High winds wreaked havoc on the scorecards of some of the best players in the world on Friday at Kapalua, including Dustin Johnson, who for the first time in his career shot an over par round at the Plantation Course. Bubba Watson struggled mightily, as did Patrick Reed. Justin Thomas, who still managed to post a one-under 72, made two bogeys and a double bogey.
But a few players embraced the conditions, none with more success than Gary Woodland, who posted a second straight six-under 67 in Maui to get to 12-under 134. Patience, above all, helped propel him to a three-shot lead heading into the weekend.
“It was frustrating early, I was hitting some good shots, the wind was really messing with me on the greens. It was tough to putt,” said Woodland, who shot an even-par 36 with a two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine. “Kind of regrouped there after missing a short one on nine and really settled in.”
The three-time tour winner proceeded to make five straight birdies beginning at the 11th hole, where he chipped in from just off the green at the 160-yard par 3. Even with the heavy winds, he began firing at flags from there, hitting his approach to five feet at the 12th, nine feet at the 13th and five feet at the 14th. At the par-5 15th, an easy chip to seven feet on his third shot yielded another birdie, and he made one more at 18 to finish off a back-nine 31. While some off-season work with the putter is beginning to pay off, the results weren’t showing on the front, but knowing they were going to fall on the back nine after some early struggles certainly helped.
“Usually I’d get pretty frustrated, but (today) I was able to take a step back and realize that I’m putting it good, I just need play a little bit more for the wind. We adjusted and it was great on the back.’
Now comes the hard part, closing it out on the weekend, which is something the 34-year-old Kansas native has had some issues with in the past. This weekend will be a particularly difficult task, as he has a trio of studs close behind him at nine-under 137. Rory McIlroy, who posted a five-under 68, is among that group, and he’s looked sharp over the first 36 holes.
“I’m driving it great. I got the new driver in the bag and now it feels really good,” said McIlroy, who is second in both driving distance and strokes-gained/off-the-tee this week. “Obviously, I’ve got the new putter in the bag, and that feels good too. Everything’s feeling pretty good right now.”
Bryson DeChambeau, fresh off an impressive flagstick in putting display on Thursday, backed up his opening 69 with a 68 to join McIlroy and first-round leader Kevin Tway at nine under. On Friday, DeChambeau pulled the pin more often than not , but still couldn’t miss. Through two rounds he leads the field in strokes-gained/putting.
Up-to-the-minute leader board and other scoring information for the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii, Jan. 3-6, 2019