Choi Leads Wild Chrysler

By Associated PressOctober 27, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Chrysler ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. -- K.J. Choi took double bogey and called it a good experience. He nearly made an ace on what he called a bad shot. It added up to a 5-under 66 that gave him a one-shot lead after a wild Friday in the Chrysler Championship.
 
Along with solid play from Ernie Els, relief for Paul Azinger and agony for Brian Bateman, was a police chase in the middle of the round as officers with guns drawn sought a pair of juveniles accused of burglarizing a nearby house.
 
Brian Gay
First-round leader Brian Gay is one back at 7 under.
'Never had a manhunt out here,' said Brian Gay, whose drive was interrupted when police came onto the third tee box.
 
As the wind died late in the afternoon at Innisbrook, Choi was at 8-under 134 and led Els, Gay and Jonathan Byrd by one shot.
 
'Today is very good,' Choi concluded after his strange day that set up a chance to get into the TOUR Championship next week with a victory. 'My swing is very strong and my control is very good.'
 
The Chrysler Championship is the final full-field event of the year on the PGA TOUR, and there are battles all over the Copperhead course as players are trying to get into the top 30 on the money list to get into the TOUR Championship, the top 40 to secure Masters invitations, or the top 125 to keep their cards.
 
As usual, the drama was toward the bottom of the leaderboard, because the only way to make money is to make the cut.
 
Brian Bateman was No. 126, and getting a tee time on the weekend might have been all he needed to get inside the top 125. It was a struggle most of the day, but he finished strong with an approach into 2 feet on his final hole to reach 3 over.
 
Then he waited -- in vain, as it turned out.
 
Stuart Appleby made a 15-foot birdie on his ninth and final hole, and not enough players on the bubble made bogey in the blustery conditions late in the day. Seventy players made the cut at 2-over 144, meaning Bateman will have to head back to Q-school.
 
Still alive were Duffy Waldorf (No. 130), despite a 76 that put him at 143; and Paul Goydos, a long shot to keep his card. He birdied the 18th for his second straight 68, leaving him in fifth place and only two shots out of the lead.
 
Goydos needs to finish at least alone in fourth place or better to have a chance at earning his card for 2007.
 
The thrills belonged to Paul Azinger, who two years ago bogeyed the last two holes to miss the cut by one shot, eventually costing him his card. He was at No. 122 coming into the Chrysler Championship, and had to scramble at the end. But he holed a 15-foot par putt on the 17th, and an 8-foot par putt on the 18th to make the cut by one shot.
 
With one guy ahead of him (Matthias Gronberg) and five guys behind him on the money list who either missed the cut or did not play, Azinger is virtually a lock to keep his card and be eligible for the FedExCup competition next year.
 
'Sweet,' he said, raising a plastic cup of iced tea.
 
For all the money, a trophy is still on the line this week, and Choi and Els appeared to be strong front-runners.
 
Choi won at Innisbrook in 2002, so he has good vibes on the golf course. The swirling wind at 8 a.m. had been concerned, but he shot up the leaderboard with a 32 on the back nine, and four straight birdies on the front.
 
No shot looked better than the par-3 fourth, a 4-iron that stopped a foot from the cup.
 
'A very bad shot,' Choi said, speaking without an interpreter. 'I hook shot. Usually hook shot in the bunker. Today, the wind was strong and wind push and together with the hole ...'
 
The only hitch came at No. 8, when he ripped a new 5-wood through the wind, beyond the green and into the deep rough. He powered that shot through the green and was pleased to escape with double bogey.
 
'A good experience today,' he said.
 
Els is feeling good, too. He has looked lost at times this year, but he has dedicated himself to catching Tiger Woods atop the world ranking, setting aside three years to get it done. That seems to have motivated Els, and with a target in mind -- even though Woods isn't here this week -- he has walked tall at Innisbrook.
 
Els shot a 66 with superior iron play, none has impressive as a 7-iron from 161 yards into a slight breeze to a back pin at No. 10, his opening hole. It won't make many highlight films, but it was pure, stopping 3 feet away for a birdie. He also hit a 30-yard bunker shot to 2 feet on the par-5 11th for birdie, and even after pushing a 5-foot birdie putt on the 13th, his spirits were strong.
 
Els is No. 30 on the money list, but has every reason to believe he can win this week for the first time all year, and get that trip he so badly wants to Kapalua for the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship. At the very worst, he appears to have sewn up his spot in the TOUR Championship next week.
 
'I'm hitting it solidly, and I'm putting quite nicely,' Els said. 'I'm looking forward to this weekend. I would love to get into Hawaii. I figure I have two chances at it.'
 
Divots:
Bubba Watson was 5 over and needed a big finish, and the big-hitting rookie knows only one way. He tried to drive over the water on the 380-yard 12th hole -- most guys lay up with 3-iron or a hybrid club -- and he easily cleared the pond, not to mention the mesh netting that borders the golf course. It went well out-of-bounds, so he reloaded and came up 30 yards short of the green. He made double bogey, but it was entertaining. ... Brittany Lincicome, one of the biggest hitters on the LPGA Tour, followed Watson in the second round. She lives in the area and used to be a volunteer at this tournament. ... Adam Scott holed out from the ninth fairway for eagle, but still missed the cut with a 74. ... Defending champion Carl Pettersson missed the cut.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Chrysler Championship
  • Full Coverage - Chrysler Championship
     
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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.''


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    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.


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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.”


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    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.