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Six top crowded leaderboard in Hawaii

Six players were tied for the lead after Thursday’s opening day at the Sony Open—the first full-field event of the U.S. PGA Tour season.

Among the joint leaders at 5-under 65 were Davis Love III, who has not played a tournament in two months, Robert Allenby, who probably should not have played at all with a twisted ankle, and Troy Merritt, in his first PGA Tour appearance.

John Merrick, defending champion Zach Johnson and Ryan Palmer were the others atop the leaderboard. Palmer read about Johnson’s belief in the ‘one-day-at-a-time’ psychological approach to golf in the tournament program while looking for something to read, and it inspired him.

Just one stroke back from the leading six were another 10 players who shot 66s.

It was a surprisingly strong performance by the field on a day when the wind was so strong that Masters champion Angel Cabrera, among those at 66, reached the 498-yard ninth hole with a wedge, and Pat Perez hit a 7-iron out of the rough from 210 yards on the opening hole.

The round was almost completed. Tom Gillis had a 25-foot eagle putt on his final hole when he decided it was too dark to continue. He will return Friday morning to putt, then start his second round.

It ended what was a peculiar start to the PGA’s full-field season.

Love had spent recent months hitting balls into a net in his garage due to the American winter chill, or in Idaho on vacation. Eager for some on-course practice, Love raced from his hotel after checking in Saturday, and went to the 11th green where he putted until he could no longer see the hole.

He was rewarded Thursday with a bogey-free round.

“I was optimistic,” Love said. “But I was anxious about competing. Once I got it going, once I got under par … I’ve been out here a long time. You don’t forget.”

Merritt’s pure shots and timely putting meant he outperformed his pre-round ambitions, in which he declared he’d be thrilled with a 67 on his debut appearance.

“Things went way better than I thought,” Merritt said.

Allenby was the only player at Waialae who arrived with a winning streak. He won in the Nedbank Challenge, then the Australian PGA, and was going for a walk with his wife, Sandy, when he took a bad step off a curb and twisted his ankle.

The Australian wasn’t sure he could play and might have left any other tournament. Then again, he flew 12 hours from Florida and didn’t much feel like turning around.

“And the weather is better,” Allenby said.

He played gingerly on the taped right ankle and had difficulty hitting a fade. That didn’t keep him from firing a 4-iron at the flag on the tough par-3 fourth for a birdie.

“My putting was the best part of the day,” Allenby said. “I did hit some good shots, but my putting was good. It’s the same as I left off last year.”

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