Saturday, 7 January 2017

It's Looking Like a Shoot Out at Kapalua

What a difference a day makes. For Jimmy Walker, who seems to thrive in Hawaii and looked to be in command on day one at Kapalua, the hole suddenly seemed to get a fraction smaller and putts lipped out instead of in. It's difficult to play with the lead and it's hard to follow one really low round with another one.

Justin Thomas looked a little shaky coming in but managed to roll in his birdie putt on eighteen to share the lead with Ryan Moore who birdied four of his last five holes. Thomas and Moore were playing together and, in the post-round interview, Thomas admitted that he hadn't noticed Moore's fast finish, but was quick to congratulate him. Thomas could certainly be forgiven for not noticing because he had troubles of his own to focus on coming home, making bogey on the par five fifteenth and seeming to swing the club a little quicker and harder from the top after that. 

Patrick Reed fired a 65 to find himself tied for third with Jimmy Walker and looks like he could just win another one at Kapalua. Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth, who was charging hard and had put himself right into the thick of it, suddenly made a triple bogey and undid a lot of his good work. He has become more prone to those "dreaded others," his forte having always been the ability to score. Thankfully for him, none of the first round leaders ran away and hid, so he isn't necessarily out of it.

It's an interesting leaderboard, topped by several guys who look poised and ready for big years. Jimmy Walker, having won a Major, now knows just how good he is. Justin Thomas looks primed to become a factor in the big ones after last year's wins. And Ryan Moore, after being selected to play in the Ryder Cup, may just be ready to challenge for a Major. As for Partrick Reed, his Ryder Cup heroics have proven to anyone who had doubts that he is as good as he always said he was. Interesting, however, that he has yet to have a top ten in a Major. Me thinks it won't be long now.

Then there's Dufner and golf's hottest player, Matsuyama, sitting comfortably at two and three shots back respectively. You wouldn't want to count them out. The Duff has his putter working, and Matsuyama, but for a rather silly double bogey where he tried for too much after hitting a tee shot into some knee-high native grass, could have been right there with the leaders.

I think we will see the leader come from that top group. But it's definitely looking like a shoot out this weekend. I think I'll still keep my money on Walker and Thomas, but I'm glad I didn't bet the house.