Thomas joins elite 59 club at USPGA Tour Sony Open

Los Angeles (AFP) - Justin Thomas eagled his final hole to card a rare 59 in the first round of the USPGA Tour Sony Open in Hawaii on Thursday.

Thomas, who notched his third USPGA Tour title in the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on Sunday, rolled in a 15-foot eagle putt at Waialae's Country Club's ninth hole to finish the first round on the par-70 layout at 11-under.

The 23-year-old American became the seventh player -- and the youngest -- to post a sub-60 round on the US tour.

"It was obviously a fun day," said Thomas, whose spectacular effort gave him an early five-shot lead in the opening round of the US PGA Tour's first full-field event of 2017.

He finished the day with a three-shot lead over American Hudson Swafford, who had nine birdies in an eight-under par 62.

South Africa's Rory Sabbatini had six birdies and an eagle in his seven-under 63.

Scotland's Russell Knox and Australian Cameron Smith were among eight players sharing fourth on 64.

"I just kind of had it rolling out there," Thomas said. "All my birdies were easy -- it wasn't like I made any long putts or anything."

But Thomas wasn't blind to the significance of the number.

"We all know it's the magical number in golf," he said.

Most recently, Jim Furyk carded a record 58 at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut in August.

Furyk also has a 59 on his tour resume, as does Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos and Australian Stuart Appleby.

Thomas had opened his round with an eagle at the 10th, where he hit his tee shot 315 yards and holed out from 34 yards out in the fairway for a two.

He had eight more birdies and a bogey on the day, and kept his sizzing form going with a nine-foot par-saving putt at the eighth.

"That save on eight was huge," Thomas said. "It gave me a chance because I knew if I hit a good drive on nine I was going to have a seven- or eight-iron in."

But his drive at the par-five ninth found the bunker.

"I missed it by six inches of carrying the bunker," said Thomas, who first thought he'd have to just hit a wedge out, but with a perfect lie went with a five-iron and got it to the green.

"I got a good read and it just hung on there enough to go in," he said.

- 'It's history' -

Playing partners Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger looked almost more excited than Thomas when the putt dropped.

"I was calm," Thomas said. "I wasn't too nervous over the putt, I was just focused on making the putt.

"I got more excited from seeing them get excited than I did my putt going in."

Thomas, whose third PGA Tour victory on Sunday lifted him to a career-high 12th in the world, said the moment felt a little odd.

"It's not like winning the tournament you know," he said. "It's like, hey, unbelievable round -- you have three days left still. So I didn't really know how to react."

Spieth, a friend and former junior and college rival of Thomas, opened with a 65 and was happy to have a ringside seat to his buddy's stellar performance.

"I'm just really, really happy for JT right now," Spieth said. "It's history, it's awesome, it's really cool ... to be able to watch it today."