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Byrd back in big leagues and thrilled to be at Sony Open

From FOX Sports - January 10, 2018

HONOLULU (AP)Jonathan Byrd resisted the urge to pout about his predicament.

A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, he spent 14 years competing against the best on venerable courses while driving courtesy cars from nice hotels in big cities. And then he found himself on the Web.com Tour, the equivalent of golfs minor leagues, with players he knew nothing about except for their raw talent and extreme power.

They were the future. He was hanging onto the past.

I did not want to be a grumpy old tour player whos saying the whole time, `Its not like this on the big tour, said Byrd, who turns 40 at the end of the month. Because if you go down that road, its endless. Theres so many reminders every week that this is not where you want to be. And thats the internal struggle. Im not where I want to be. But am I going to embrace the challenge or let it take me down?

He chose the former, and he believes that attitude allowed him to get back to where he felt he belonged.

So when Byrd emphatically says he is thrilled to be at the Sony Open, hes not just talking about the warmth off Oahu shores, the walk along royal palms and the gentle surf just beyond the hedges on the boundary of Waialae Country Club.

He cleared the final hurdle of his return by winning the Web.com Tour Championship three months ago to earn back his full PGA Tour card. He already has played four times in the new season that began in October.

Even so, it was that flight across the Pacific for his first tournament of the new year that stirred so many emotions.

The last two offseasons, when I was preparing to go play the Web.com Tour, there were great opportunities but it was harder to get up for it, he said. I didnt know the courses. I didnt know what the travel was going to be like, knowing my family was not going to be out as much. This year, Ive got my family out for two weeks. Ive got a lot of great memories here.

So does Justin Thomas, the defending champion who shot 59 in the opening round and broke the 72-hole record on the PGA Tour with a 253 to win by seven shots. Thomas and Jordan Spieth are the only players from the top 10 in the world who are playing the Sony Open beginning Thursday, a week after the winners-only field for the Sentry Tournament of Champions had the top five in the world.

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