Choi Holds on to Win at Sony Open

By Associated PressJanuary 13, 2008, 5:00 pm
HONOLULU, Hawaii - K.J. Choi had to work harder than he imagined to become the Sony Open champion everyone expected.
 
Equipped with a four-shot lead, Choi struggled in blustery conditions Sunday at Waialae Country Club and held off a late charge by Rory Sabbatini to close with a 1-over 71, the first Sony Open champion in 41 years with a final round over par.
 
That was more a testament to the wind that caused palm trees to sway and made birdies scarce. Sabbatini managed six of them in a spirited run at Choi, but he three-putted the final hole for par from 65 feet for a 68, leaving him three shots behind.
 
Choi won for the seventh time on the PGA TOUR, and for the fourth consecutive season. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are the only other players with active streaks that long.
 
But it wasn't easy until the end. Choi didn't make his first birdie until the final hole when the outcome was no longer in doubt. He finished at 14-under 266 and earned $954,000.
 
Sabbatini started six shots behind, took a double bogey on No. 8, and still managed to make a game of it.
 
He had six birdies, the final one a sand wedge to 4 feet on the 16th to get within two shots, as Choi was struggling to make par three groups behind him. Choi settled down with a par from just off the 16th green, a chip that caught part of the cup on the 17th, and breathing room when he stepped on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead.
 
Jerry Kelly closed with a bogey-free 67 to finish alone in third.
 
The last Sony Open champion to close with a round over par was Dudley Wysong, who beat Billy Casper in a playoff in 1967. Conditions had been mostly calm all week, but the wind gusted across Waialae all day, and only eight players broke par.
 
'Being lulled to sleep for three days made it tougher,' Kelly said. 'If we would have been facing this all week, we might have seen more rounds like that. I'll tell you, I'd hate to be a rookie and just all of a sudden see this place Sunday.'
 
One such rookie was Tim Wilkinson, the 29-year-old from New Zealand playing in only his third PGA TOUR event, and starting off in the final group with Choi after a third-round 62. Wilkinson started off with a bogey and it went badly from there. He shot 78 to tie for 25th.
 
Choi only had two birdie putts inside 15 feet in the final round, both on the par 5s. He missed a 3 1/2 -footer on No. 9 that gave the field hope, and made the last one that only determined the margin of victory.
 
Choi, a 37-year-old from South Korea, became the first outright wire-to-wire winner at the Sony Open since Paul Azinger in 2000.
 
Steve Stricker birdied the last hole for a 70 and finished in a tie for fourth with Stephen Marino (72), Pat Perez (70) and Kevin Na, who made eagle on the final hole for a 72. Stricker started his year with consecutive top 5s.
 
Sabbatini can't complain about his start, either.
 
'All things considered, I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season,' he said.
 
Sabbatini knew he would need help from Choi, and the South Korean nearly obliged except for a putter that bailed him out early.
 
Choi holed a 12-foot putt to save par on the opening hole. He couldn't reach the green from the thick rough on No. 2, but again escaped with par with a pitch from 60 yards and a 12-foot putt. After he pulled his tee shot left of the bunker on the par-3 fourth, he came up short and into the sand, and had to make an 8-foot putt for bogey.
 
Fortunately for him, no one was making a run.
 
Sabbatini's bid was slowed when his 2-iron off the tee at No. 8 struck a tree and dropped into a hazard, leading to double bogey. That put him put him six shots behind, but he kept plugging away, trying to keep it close, hopeful of Choi making a mistake.
 
It was a little of both.
 
Sabbatini bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 ninth and a 10-foot birdie on the 11th, and he was back in the picture for good when his 35-foot birdie on the 13th bang into the back of the cup.
 
That's where Choi added some drama into the final round. It looked like he would finish the 13th with another two-putt par until he missed from 3 feet -- his first three-putt of the tournament. Sabbatini dropped another shot on the 15th, but showed no quit with a brilliant approach to a front pin on the 16th to 4 feet.
 
His hopes ended with a shot into the sun that he never saw, the ball landing at the back end of the green some 65 feet away for eagle. Sabbatini left it 8 feet short and missed that to the right.
 
Kelly had a remarkable bogey-free round, and the consolation was a third-place finish. Kelly came into the week at No. 64 in the world ranking, and he will move into the mid-50s with only four weeks before the deadline to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
'I'm aware of that, but I'm not worried about it,' Kelly said. 'I've always paid too much attention to everything. I'm trying to get away from the future and the past, because I've handled both of them poorly.'
 
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    Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

    Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

    By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

    Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

    Getty Images

    LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

    The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

    LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

    "The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

    It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

    "He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."