HONOLULU — The Sony Open took a while to get started. So did Stuart Appleby.
Appleby was humming along Friday on rain-soaked Waialae Country Club, no bogeys on his cards but not many birdies, either. That changed when he holed a long shot from the fairway and a long putt on the next green to finish with a 6-under 64. That gave him a one-shot lead over Justin Rose, Mark Wilson and PGA Tour rookie Nate Smith among the early starters.
“Less than two hours, really went from a pretty plain round to a good round,” said Appleby, who shot 30 on the back nine.
The sky finally cleared along the shores east of Waikiki Beach, and while the course was still soggy from rain that washed out the opening round, it could still handle 144 players in the first full-field event of the season.
It was a different course than Appleby was used to seeing. He described it as “heavy,” with debris from being saturated the last two days, the grass thick from not being able to keep mowers on them. But it was good enough that Chris Riley, who opened with a 66, wondered if they could have played ball as down, instead of being able to lift, clean and place it in the fairways.
Appleby was among those who started his season last week on Maui, and it was a struggle. The Sony Open offers a completely different test, minus the mountainous terrain and the severe slope on the greens with a strong grain.
He felt more relaxed here, and the finish helped.
Appleby chipped in for birdie from in front of the 12th green — “sort of freshened up that par, par, par I had the first couple hours on the front nine,” he said — added a birdie on the 13th and then finished with a flourish. With a slight breeze off the Pacific, from a 163 yards away on the 16th, he hit an easy 5-iron right of the flag and was surprised to hear the cheer when it went in for an eagle.
Then came a 35-foot birdie on the 17th, and suddenly a good score turned into a great one.
He played in the same group with Rose, and Appleby thought the Englishman played far better from tee to green, the difference perhaps being that Rose didn’t hole any full shots from the fairway.
Rose opened with a 75 last week and played well from there, finishing in a tie for 12th.
“I didn’t panic, just really realized that it was a good week to knock off some rust and start growing some good habits,” he said. “And the week kind of evolved and I got better every day. It was nice to carry that on into this week.”
This week figures to be different. Because an entire round was washed out, the plan is to play the second round on Saturday, followed by a 36-hole marathon on Sunday.
Chad Campbell opened with a 67, and 26 players from the morning group broke par. That included Charles Warren, who got into the Sony Open through his top-10 finish at Disney in the final tournament of the year. Warren birdied his last hole at Disney, which not only put him in Honolulu to start the year, but got him inside the top 150 on the money list to give him at least conditional status.
He promptly made three straight bogeys to start his season and was 4 over through six holes. It took him until the eighth hole to take honors from 67-year-old Dave Eichelberger, playing as local club pro for winning the Aloha Section. But Warren turned it around by playing 5 under over his last 10 holes for a 69.
Eichelberger had a 76, and that wasn’t the worst of it. Michael Thompson, one of 27 rookies at Waialae, opened with an 80. One of the veterans, Jeff Maggert, had a 75. “Almost shot my age,” said Maggert, who at 46 has been around long enough to laugh at himself.