Tom Hoge seized the third-round lead at the Sony Open on Saturday as US PGA Tour golfers shook off the panic caused by mistaken missile alert and got down to business in Hawaii.
“For sure, to get that missile threat on your phone, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hoge said of the early morning scare, in which an alert was sent to cellphones warning of “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII”.
Recipients were urged to seek shelter, and it was more than half an hour before authorities confirmed the alert was sent in error.
Journeyman John Peterson, who was tied for second after Friday’s second round, wrote on Twitter that he had taken evasive action after the warning.
“Under mattresses in the bathtub with my wife, baby and in laws,” Peterson wrote. “Please lord let this bomb threat not be real.”
In a separate tweet after confirmation that the alert was sent in error, Peterson wrote: “Man. How do you press the wrong button like that. COME ON MAN.”
But Hoge, a 28-year-old graduate of the developmental Web.com Tour who is seeking a first US PGA Tour title, showed no sign of any residual nerves as he put together a bogey-free round of six-under par 64 at Waialae in Honolulu.
His 16-under total of 194 put him one stroke in front of overnight leader Brian Harman, who carded a 68, and Patton Kizzire, who climbed up the leaderboard with a 64 for 195.
American Kyle Stanley was alone in fourth after a 65 for 196 and compatriot Chris Kirk fired a 67 for 197.
Hoge’s six birdies included a 40-foot bomb at the 17th. He seized sole possession of the lead with a birdie from a greenside bunker at the par-five 18th.
While he has yet to win on the PGA Tour, Hoge said some solid performances early in the 2017-18 season had given him confidence.
“I’ve been close a few times,” he said. “I played well in those situations and I’ve just got to go out and play another solid round.
“That’s kind of been my focus — to get the ball in the fairway and I’ve been pretty good with irons and wedges.”
Harman started the day with a three-shot lead. He managed birdies at the fifth and 10th to keep his pursuers at bay, but bogeyed the 11th. He was tied for the lead after a birdie at 16, but he settled for a par at the last after finding the rough off the tee.
Kizzire opened with an inauspicious double-bogey at the first, but reeled off five straight birdies from the sixth through the 10th to power into contention. He added birdies at 14 and 16 to seize a share of the lead heading to 18, where he salvaged a birdie despite driving into a hospitality area.
Defending champion Justin Thomas, who fired a first-round 59 en route to victory last year, carded a four-under 66 that left him six shots off the pace on 200.
Like Hoge, he said the morning missile scare made for a different perspective on the day’s round.
“I was really scared there for probably three or four minutes,” said Thomas, who was reassured by the fact that television news channels weren’t reporting any missile strike.
“I actually just put music on, watched TV and opened the sliding door. I was like, if it’s my time it’s my time.”
On the course, world number four Thomas holed out for eagle from the fairway at the second hole and had five birdies but also had three bogeys.
“The eagle on two, holing out, was great, but my bogeys today were just bad,” Thomas said.
Nevertheless, after the frightening start to the day that didn’t seem so bad.
“I guess you could say it was a good day no matter what,” he said.