Choi Proves his Mettle in Hawaii

By Associated PressJanuary 13, 2008, 5:00 pm
HONOLULU, Hawaii - K.J. Choi felt the pressure of performing before an audience at the Sony Open, not only a large contingent of South Korean fans living in Hawaii, but the 11 friends who flew from his hometown on Wondo Island to watch him play on the weekend.
 
He delivered a three-shot victory at Waialae, and only when it was over did he realize the significance.
 
After making his only birdie of the final round on the 18th hole to secure the seventh PGA TOUR victory of his career, Choi was told that Sunday was the 105th anniversary of Korean immigration to America.
 
It was on Jan. 13, 1903, that the ship Gaelic entered Honolulu Harbor at dawn with 56 men, 21 women and 25 children from Korea.
 
'For me to win this tournament on this special day really means a lot,' Choi said. 'I think that's why with all the fan support out there, it made it that much more special.'
 

Good thing no one told him that when he teed off.
 
'They didn't want to give me the pressure and tell me beforehand,' Choi said with a laugh.
 
He had enough problems on the most demanding round of the week at Waialae.
 
Even though Choi was equipped with a four-shot lead, it was a battle from the opening hole. He had to save par with a 12-foot putt at No. 1, then get up-and-down from 60 yards on No. 2 to save par, again from 12 feet. On the fourth hole, he made an 8-footer to escape with bogey. He had only two birdie putts inside 15 feet in the final round, both on the par 5s.
 
Such was the wind off the shores of Oahu. It was strong enough to make skinny palm trees sway and dry up the birdies that led to so many low scores throughout the week. Only eight players broke par in the final round, when the average score was 72.2
 
'Waialae showed it's teeth today,' said Rory Sabbatini, who tried to bite back with a valiant rally.
 
Sabbatini, six shots behind to start the final round, was still six shots behind when his 2-iron caromed off a tree and into a hazard for a double bogey on No. 8. But the spunky South African kept plugging along until he was only two shots behind.
 
But he ran out of steam when he missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th, and he three-putted for par on the par-5 18th, giving him a 68 and his third runner-up finish in Hawaii, two of them at the Sony Open.
 
Choi never expected to work this hard. He figured he would have to shoot a 68 to keep his lead, and instead became the first Sony Open champion in 41 years to finish with a round over par. Dudley Wysong shot a 1-over 73 in 1967 and beat Billy Casper in a playoff.
 
'I can't remember having such a difficult round as today,' said Choi, who finished at 14-under 266 and rose to No. 7 in the world ranking. 'I told myself, 'Try not to lose focus.' With strong winds out there today, it was very hard to make decisions. Every shot out there was difficult, it was risky, because you never knew where the ball would go.'
 
At his low point in the round, Choi found strength.
 
Struggling to make par, Choi lagged a 35-foot birdie putt to 3 feet on the 13th hole, then missed that for his only three-putt of the tournament. His lead was down to two shots, and Sabbatini was attacking flags as if he had nothing to lose.
 
'When I made that three-putt, that really woke me up,' he said. 'It was kind of like medicine. It woke me up and I said, 'I have to hang in there, not fall apart.' It motivated me.'
 
He made four straight pars, two of them from just off the green, including a chip on the par-3 17th that caught part of the lip. And when Sabbatini failed to birdie the 18th, Choi finally was in the clear.
 
He was on the verge of becoming the first player since Justin Leonard at Memphis in 2005 to win a tournament without making a single birdie in the final round. After his tee shot found the bunker, he laid up and hit wedge to 3 feet.
 
With three leis wrapped around his neck, another trophy for the collection, Choi joined some elite company. It was his fourth consecutive year with at least one PGA TOUR victory -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are the only other players riding a streak like that.
 
'It has a lot of implications for this year,' Choi said. 'I think the biggest thing I learned this week is no matter what the conditions are out there, you have to stay patient. And I think this experience here in Hawaii is going to help me prepare for the major tournaments.'
 
Sabbatini also got a nice lift.
 
After a four-week vacation that began in turmoil when he bailed out of the Target World Challenge one round early, he tied for 17th and was runner-up in his first two events, coming off the best season of his career.
 
'It gives me a lot to look forward to,' said Sabbatini, who moved back into the top 10 in the world.
 
Jerry Kelly had a remarkable round without a bogey, closing with a 67 that also had world ranking implications. The top 64 get into the Accenture Match Play Championship next month, and he was on the bubble until his third-place finish, which moved him up 12 spots to No. 52 with four weeks left to qualify.
 
Steve Stricker again got off to a slow start in Hawaii, but squeezed a tie for fourth out of it.
 
Choi was serenaded by a Hawaiian band in the clubhouse at Waialae, then headed for the airport to fly home to Houston. He won't return until the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, the debut of Woods and Mickelson.
 
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.