Russell Henleys strong play at the end of the 2012 Web.com Tour season carried over into his debut on the PGA Tour.
Henley, a former Stratford and Georgia standout, shot a 7-under-par 63 on Thursday in the first round of the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
Henley is one shot back, trailing fellow rookie Scott Langley, who had six birdies and an eagle in his round. Langley and Henley played in a group with Luke Guthrie, another rookie who was Langley's roommate at Illinois.
"I think there was a lot of nerves for me the first few holes and I think playing with Scotty and Luke was huge for me, and watching them play well kind of gave me a goal to try to keep up with them, so it was definitely fun feeding off them," Henley said.
Henley opened his round with two birdies in the first four holes, recording his first PGA Tour birdie on the second hole. He added a third birdie on the eighth hole and made the turn at 3 under.
Henley started his back nine with two birdies sandwiched around a bogey to sit at 4 under through 12 holes. He then finished strong with three more birdies, on the 14th, 15th and 17th holes.
Henley and Langley appeared comfortable together. They tied for low amateur at the U.S. Open in 2010 and played together in the Palmer Cup.
Scott Piercy posted the best early round Thursday, keeping bogeys off his card for a 6-under 64.
Tim Herron, who by one shot kept his PGA Tour card last year, overcame a slow start with a 30 on the back nine and joined the group at 66 that includes Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell III and PGA Tour rookie Morgan Hoffman.
Ben Kohles, another rookie who won his first two starts on the Web.com Tour last year right after turning pro, is in the group at 67.
"We were just walking up 16, you could see the ocean behind, PGA Tour signs everywhere," Langley said. "We looked at each other and realised this is pretty cool. To look back one year ago and to know that we weren't here ... we were in a far different place."