HONOLULU - A different week, a different island and a much different view for K.J. Choi.

Seven days ago, Choi was bringing up the rear in the Mercedes-Benz Championship, last among 31 winners at Kapalua going into the weekend. On Friday, he closed with three straight birdies for a 5-under 65 and a three-shot lead in the Sony Open.

With half of the field on the course in the afternoon, Choi set the target.

He was at 11-under 129, three shot clear of Stephen Marino among those who played in the morning. Marino was atop the leaderboard for most of the morning until his momentum stalled with a bogey on the easiest hole, although he recovered for a 67.

Calgary's Stephen Ames and Jon Mills of Oshawa, Ont., sit in a tie for 44th, nine strokes behind Choi. Ames shot a 2 under, while Miles fired a 1 under to finish the second round.

Fred Funk, aided by a tip from his wife, finished birdie-eagle for a 64 to give the 51-year-old a decent chance before leaving the kids to play on the Champions Tour in Hawaii the next two weeks.

"Pretty good for an old guy," Funk said.

Choi is off to his best start ever at Waialae, where the second round has derailed him in the past. He was only 1 under for his round with five holes remaining until making four birdies, the last one a two-putt on the par-5 ninth from some 25 feet.

That made him 25 shots better than his 36-hole start at Kapalua.

"After the third round (at the Mercedes), I really found my rhythm coming back," Choi said. "My putting was getting better, and I was actually motivated. I knew that I was going to play better than last week, but I didn't really think about being in the lead or anything."

Tadd Fujikawa was only thinking about making the cut.

Fujikawa, who last year at 16 became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour, is now a professional and still without his first tournament earnings. He started his round in a tie for 124th, and likely needed at least 65 to have a chance.

Choi and Marino set the pace among early starters.

Marino is coming off a respectable rookie season in which he was 70th in the final FedEx Cup standings, only lacking a victory. But it taught him he belonged in the big leagues, and he set out to prove it anew at the Sony Open.

He holed a couple of birdie putts from 20 feet, hit a few irons close enough not to worry and was atop the leaderboard coming to the par-5 ninth, the easiest scoring hole on the course. But he found a bunker, with the ball on a slope, and just got it out into tricky rough. His chip ran eight feet by the hole, and Marino took bogey that felt much worse.

"That kind of halted me a little bit, to make bogey on that hole," he said. "But I made a couple of long birdie putts earlier, and it all evens itself out in the end."

He only made one birdie the rest of the way, on the par-5 18th.

Funk was struggling with his iron play until wife Sharon gave him some advice he could visualize. She told him to keep his back to target as long as he could, and it made perfect sense to Funk. His irons were clean, crisp and close, even if it took him a while to make a putt. Once he got that going, Funk hated to see the round end. He shot 30 on the back, reaching the green in two at No. 9 and making the eagle.

He was at 7-under 133.

Heath Slocum (69) was among a group at 134 that included Alejandro Canizares. Steve Stricker, at No. 3 the highest-ranked player in the field at the Sony Open, shot 65 to get himself back in the game at 4-under 136.

If he keeps his position, it might be a good omen for Choi. He was told by the PGA Tour that he has never lost a tournament the four times he has held a 36-hole lead.

This made him laugh.

"OK," he finally said. "I'll try."

- With files from The Canadian Press.