Golf: Aussie Marc Leishman leads Tournament of Champions

 Marc Leishman of Australia plays his shot from the second tee during the first round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club in Hawaii on Jan 4, 2018.
Marc Leishman of Australia plays his shot from the second tee during the first round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club in Hawaii on Jan 4, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Australia's Marc Leishman fired eight birdies in a six-under par 67 on Thursday to seize a one-stroke lead in the US PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

Leishman strung together four birdies in a row from the seventh through the 10th holes on the par-73 Plantation Course at Kapalua on Maui.

He rolled in a 19-foot birdie putt at the 17th to take sole possession of the lead, with American Brian Harman and Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas sharing second on 68.

It was a further stroke back to world number one Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and South Korean Kim Si-Woo on 69.

"Pretty solid," Leishman said of his round in the first US PGA Tour event of the calendar year, which features a 34-player field made up of last season's tournament winners.

"I played well, drove the ball pretty well - with the exception of a couple of drives - and the putter was really, really solid.

"So, happy with eight birdies," added Leishman after a day that saw strong winds buffet some of the bigger names in the field.

Defending champion Justin Thomas, whose victory here last year marked the start of a five-win season that included his first major title and the FedEx Cup playoff crown, carded a one-under par 71.

British Open champion Jordan Spieth struggled to a two-over par 75. Fowler eagled the final hole as he bounced back from a double-bogey at the 13th, and Johnson eagled the par-five 18th to seize his share of fourth place.