Choi Clings to Slim Lead at Chrysler

By Associated PressOctober 28, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Chrysler ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. -- K.J. Choi made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to finish the third round of the Chrysler Championship the same way he started, with a one-shot lead over Ernie Els and two others.
 
But it sure felt like a lifetime of work to keep it that way.
 
In a blustery round in which six players had at least a share of the lead, Choi overcame a few hiccups on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook for a 1-under 70 that left him one shot clear of Els (70), Brian Gay (70) and resurgent Paul Goydos (69), who was No. 160 on the money list and now has a chance to avoid Q-school.
 
Choi never made more than three pars in a row, and that was on the back nine when he was trying to hang on. He was at 9-under 204 and will try to win this tournament for the second time in five years.
 
'It was really tough, up and down,' Choi said.
 
It was that way for everyone.
 
Els is in good shape to collect his first victory of the year, but it sure didn't seem that way when he started losing ground. He recovered with birdies on the par 5s on the back nine. Gay was three shots behind until birdies on two of the tougher holes at Innisbrook, Nos. 16 and 17, and a good save from below the slope on the 18th green to get into the final group.
 
Gay can't get into the TOUR Championship, so all he cares about his getting his first PGA TOUR victory.
 
The biggest surprise was the tour's hottest player, Troy Matteson. He started the day eight shots behind, was 5 under through his first five holes and wound up with a 64, leaving himself only two shots behind going into the final round.
 
The disappointment belonged to Jonathan Byrd, who had a one-shot lead at the turn until losing three shots on two holes and needing to make a 12-foot par putt to limit the damage. Byrd wound up with a 73 and was at 208, along Disney winner Joe Durant (67) and Jason Bohn (68), who is making a late bid to get into the Masters.
 
This is the final full-event of the year, with players trying to finish in the top 30 on the money list to get into the TOUR Championship, the top 40 for the Masters, or the top 125 to get their card for the 2007 FedExCup competition that starts next year.
 
Goydos had no expectations coming into the week. He's 160th on the money list and hasn't won in 10 years. Now, he is the only player to post three straight rounds in the 60s and needs to finish at least fourth alone to secure his card for next year. Better yet would be a victory, which suddenly seems plausible.
 
'All 350 events I've played, I've pretty much had the same goal,' Goydos said. 'It just hasn't worked out.'
 
Byrd took the outright lead with a two-shot swing on the par-3 eighth hole. Choi hit his chip from the rough too firm, about 4 feet by the hole, and Byrd made a 10-foot birdie putt to reach 9 under. And despite coming up short of the green on No. 12 to take bogey, he kept a share of the lead and appeared to be in control.

But it all came undone on the par-3 13th.
 
His tee shot nearly went into the water, instead burying in the mangled Bermuda rough. He only moved his first shot about 5 feet, and even his next chip didn't reach the green. Byrd had to hole a 5-foot putt to escape with double bogey.
 
It was that four-hole stretch that starts the back nine that turned the race upside down.
 
Els had to scramble for bogey on the ninth after driving into rough so deep that a volunteer had to point his finger inches over the grass to show him the ball. He went left again on the 10th for a bogey and suddenly was three shots behind.
 
Three holes later, he was tied for the lead, simply by making birdie on the par-5 11th and two pars. Choi also bounced up and down, making birdie on the 12th, giving it back on the 13th, then recovering with another birdie.
 
Through it all, Matteson knew at the very worst he would be able to sleep in on Sunday as one of the last players to tee off, not sure if he would be atop the leaderboard and somewhat surprised that he was even close to the top.
 
'It's a little odd, just with this golf course,' Matteson said. 'It's just very hard to get more than two, three, four shots at a time. To shoot a round like that, and the conditions the way they are, it's got to be one of my best rounds of the year.'
 
It was an amazing start, no doubt.
 
He birdied his first two holes, chipping in on No. 2, then hit 6-iron into 8 feet for birdie on the par-3 fourth. With the wind at his back, Matteson reached the 599-yard fifth hole, the ball rolling between bunkers and stopping 10 feet away for eagle. He was steady after that until picking up a few birdies on the back nine, the ending with a bit of a fluke.
 
'Out of the bunker, under the tree,' he said. 'I just stole one from the field there.'
 
He barely got it on the green, then holed a 30-foot birdie putt for the best round of the day by three shots, and a chance to pick up his second victory during his incredible fall finish.
 
Just more than a month ago, Matteson was thinking he might have to go through two stages of Q-school. Then he went on his tear with four straight top 10s, including a win at Las Vegas and a runner-up finish at Disney.
 
Related Links:
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.