Texas

Buckley makes a pair of eagles and leads the Sony Open

HONOLULU – It took Hayden Buckley just two hits to become another face in the big two-shot lead contender on Saturday at the Sony Open.

On a day that at one point was an eight-way tie, Buckley made a pair of heads on the back nine at Waialai that took him to a second straight 6-under 64 and allowed him at least a little lead.

One was a 133-yard wedge he thought he dragged to the number 10 left pin, the third easiest hole on the field. On the contrary, it turned out great.

“It was nice to see that,” Buckley said. “I pulled it a bit and wasn’t sure where it would land.”

The other was one of his best hits of the day, a 221-yard 5-iron that rolled 2 feet to the front left pin on the 18th par-5 hole.

Otherwise, it was a constant diet of couples and random birds on the track, where the fairways run fast.

“We did exactly what we were trying to do and got off with two shots, we had two big eagles,” Buckley said. “Our game plan remains the same. If we play well enough, that’s great. If not, we just deal with it.”

He was aged 15-195 as Buckley heads to his first PGA Tour title in his second full year, and he’s not alone in that regard.

He will be in the final group with David Lipsky (66) and Ben Taylor (65), neither of whom have won the PGA Tour. Lipsky has won the Asian Tour, the Sunshine Tour, the European Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour.

Nine of Waialae’s top 15 players are set to take their first PGA Tour win.

Chris Kirk was also two shots behind. He started the third round with a one-shot advantage and good spirits from finishing second two years earlier, allowing him to maintain full tour status. His first shot was directed towards the houses on the right side of the first fairway, out of bounds and resulted in a double horror.

He was otherwise confident, although on the 18th he missed a 6-foot birdie kick that would have put him in the final group.

Kirk has four PGA Tour wins, but the last one was at Colonial in 2015. It was like winning two years ago at Waialae. He retired from golf to treat alcoholism and depression, and his 65 on his last day at the Sony Open to tie for second was enough for him to retain full status.

So he wasn’t sure if he had an edge because of the winning experience.

“If I had won three weeks ago, perhaps,” Kirk said. “But a little time has passed. I know exactly what it takes, but I also know that it’s not easy to do. But I definitely like where I am. I like the way I play golf. Obviously, I’m very comfortable and I love this place, so I’m happy to be able to play with these guys who didn’t win. Most of them are probably 15 years younger than me.”

Kirk wasn’t the only player with a slow start. Lipsky’s kickoff went to the left and bounced down the cement path to the right of the practice field until it stopped outside the white stakes. He managed to limit the damage from the ghost when he made a 25-foot kick. He then took two chips to get on the second green for another scarecrow and then had seven birds the rest of the way.

“It’s never perfect when your ball travels 50 yards on the OB’s trajectory,” Lipsky said. “I’m very pleased with my game and how I handled the first two holes.”

While the third round wasn’t quite as weird as Friday – Jordan Spieth went from a share of the lead to a miss, Rory Sabbatini trailed the lead to three consecutive double buggers – enough to make it clear that another 18 holes could feel like a marathon for those who are trying to win for the first time.

SH Kim, a rookie from South Korea, ran four birdies in a row and took the lead at the turn. And then on the 10th hole, the third-easiest in Waialai, he had 124 yards from the middle of the fairway and double-bogeyed a green run, a 30-foot chip and three putts.

Byung Hoon Ahn had 66 points and tied for 16th place, six shots back. This includes his ghost quad 8 on the 10th hole after his shot was in the middle of the fairway, 87 yards from the hole. Ahn walked for a long time behind the back pin, missed the chip, twice slipped under the wedge under the ball sitting in the thick grass. It was a mess.

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