Golf - Kevin Na
Early leader Kevin Na plays his shot from the 14th tee during the first round of the Sony Open golf tournament on Thursday. Image Credit: AP

Los Angeles: Defending champion Kevin Na equalled his career-low round with a nine-under-par 61 Thursday to lead the US PGA Tour Sony Open in Hawaii.

Na had a crack at the 13th sub-60 round ever on the Tour and the South Korean-born American admitted he felt a little bit disappointed that he couldn’t pull it off.

“I did everything well today and my iron play was amazing,” Na said. “And I tell you what, I had a chance for a 59. I gave it all I could.

“I’m a little disappointed my putts didn’t fall, some of the good putts that I hit didn’t fall. But it’s still a good round.”

Na had a one-stroke lead over Jim Furyk and Russell Henley after the first round.

Furyk - who owns two of those sub-60 Tour rounds with a 59 and a 58 on his resume - aced the par-three 17th on his way to firing a 62 at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

The 51-year-old American set an early target and was joined on eight-under by Henley, who fired eight birdies.

Na, like Henley, enjoyed benign afternoon conditions and steamed through the front nine with four birdies before he rolled in a six-foot eagle putt at the ninth.

After birdies at 10 and 12 pushed him to eight-under it looked like a 59 could be within his grasp.

But Na saw a 17-foot birdie putt narrowly miss at 16, had to save par from a bunker on the 17th before draining a six-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th for sole possession of the lead.

He overtook Furyk, who found himself in contention more than a quarter-century after winning the title at Waialae in 1996.

“Great memories,” Furyk said. “It’s a great course. It’s a little longer than I remember it but it’s a great way to start off.”

Furyk knocked in a six-iron shot from 187 yards on the penultimate hole for his sixth career ace and his first hole-in-one since 2011.

It was the first ace at Waialae’s 17th since Tony Finau made one in the third round in 2018.

“Obviously pretty happy,” Furyk said. “My short game was great. I putted well. There were a lot of things you don’t really expect your first round back.

“I felt good with the putter in my hands and was wedging it well,” said Furyk, who is chasing an 18th US PGA title. “But there are still three days and a lot of golf to go.”

Furyk and Henley were one stroke in front of China’s Li Haotong, Ireland’s Seamus Power and Americans Kevin Chappell, Patton Kizzire and Michael Thompson. Another half-dozen players were a further stroke back on 64.

Leading scores

(USA unless noted, par-70):

61 - Kevin Na

62 - Jim Furyk, Russell Henley

63 - Kevin Chappell, Patton Kizzire, Michael Thompson, Seamus Power (IRL), Li Haotong (CHN)

64 - Tyler Duncan, J.T. Poston, Ryan Palmer, Matt Kuchar, Corey Conners (CAN), Jason Kokrak, Adam Svensson (CAN)

65 - Vaughn Taylor, Maverick McNealy, Billy Horschel, Sahith Theegala, Andy Ogletree, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (RSA), Davis Riley, Dylan Wu