Sony Open in Hawaii - Round One
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In the second of two consecutive Hawaii events for the PGA Tour, a couple of superstars struggled, a (very) recent winner is trying to pick off another victory and an underrated big hitter leads after Thursday's first round of the Sony Open.

Cam Davis shot an 8-under 62 to take a two-stroke lead over Taylor Montgomery and three over a bigger group that includes Webb Simpson, Aaron Rai, Austin Eckroat and Stephan Jaeger. However, there is an even bigger group behind the top of the board with nearly 30 players at 3 under or better ready to pounce if Davis falls off his current pace.

We'll take a look at the first round, which was suspended because of darkness, a lurking surprise possibility and what happened to Will Zalatoris and Gary Woodland in their respective returns to the PGA Tour from injury.

The leader

1. Cam Davis (-8): Davis is one of my favorite underrated big hitters in the world. He has steadily improved his game over the last few years and has all the tools to be a breakout guy in 2024, somebody who wins a big event and possibly even contends at a major championship. He was awesome throughout on Thursday as he ran down Taylor Montgomery's early lead with a back nine that included five birdies, six 3s and nothing worse than a 4 on his card. There is some caution here. Davis did most of his damage with the putter, which he has the skill to back up but is something to watch in terms of regression in Round 2 and beyond.

Other contenders

2. Taylor Montgomery (-6)

T3. Aaron Rai, Austin Eckroat, Stephan Jaeger, Webb Simpson (-5)

T7. Alex Noren, Chris Kirk, Brendon Todd, Matthieu Pavon, Alejandro Tosti, Eric Cole, Scott Stallings, Harris English (-4)

Serious question: Is Eric Cole the hottest golfer in the world right now? He finished last year on a T3-T2-T3 run and opened T14 at Kapalua last week. His statistical profile does not scram "big time player," but he has been extremely consistent of late, and that consistency has led to a lot of contention over the last few months. The only thing he's missing from the resume at this point is a victory, which he's in perfect position to get this week at Waialae.

Back-to-back Kirk?

Last week's champion, Chris Kirk, was awesome on the first day at Waialae, finishing second in the field from tee to green and doing most of that on approach shots. His 66 leaves him four back of Davis but still in a great position to try and become the first since Justin Thomas in 2017 to win both of the year-opening Hawaii events. He is the current favorite to do so.

"It's hard to get your mind to slow down a little bit," Kirk said of the victory at Kapalua last week. "Had trouble sleeping a few nights, but thankfully was able to take some naps. Slept great last night. Really trying not to overexert myself. Couple good workouts in the gym Monday, Tuesday to feel like you're flushing things out and getting blood flowing. Other than that, just trying to take it easy and get ready to go again."

He was certainly ready to go on Thursday and now is in a good spot to pull off an improbable Hawaii double.

Gary Woodland returns

In his first start since brain surgery last September, Woodland said he was emotional about hearing his name called on the first tee. How could he not be? After what he went through in the fall with the removal of a lesion in his brain, simply getting back on the course was a massive victory.

"Probably the happiest I've ever been shooting over par, tell you that," Woodland said. "At the end of the day the goal this week was to see how I was mentally, and I was really, really good. It was pretty tough out there. Been here nine times. This was one of the hardest rounds I've ever had here. And got off to a rough start. I was excited and was doing a lot of breathing trying to slow everything down because I was moving fast.

"I settled in, especially the last nine holes, and played really, really well. A lot to build on and. Like I said, I'm excited. The energy stayed up. Focus stayed up. A lot to be proud of."

So does Will Zalatoris

Zaltoris returned from a less serious but still difficult-to-deal-with back injury, and it did not go well as Zalatoris shot 76 in Round 1. While his approach play was fine, he struggled mightily with his short game, finishing well outside the top 100 in both strokes gained putting and around the greens. He has plenty of time to knock the rust off by the time major season rolls around, but this was not the start I'm sure he wanted.

2024 Sony Open updated odds and picks

Odds via SportsLine consensus

  • Cam Davis: 4-1
  • Chris Kirk: 12-1
  • Taylor Montgomery: 14-1
  • Aaron Rai: 16-1
  • Eric Cole: 16-1

The play here is probably Kirk or maybe Cole. They both are playing tremendous golf, and Kirk was second in the field from tee to green on Thursday (Cole was 83rd, which is why I like Kirk over Cole even though Cole has arguably been more consistent). I don't like Davis at 4-1. That's too low for how many putts he made, although he certainly has the talent to back up a 62 on Friday. Webb Simpson -- who led the field from tee to green -- is interesting at 35-1 after shooting 5-under 65.

Rick Gehman and Kyle Porter recap Round 1 of the Sony Open in Hawaii. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.