Aaron Baddeley has started his 2021 campaign strongly at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Hawaii.
The 39-year-old Australian missed the cut in five of his six starts when the season began late last year, but he opened with a six-under-par 64 on Thursday to be tied fourth after the first round at Waialae Country Club on Oahu.
Now in his 19th full season on the US Tour, four-time winner Baddeley produced seven birdies and finished the day two shots behind the joint leaders Peter Malnati, Jason Kokrak and Chile's Joaquin Niemann.
Scoring was so low that only 30 players from the 144-man field were over par.
Of the other Australians, Marc Leishman shot 66 to be tied 25th, Cameron Smith had a 67, Cameron Davis 68, while Adam Scott, Rhein Gibson and Matt Jones posted 69s.
Coming off a play-off loss at the Tournament of Champions last week, Niemann holed a 50-foot chip for eagle on the 18th hole in his 62 on Thursday.
Kokrak played bogey-free, and he was as pleased with a 15-foot par putt on No.1 – his 10th hole of the round – than any of his nine birdies. He had a 25-foot eagle putt for 61 on his closing hole that narrowly missed.
Malnati was the only one at 62 who played in the morning, though conditions were similar for much of the day.
Among the group on 64 with Baddeley was Jim Herman, who was forced to miss last week's Torunament of Champions after his COVID-19 test came back positive as he prepared to go to Maui, and self-isolation for 10 days left him no time to get to Kapalua.
"I feel pretty good," Herman said. "Obviously, the low score today helps you feel a little bit better. Didn't know what to expect coming out this week."
Herman said he had a miserable four days dealing with the virus and still doesn't have his full taste and smell back. The biggest concern was slight inflammation of the lungs, which pressed against his back and made it difficult to sit. He finally was able hit some golf balls last weekend and only played one round of golf.