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Walker Opens SBS Tournament of Champions with 2-Shot Lead

Posted January 6, 2017, 04:34 AM HST
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View of the Plantation Golf Course in Kapalua, which hosted the 2016 Tournament of Champions. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

2016 PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker opened the SBS Tournament of Champions with an 8-under 65 in the first round, good enough for a two-shot lead over Jim Herman, Ryan Moore and Justin Thomas.

First-Round Leaderboard
Jimmy Walker 65 (-8)
Jim Herman 67 (-6)
Justin Thomas 67 (-6)
Ryan Moore 67 (-6)
Daniel Berger 68 (-5)
Jason Dufner 68 (-5)

Walker made no bogeys on his round that included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole.

The SBS Tournament of Champions is the third start of the 2016-17 season for Walker, who missed the cut at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and finished T77 at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.

Walker is a six-time winner on the PGA TOUR, including his triumph at the 2016 PGA Championship. He also has a strong record in Hawaii, winning the Sony Open in Hawaii in 2014 and 2015 and finishing runner-up in the 2015 SBS Tournament of Champions.

This is the third time in Walker’s career that he has held the first round lead, a position he held most recently at the 2016 PGA Championship, where he eventually won. Walker’s position following the first round in each of his victories:

Tournament; Position after first round
2013 Safeway Open, T34
2014 Sony Open in Hawaii, T5
2014 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, T2
2015 Sony Open in Hawaii, T12
2015 Valero Texas Open, T6
2016 PGA Championship, 1

Only one out of the last five first-round leaders has gone on to win the SBS Tournament of Champions, and it was Dustin Johnson, who won a weather-shortened 54-hole event in 2013.

Last year, Patrick Reed opened with an 8-under 65 to lead Jordan Spieth by one shot, before finishing runner-up to Spieth by eight shots.

Jim Herman
Making his first start at the SBS Tournament of Champions via his win at the 2016 Shell Houston Open, Jim Herman fired an opening-round 67, two-shots behind Jimmy Walker’s lead.

At T2, this is tied for Herman’s second-best position after an opening round in his PGA TOUR career, matching a T2 at The RSM Classic in 2015 (T18 finish) and a lead after the opening round of The Honda Classic (T7). In his win at the Shell Houston Open, Herman was T32 following the first round.

Despite being a collegiate All-American at the University of Cincinnati, Herman’s road to the PGA TOUR was filled with setbacks that he overcame with perseverance. The 38-year-old American failed to keep his PGA TOUR card in 2011, 2013 and 2014 and became overwhelmed with doubt following the 2013-14 season. But Herman’s 2015-16 PGA TOUR campaign was the best of his career with his win and six other top 25s good enough for a 42nd place finish in the FedExCup.

Herman is one of 11 first-time players in the field this week at the SBS Tournament of Champions.

Justin Thomas
Justin Thomas, who won the CIMB Classic for the second straight year to earn his way into the SBS Tournament of Champions finished his round with six birdies in his last 11 holes to shoot a 6-under 67, good enough for a three-way tie for second, two shots back of Walker’s lead.

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The Alabama product’s 2015-16 season concluded with his first appearance in the season-ending TOUR Championship thanks to three third-place finishes to go along with his maiden victory. Thomas played his first round with Hideki Matsuyama, who won the PGA TOUR’s other Asian Swing event, the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.

Thomas has two top-10s in three starts so far this season and he sits in third in the FedExCup. In his first start at the SBS Tournament of Champions last year, Thomas finished T21.

Ryan Moore
Ryan Moore eagled the par-4 third, holing out from 117 yards, and the par-5 fifth, en route to a bogey-free 6-under 67. This is Moore’s sixth appearance in the SBS Tournament of Champions, a T6 in 2010 his best finish.

Between Moore and Thomas, the last four CIMB Classic wins are accounted for, and both sit T2 following the first round of the SBS Tournament of Champions.

This is Moore’s fourth start of the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season, and he has recorded top-25s in each start so far.

Additional Players
With his first-round 69, FedexCup leader Hideki Matsuyama has shot in the 60s in each of his last 11 rounds on the PGA TOUR dating back to his second-round 71 at the TOUR Championship. In his last nine rounds, Matsuyama is a combined 47-under-par.

World No. 1 Jason Day, who is making his debut this week after sitting during the fall to rest his injured back, opened with a 3-under 70.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, who won by eight strokes last year, began his defense with a 1-under 72.

Three More Days to Go

Winning the SBS Tournament of Champions has traditionally sparked a successful season. Of the last 24 winners, 2008 champion Daniel Chopra is the only player who failed to advance to the season-ending TOUR Championship.

This year’s SBS Tournament of Champions field has the most players ranked inside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking (six) which matches last year’s total, making the last two years the events with the most top-10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking since 2005: Jason Day (1), Dustin Johnson (3), Jordan Spieth (5), Hideki Matsuyama (6), Patrick Reed (8), Bubba Watson (10). The 2005 field included seven players inside the top 10.

The SBS Tournament of Champions field includes five players with multiple wins in the 2015-16 PGA TOUR Season, including Jason Day (3), Dustin Johnson (3), Russell Knox (2) and Jordan Spieth (2),

The toughest hole Thursday was the par-4 7th and the par-4 17th, yielding matching 4.156 averages. The par-5 fifth hole was the easiest, playing to a 4.344 average.

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