Hot Harman up by 3 at Sony

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The three-times major champion, who is riding a string of six consecutive top-10 finishes and had been installed as the favourite a week after a ninth place finish at Kapalua, declined to speak with the media following his round.

Johnson, the 2009 victor at Waialae in Honolulu, had seven birdies in his seven-under 63, joining early pace-setter Chris Kirk atop the leaderboard in the US PGA Tour's first full-field event of 2018.

Kirk, a four-time victor on the United States tour, nabbed five of his seven birdies on the back nine.

He failed to get up and down from there and the ensuing eight dropped him back to the pack though a birdie at his final hole, the 9th, means he is still in the tournament. He added another birdie at the ninth, and after a near-miss at the 12th rolled in birdie putts of 24 feet and 21 feet at 13 and 14 to move within a stroke of the lead.

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Harman, who won his second career title at the Wells Fargo Championship last season, is trying to build on a third-place finish at last week's Tournament of Champions, where he led at the halfway stage but was overtaken by world number one Dustin Johnson. "I've always kind of felt like as long as there's fairways and greens and holes to putt it, then I'm going to be fine".

Kirk, whose most recent victory was at Colonial in 2015, said a return to his old putting routines had paid off on the greens.

"I didn't feel like I deserved a pick by any means, and I would've been happy with one, but I didn't feel like I played well enough to make it where it was a snub by any means", Harman said on Friday.

"But I'll use that going forward. It's laziness, I guess, not doing it consistently over the last couple of years".

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The duo were one shot ahead of Vaughn Taylor, Kyle Stanley, Talor Gooch and Brian Harman. Grace, a South African, had a haywire front nine that included two eagles, two birdies and two bogeys.

Peter Malnati, Daisuke Kataoka, Matt Every and Tom Hoge opened with 5-under 65s.

Spieth hit four trees with four shots on the par-4 eighth hole - his 17th of the opening round - starting with a tough break when his tee shot caromed off the trunk of a tree and down an 8-foot deep ditch that left him no good options.

Spieth was rolling at four-under when he fired into a tree off the tee at eight.

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His next also hit a tree as did his fourth before he finally escaped the foliage, though only to find a greenside bunker. He rallied somewhat with a birdie at his final hole for a one-under par 69.

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