(Reuters) - Scott Piercy took an encouraging step forward in his aim of winning multiple events on the PGA Tour this year when he charged into a one-shot lead after his opening round of the Sony Open in Hawaii on Thursday.
The long-hitting American birdied both par-fives as he fired a flawless six-under-par 64 on the tight, tree-lined layout at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu to finish a stroke in front of compatriot Jeff Overton.
Fellow Americans Charles Howell III, Matt Kuchar and Tim Herron, and Australian Matt Jones, were among a group of seven players who opened with 66s on a breezy, mainly overcast, day.
Piercy, who tied for 13th at the PGA Tour’s windswept season-opening Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on Tuesday, was delighted with his improved putting at Waialae.
”I struck the ball well last week but I didn’t feel like I rolled the ball well putting,“ the 34-year-old American told reporters after recording three birdies either side of the turn. ”I made a couple of little changes and I rolled it better today.
“The wind wasn’t even blowing today compared to last week,” said Piercy, referring to the continual gusts of well above 40mph (64.4 kph) which prevented play over the first three scheduled days at Kapalua.
“I just played solid today, hit it in a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens, made two fairly key putts and took care of the par-fives.”
Piercy, who won his second PGA Tour title at last year’s Canadian Open, has set his sights on at least doubling his career tally of wins on the U.S. circuit by the end of 2013.
”You always want to win and for it to be a good year, I think I have to win more than once,“ he smiled. ”Obviously a major is a goal.
“When you’re first out here you feel like you’re always on the defensive so you don’t lose your (tour) card, where now I feel like I can be aggressive to see how good I really can be.”
Dustin Johnson, who powered to victory by three shots at the Tournament of Champions on Tuesday, bogeyed his last two holes at Waialae to open with a 70.
Fellow American Johnson Wagner launched his title defence with a four-bogey 71 while U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson was among the late starters in the PGA Tour’s first full-field event of the season.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien