Published April 28, 2016
This is a new year for Brandt Snedeker, and an old season for Kevin Kisner.
Snedeker's final official tournament of 2015 was a trip to the Australian PGA Championship and a small dent in his pride. He opened with an 84 and followed with a 75. Working on a new setup with swing coach Butch Harmon, the results have come quicker than he might have imagined.
Snedeker knew where the ball was going off his new driver and old putter, a deadly combination that gave him a 5-under 65 in the Sony Open and a one-shot lead over Kisner going into the weekend at Waialae Country Club.
In his six rounds this year, he already is 33-under par. Snedeker tied for third last year at Kapalua in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
"If I hadn't played last week, I'd be a lot more concerned about it," Snedeker said about his change. "I hit some quality shots coming down the stretch at Kapalua. Shots that would have given me concern years past was not concerning at all. I was confident. I knew where I was going. So I'm excited about what the weekend holds.
"I know I'm hitting it good, so it's just a matter of thinking properly and doing the small stuff right."
Kisner can trace his great play to the first of three playoff losses at Hilton Head last April. But to keep this in a tidy box, consider the way he finished the end of the PGA Tour's wraparound season in November. He was runner-up at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, beaten by the great play of Russell Knox. And then he won the RSM Classic at Sea Island for his first PGA Tour victory.
"It wasn't that favorable that I took a month-and-a-half off after it," Kisner said. "But to come back and get right back into the fire and have a chance to win this weekend is going to be huge for me."
He now is 67-under par in his last 14 rounds — all of them under par — and he is 85 under in his six official starts in the 2015-16 season.
They are longtime friends with similar games. Neither is a power player, both have great short games and both are models for pace of play in tournament golf.
But this is not a two-man show.
British Open champion Zach Johnson (66) and Luke Donald (65) were two shots behind. Two dozen players were separated by five shots at the halfway point.
SCRAMBLING SNEDS: Snedeker has missed only nine greens in regulation through two rounds, and he has saved par every time. This marks the third time he has been perfect in scrambling through two rounds, and the first time since he won at Pebble Beach last year.
His only bogey was a three-putt on the 12th hole in the opening round.
Meanwhile, he wasn't kidding about feeling comfortable with his new position over the ball. He ranks second in the field in the "strokes gained" statistic that measures a player from tee to green.
EASY NO. 9: Waialae is a par 70 in which each nine ends with a par 5. There aren't many easier than the par-5 ninth, which measures a mere 506 yards and can play downwind, leaving a wedge for the second shot for the long hitters and a short iron for most everyone else.
The scoring shows just how easy it is.
Dating to 1983, the record for most eagles at a single tournament is 45 on the ninth hole at Waialae. With two rounds to go, there already has been 39 eagles on No. 9 this week. One of them belonged to Kisner, who rolled in a 12-foot putt to get within one shot of Snedeker.
Here's another way to look at it. Since par was changed to 70 at Waialae in 1999, the field has played the ninth hole in 4,481 strokes under par. Players are a combined, 4,570 strokes over par on the other 17 holes.
OLD MEN BY THE SEA: All three players who are sticking around for the Champions Tour season debut next week on the Big Island made the cut. Vijay Singh turns 53 next month and still harbors hopes of becoming the oldest winner in PGA Tour history. He shot 69 and was four behind. The big Fijian figured to be closer until a bogey on the par-5 18th hole when he missed a 30-inch putt for par.
Davis Love III (4 under) and Fred Funk (5 under) each shot 70. Funk holed a bunker shot for eagle on No. 9 to be even par for the day.
BIG CUT: Nine players were at 7-under 133, leaving them only five shots out of the lead, and four shots away from last place. Because more than 78 players made the cut (87 in this case), there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday for the top 70 and ties.