January 17, 2003
HONOLULU -- Retief Goosen went from steady to spectacular with one shot, a 3-iron into 12 feet for eagle on the 18th hole that gave him 6-under 64 and a tie for the lead with Kenny Perry on Thursday in the Sony Open.
Ernie Els, coming off a record score in relation to par (31 under) and an eight-stroke victory at Kapalua, was in a large group at 66.
It took him a while to realize it was a good score.
"I can't get last week out of mind totally," Els said.
Indeed, for the 25 players who started their season last week in the winners-only Mercedes Championships, some adjustments were in order.
Goosen watched the palm fronds waving in the ocean breeze as he tried to gauge the strength and direction of the wind. That was rarely an issue last week.
There are only two par 5s at the par-70 Waialae Country Club, which features tight landing areas and small greens. That's a big change from the par-73 Plantation Course with its spacious fairways and massive greens.
"Par is a good score, and a bogey doesn't kill you," Charles Howell III said after opening with 70. "Last week, a bogey felt like a triple bogey."
Blame that on the wind, the best defense at Kapalua. It began to kick up just north of Waikiki Beach, and it made players work for their scores.
Goosen was steady throughout, plodding along with pars except for a few spurts that made all the difference -- birdie putts of 10 and 12 feet on Nos. 6 and 7, a two-putt birdie on the ninth then the great finish.
"Just a soft 3-iron," he said of his 248-yard approach to the 551-yard hole. The ball landed just as softly, about 12 feet from the cup.
"It's definitely a tougher course, because last week the wind didn't blow," Goosen said. "When it blows around here, it's a tricky course."
It was especially difficult for Els, at least in his head.
Four days ago, he finished a record performance that included 28 birdies and four eagles. Through five holes, Els was at 2 over and must have felt like he was a sure bet to miss the cut.
He recovered quickly.
After bogey on No. 5, he had three straight birdies inside 10 feet then eagle on the par-5 ninth to briefly share the lead.
Perry teed off in the afternoon and matched Goosen's 64. Chris DiMarco and Chris Riley each shot 65.
Eight players were tied with Els at 66, including Shigeki Maruyama, Chris Smith and Aaron Baddeley.
DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP: Welshmen Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge each shot 7-under 65 to share the European PGA Tour lead in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dodd had three birdies on the front nine and four on the back for a bogey-free round. South Africa's Callie Swart and Louis Oosthuizen and Zimbabwe's Sean Farrell were tied for third at 6 under.