CHAMP: Kevin Sutherland, Darren Clarke on top at Hualalai

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American Kevin Sutherland and Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke shot matching 7-under-par 65s to tie for the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on Thursday in Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii.

Sutherland, 58, went bogey-free at the first tournament of the PGA Tour Champions’ 2023 season, scoring birdies on four straight holes at one point and tallying seven for the day.

His hot streak came on the final three holes of the front nine and the first hole on the back nine.

“I played really good today, hit the ball really nice and I made some putts,” Sutherland said. “It’s always nice to start the year that way. Everybody’s probably coming here a little bit rusty, so you’re just hoping to knock off some of the rust. Not really sure where the game is, but my game feels really good right now, I’m happy about that.

“I got here about a week ago so I got a chance to practice a little bit and I was hitting the ball in the middle of the face and it felt kind of good.”

Clarke, who won this event in 2021, matched Sutherland by scoring five birdies to go along with an eagle on the par-5 10th hole.

He credited offseason work for the strong showing but felt he could have done even better.

“Just trying to rotate a lot more and get through the golf ball a little bit better,” Clark said. “I had a little bit too much curve on it right to left a few times. Going to go to the range now and try and figure that out and hopefully be a little bit better (on Friday).”

Five golfers are a stroke off the leaders’ pace at 6 under, tied for third place: Americans Corey Pavin and Justin Leonard, Canada’s Mike Weir, Germany’s Alex Cejka and South Africa’s Ernie Els.

Tied for eighth at 5 under are Michael Allen, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Germany’s Bernhard Langer. Jimenez, 59, is the reigning champion, having won the event for the third time last year.

Last year’s Champions Player of the Year, Steven Alker of New Zealand, is in a tie for 17th after shooting a 3-under 69.

–Field Level Media

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