DeLaet leads, Stricker three back at Sony

Jan. 12, 2012 at 11:31 PM
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HONOLULU, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Graham DeLaet, playing this year on a medical exemption, grabbed a two-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the Sony Open.

DeLaet shot a 7-under 63 on a relatively calm day at the Waialae Country Club in the first full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour. He sat out most of the 2011 season with back problems and was granted a medical exemption.

To maintain his playing privileges for next year, DeLaet must win $657,694 in his first 26 tournaments. A victory this week would remove that pressure and ensure his full-time membership on the tour through 2014.

K.J. Choi, Carl Pettersson and Kyle Reifers shared second place at 65 while Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson and Bud Cauley led the group at 66.

Stricker, who opened the season last week with a win at the Tournament of Champions on the island of Maui, birdied the final two holes.

After turning professional last summer, the 21-year-old Cauley was able to make eight starts through sponsors' exemptions and he won more than $700,000 in those appearances. That performance earned him his tour card and made him the seventh player in history to join the circuit without having to go through the qualifying tournament or compete on the Nationwide Tour.

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods head the short list of players who pulled off that accomplishment.

Cauley, who has drawn the most attention among the tour rookies this year, birdied four straight holes beginning at the par-5 ninth. He moved into a tie for second before suffering a bogey at the par-3 17th.

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