LOS ANGELES: Fiji’s former world number one Vijay Singh fired a bogey-free seven-under-par 63 on Thursday (Friday in Manila) to seize a share of the first-round lead at the US PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
The 52-year-old veteran turned back the clock with seven birdies on the par-70 Waialae Country Club course to share the lead in the first full-field event of the year with Americans Ricky Barnes, Morgan Hoffmann, Kevin Kisner and Brandt Snedeker.
Singh, seeking his first US Tour title since the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2008, is bidding to become the oldest PGA Tour winner.
If he holds on he would narrowly eclipse the record held by Sam Snead, who was 52 years, 10 months and eight days old when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open.
“I was feeling good about my body, my swing, my mind,” Singh told the Golf Channel. “I scrambled very well.
“Early on, I didn’t hit too many fairways but I got it around the greens, chipped in once and my putter was working really well,” added Singh, who rolled in a 50-footer for birdie at 12 — his third hole of the day, and also had birdie putts of 20 and 30 feet.
Singh teed off on the 10th and closed his round with back-to-back birdies at eight and nine — missing a nine-foot eagle putt at his final hole.
Although he hasn’t found the winner’s circle in some time, Singh said he doesn’t feel it’s out of reach.
“I feel like I can come out and win any tournament if I play well,” he said. “It has been the same way for the last five, six years.
“I just haven’t produced the scores that I want to produce, but I’m always optimistic about my next day, my next round, my next tournament.”
Of the five co-leaders, Snedeker and Kisner were the only afternoon starters. Snedeker seemed to lose the momentum of an eagle at the 10th with his lone bogey of the day at 14.
But he followed that with back-to-back birdies.
Kisner grabbed his share of the lead with a birdie at 18.
The leading group was one stroke in front of a trio of players on a tightly bunched leaderboard, with British Open champion Zach Johnson, American Charles Howell and South Korean Kim Si-Woo tied on 64.
Another former world number one, Luke Donald of England, headed a group of 11 on 65.
American Jimmy Walker, seeking an unprecedented third straight title at Waialae, opened his title defense with a 69.