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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 16, 2010

Palmer out front at windy Waialae

 •  No magic for Tadd this time around
 •  Wilson, Hayashi reach weekend

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ryan Palmer acknowledges fans after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th to complete a 4-under 66 in the second round of the Sony Open in Hawai'i.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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WHAT: First full-field PGA Tour event of 2010

WHEN:Round 3 today, Round 4 tomorrow, 8 a.m. each day

WHERE: Waialae Country Club (Par 35-35–70, 7,068 yards)

PURSE: $5.5 million ($990,000 first prize)

DEFENDING CHAMPION Zach Johnson (15-under 265)

TICKETS: $20 daily. Children 12-under free with ticket-bearing adult.

TV (HST times tentative): The Golf Channel, 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, with repeats each day.

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Yesterday was simply a scrum for survival, with windy Waialae Country Club winning the second round from the first full field of the PGA Tour season.

Ryan Palmer's two-putt birdie on the final hole gave him a 4-under-par 66 and a one-stroke lead going into today's third round. At 9-under 131, his advantage is tenuous with 25 golfers within five shots.

Palmer birdied three of his last four to seize the lead. He shared first with five others Thursday.

"After yesterday's round, I went and had dinner and today I woke up and I was even par," said Palmer, who has led just once before at the midway point and went on to win the 2008 Ginn sur Mer Classic. "I didn't think about yesterday's round at all and where I stood. I came out relaxed and excited to play here.

"It's overwhelming, exciting, first tournament of the year to be feeling this good. I'm just excited for what tomorrow holds."

There will be a tomorrow for Kāne'ohe's Dean Wilson (67). He shares 32nd, seven shots back, after making his first cut here since 2005.

Also for Hilo's Kevin Hayashi, who had his best PGA Tour round by three, firing a 67 in the morning. The 47-year-old had to wait five hours to find out he made his first cut — on the number — in nine tries here.

Tadd Fujikawa, Parker McLachlin, Nick Mason and University of Hawai'i sophomore TJ Kua, the only amateur, all missed the cut.

Palmer's closest pursuers are the sheepish Chad Campbell (64), gimpy Robert Allenby and adventurous defending champion Zach Johnson.

Campbell has played here every year since 2002 — with two Top-10s and one notable exception. Last year, he was on a plane here from Dallas before realizing he had never signed up to play. A year later, he is 11-under over his last 29 holes on a course he "loves."

"It was really disappointing last year," Campbell said. "That's one thing for sure I probably won't do again. I had plenty of reminders this off-season. I always ask them where they were last year."

Johnson and Allenby both shot 67, but some 67s are stranger than others. Johnson had more birdies (eight) than pars and a triangular triple-bogey six on the par-3 17th.

He drove into a bunker on the right, blasted over the green to a bunker on the left — nearly hitting Y.E. Yang's caddie — then had to pitch in front of the green and could not get up and down.

From there, he couldn't take advantage of the eminently birdie-able 18th, then three-putted No. 1 before bringing himself back. The rest of the day, Johnson was awesome.

"After that I rebounded," said Johnson, who made six putts of nine feet or more. "So what I'm looking at is not necessarily the scores I made, the eight birdies or the triple, I'm looking at the fact that, under pretty tough conditions, and then obviously under significant mental duress, I rebounded nicely. That's what I'm looking at."

Allenby, who hasn't won a tour event in nine years, is still limping on a right ankle he sprained Monday, but says it isn't all bad.

"It could be worse," he said when asked how good his score could be if he was healthy. "When you feel good, I know for myself I play a little bit more aggressive, and I go for it a little bit more. Now, I'm sort of backing off a little bit, I'm trying to hit it into certain areas and hoping that I can make up and down, or even hit it close."

Johnson had the day's craziest round, unless you listen to 2007 champion Paul Goydos. After shooting the day's best round — 63 —early, the self-deprecating Goydos insisted that for him to go so low "a couple of crazy things happened."

They did. He had three "2s" on his card and made four putts outside 15 feet.

The leaders personify the patience that Waialae's precise layout demands, described best by John Merrick when he said "You can't fake it around this golf course."

Palmer, in particular, has focused on staying in the moment after soaking up a pre-tournament story about Johnson that spoke to that subject.

"It's kept me calm," Palmer said. "You get so wrapped up with where you're at. I'm not going to lie, I will be thinking about it (leading). It's hard not to. (But) I just keep the same mindset. Play a solid round, shoot a couple under par and see where I stand. That's the way I'm going to try to take it tomorrow."

Palmer also said he has an extra incentive for a late tee time tomorrow, when his Dallas Cowboys are in the early playoff game.

Soon after, he wandered into Johnson's press conference, where the world's 22nd-ranked golfer jokingly accused him of "stealing my ammo."

Palmer grinned, said "Thanks for the help" and stood up and left.

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