HONOLULU: Russell Henley set a powerful goal Friday within the Sony Open when he was 6 beneath over his ultimate six holes and closed with a 30-foot eagle putt for a 7-under 63 and a three-shot lead among the many early starters at Waialae.

So a lot of the morning was up for grabs after 18-hole chief Kevin Na started to fade, with as many as 5 gamers having no less than a share of the lead.

Henley made the flip by holing a greenside bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 18th gap, solely to overlook the inexperienced lengthy and right into a again bunker for bogey on the hardest first gap.

And then he couldn’t miss. He birdied each par 3s on the entrance 9 from inside 10 ft, holed a pair of 12-foot birdie putts and completed along with his eagle.

That put him at 15-under 125, three pictures forward of Haotong Li (65), and 4 away from Matt Kuchar, who has been in Hawaii since 4 days earlier than Christmas and appears like he’s in no hurry to depart.

Waialae is the place it began for Henley. He started his rookie season in 2013 on the Sony Open by setting a 36-hole file on the time at 126 and outlasting Scott Langley in a weekend duel to win. Henley beforehand had received on the Nationwide Tour when he was nonetheless at Georgia.

Easy sport, proper?

Didn’t take me very lengthy to appreciate it’s actually exhausting, Henley mentioned, who has three profession victories as he begins his tenth 12 months on tour. Had numerous up-and-downs my first 12 months, second 12 months, I imply, yearly. After this primary one, I keep in mind pondering it is likely to be simpler than I believed.

He laughed earlier than including, But it’s not.

It felt simple at instances on one other attractive day alongside the Pacific, with minimal wind and an abundance of tropical heat, and pure greens. The flat stick will be his finest membership within the bag, and Henley was simply as deft with the 6-foot putts as a few of his birdies.

Li has had a number of large moments in his profession, most notably at Harding Park in 2020 when he turned the primary participant from China to carry the lead after any spherical in a serious. He was two forward in that PGA Championship till fading on the weekend.

He additionally was on the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne on the finish of 2019, although that didn’t go so properly, beginning within the apply spherical when his fill-in caddie obtained misplaced and determined to go into the clubhouse for espresso as Li performed on out of one other participant’s bag. He misplaced each his matches.

Ditching contact lenses for designer glasses, he was regular in his spherical of 65, leaving him in competition for the weekend whereas taking part in on a sponsor exemption.

Another exemption was equally spectacular, if no more. Keita Nakajima, the No. 1 novice on the earth, had an early bogey that left him across the reduce line. He answered with a 6-iron to 12 ft for birdie on the par-3 seventeenth, and he shot 30 on the again 9 for a 64.

Nakajima was within the massive group six pictures behind Henley, a gaggle that included Stewart Cink (63), Seamus Power of Ireland (68) and Chris Kirk (65).

Na opened with a 61 and was 10 pictures worst the following day. He didn’t make a birdie till his ninth gap and stored burning the perimeters on putts. On Thursday, a few of these putts he narrowly missed had been for birdie in his bid for a sub-60 spherical. On Friday, they had been for par, and it despatched him from a one-shot lead after the opening spherical to seven pictures behind Henley.

Cameron Smith, who received at Kapalua at 34-under par, had a 71 and was headed towards a missed reduce.

Kuchar has been over on the Big Island since Dec. 21, and he plans to take the following two weeks off earlier than heading over to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Even although he has missed the reduce the final two years at Waialae, it is a match he doesn’t prefer to miss. Plus, he received the Sony Open three years in the past.

He birdied 5 of his final 10 holes.

Love the golf course. Love the atmosphere, Kuchar mentioned. You throw within the state of Hawaii, as properly. For me it’s a paradise and at all times excited to return right here.

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For extra AP golf protection: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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