LOS ANGELES • Marc Leishman ushered in the new year very much the same way that he ended the old, with a sizzling performance that earned him the first-round lead at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Thursday.
The Australian set the tone for his day with a five-foot birdie at the first hole en route to a six-under 67 at the Kapalua Plantation course on the island of Maui.
Leishman leads Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas and American Brian Harman by one stroke, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson among a trio two behind.
Despite his superb start, Leishman offered a reminder that behind the superstars lurk a bunch of players capable of winning any given week.
"Played well, drove ball pretty well with the exception of a couple of drives and the putter was really solid," Leishman told Golf Channel.
"Happy with eight birdies, good start to a nice tournament."
Leishman won the BMW Championship in September and finished runner-up to Justin Thomas in a play-off loss at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in South Korea in October.
World No. 2 Jordan Spieth recorded a 75 - his first-ever over-par score at Kapalua.
That left him ahead of only three players in the elite 34-man field comprising last season's tournament winners.
Spieth said he had made some "significant changes" in his putting set-up over the past month that he expects will take several rounds to feel comfortable.
Defending champion Thomas, whose victory last year marked the start of a five-win season that included his first Major title and the FedEx Cup play-off crown, carded a 71.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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