The Plantation Course never had a chance.
With calm winds and course conditions on the softer side, the Sentry Tournament of Champions field teed off on the hillside course in Kapalua, Hawaii, and pulverized par in Friday’s second round in the first tournament of 2021.
While there was little movement in the air, there was plenty of action at the top of the leaderboard as players throughout the round whipped up red numbers on a record-setting scoring day and set up a stampede heading into the final two rounds.
Harris English, who teamed with Matt Kuchar to win last month’s QBE Shootout and shared Thursday’s first-round lead with defending champion Justin Thomas, chalked up a 6-under-par 67 to move to 14-under 132 and atop the leaderboard.
“If we get two more days like we had today with not a whole lot of wind, I know I got to keep the pedal down and making a lot of birdies because I know the scores are going to be low,” said English, who is looking to win his first PGA Tour title since winning twice in 2013. “I saw a lot of guys shoot 6-, 7-, 8-under today and I know it’s going to take that for the next two days and to try to keep plugging along and that’s all you can do out here.
“Love where my game’s at right now. I feel like I’m doing everything pretty well.”
English has plenty of company at the top of the leaderboard.
Despite a few wayward drives and an uncooperative putter, Thomas birdied his last hole to sign for a 69 to sit at 12 under. He’s joined there by Ryan Palmer, who shot 67, and playing partners Daniel Berger and reigning PGA champion Collin Morikawa, who combined for 17 birdies as each shot 65, tied for the lowest round of the day.
“You saw the leaderboard, guys were shooting 5-, 6- 7-under pretty easily so I knew, to keep pace, I had to go out and shoot 4-, 5-under,” Palmer said. “And I was able to play some good golf and shoot 6 under, so I know it’s going to take probably a couple more, possibly, but I love where I’m at.”
Berger liked where he was at – alongside Morikawa.
“Not having the wind blow as hard definitely made it easier,” Berger said. “But I felt like Collin and I kind of got into a little bit of a rhythm and kind of fed off each other. And when it’s going well, it just seems easy, and today was a good day and it was an important day to keep myself in contention.”
Xander Schauffele, who won here in 2019 and lost in a playoff last year, eagled his final hole for a 66 to lead a group of four players at 11 under.
Seven players are at 10 under, including world No. 1 and two-time Sentry winner Dustin Johnson, who got his mojo going with a 65 despite not making a putt longer than 10 feet.
“I hit good putts, I obviously made some more birdies today, but all of them were 5-footers,” he said. “I had some other good looks, hit some really good putts, just burning the edges. It’s just the greens are a little slow, they’re good though, but they’re just a little bit slow. But hopefully I feel like I’m getting a little more comfortable on the greens, a little bit better reading them today, so hopefully we’ll make a few more over the weekend.”
Half the 42 players in the field are within five shots of the lead. All but one of the 42 players in the field broke par (Hideki Matsuyama shot 75).
The field average was 68.28. That’s 4.72 shots under par and is the lowest average score for any round since the tournament moved to the Plantation in 1999.
“Today we got a little lucky with how the wind kind of slowed down and we were able to hit little different shots and didn’t have to work it as much,” Morikawa said. “But out here you never know what you’re going to expect. We could have winds pick up to 30, 35 (Saturday) and you’re just trying to hit middle of the green. So you just got to play each hole by what’s in front of you.”
Thomas, who also won here in 2017 and teamed with his father, Mike, to win last week’s PNC Championship, remains confident he can add another title in the 50th state to his resume despite a frustrating second round.
“I played really well. The score didn’t show. I mean, it was clearly easier today, not as much wind, some gettable pins, but I truly don’t think I’ve ever had a round where I’ve putted it so well and nothing has gone in,” he said. “I holed nothing for how well I was hitting my putts and the speed I wanted to hit them, they just weren’t going in, so that was a little frustrating.
“But at the same time I was staying positive because I kept giving myself chances. Good thing is it was Friday and not Sunday and I’ve got two days to figure it out.”