleased to see a strong Korean presence in Hawaii. “There are now seven to eight Korean players who are doing great on TOUR. They are getting married too and playing well. I’m very happy to see players getting used to life on TOUR and training hard. I was all alone at the beginning but now with many players, I’m looking forward to seeing them more and more. I think many of our players will end up in the world’s top-50. I’m very happy for them.”

The 52-year-old Asian trailblazer Choi made the most of his familiarity with Waialae Country Club in Honolulu by sinking five birdies against a lone bogey as Sony Open celebrated its 25th anniversary as title sponsor.

The par-70 venue is suited to Choi’s straight-shooting game where he found 11 of 14 fairways to be ranked tied first in fairways hit. It was his putter though which helped him score as he rolled in a 27-footer for birdie on the fifth, and another 33-footer on the 12th hole.

Choi emerged victorious here in 2008, which marks one of eight career PGA TOUR wins, and he and this week’s defending champion, Matsuyama, currently share the honour of being the leading Asians with most victories on TOUR. Matsuyama began his defence on Thursday with a solid 68.

Ryan Armour aced No. 17 for his second hole-in-one of the season.

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