Matt Jones is tied second and Marc Leishman and Cameron Davis are in strong contention after a windy first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii, where American Collin Morikawa had a bogey-free, five-under-par opening round 65 to take a two-shot lead.
Jones finished on three-under-par 67, one shot ahead of countryman Leishman at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
“It's not an easy day out there, and I just managed my round really well. Kept the ball low and kept it in play and tried to hole putts, and it worked out,” Jones said.
“I think it's more so the golf course and the conditions that leads to why Australians play well here. We love the wind to we love to keep it low.”
Jones and Leishman, two of six Australian golfers competing in the event all donating money to the bush fire crisis at home for each birdie and eagle, both finished the round with four birdies, including a stunning 29-foot putt on the 16th hole from Leishman.
“It's not an easy day out there, and I just managed my round really well. Kept the ball low and kept it in play and tried to hole putts, and it worked out,” - Matt Jones
Jones is in a four-way tie for second, while Leishman and Davis are locked in equal sixth with eight other golfers on a cluttered leaderboard.
“It's a crisis they're going through at the moment back home, and playing in this is nothing compared to what they're dealing with,” Leishman said when discussing his donations for the week. “They're out fighting fires in this, but obviously fighting flames that are 50 foot high or higher, so they're risking their lives. The support of the players is amazing. I hope to make a lot more birdies as the week goes on to donate a lot of money and support people.”
Fellow Australians Rhein Gibson and Cameron Smith both finished the day with even-par rounds of 70. Cameron Percy fired a poor first round of three-over 73.
Justin Thomas, who won a playoff last week in Kapalua, struggled to card a 72, while defending champion Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed, who again found himself in the news today, shot 69s.
-Additional reporting by Jimmy Emanuel