Choi Wins Consolations for Others

By Associated PressOctober 29, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Chrysler ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. -- K.J. Choi got off to the start he wanted. Ernie Els had the finish he needed.
 
Choi seized control of the Chrysler Championship with a 3-wood into 20 feet for eagle on the opening hole, closing with a 4-under 67 for a four-shot victory at Innisbrook that got him into the next two tournaments -- the TOUR Championship next week, and the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship that kicks off the 2007 season.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els earned just enough money to qualify for the TOUR Championship.
'I'm very impressed today,' said Choi, who won for the fourth time in his career.
 
No one got within two shots of him on a sunny afternoon on the Copperhead course, which is not to say the final full-field event of the year lacked excitement.
 
Paul Goydos can cancel that trip to Q-school. He was 160th on the money list until he picked a good time to have his best week, closing with a 70 to tie for second with Brett Wetterich. Goydos earned $466,400, the largest paycheck of his career, and moved up to 97th to secure his card for next year.
 
'Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to catch K.J.,' Goydos said. 'The rest of it is pretty sweet.'
 
Vaughn Taylor was in danger of losing an automatic to the Masters by finishing in the top 40 on the money list when he went out in 39. But he shot 30 on the back nine and easily punched his ticket to Augusta National.
 
But the real drama belonged to the Big Easy.
 
A wretched start cost Els any hope of winning for the first time this year, and after more blunders along the back nine, he suddenly was in danger of falling out of the top 30 and missing the TOUR Championship. He had to finish with two pars, or he would have wound up at No. 31 on the money list by $852.
 
He hit into a bunker on the 17th, then saved par by blasting out to 2 feet. Then came the 18th, and a tee shot he hooked so far to the left that it cleared a bunker and the gallery ropes before settling under a cluster of trees. Els hit a terrific punch shot just to find the short grass some 50 yards in front of the green, the pin protected by a steep bunker.
 
'I knew it was going to be tough,' Els said.
 
He made it easy with a pitch that checked up behind the hole, inches away for a tap-in par to shoot 72 and send him to East Lake. The loudest cheer might have come from PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem in Ponte Vedra Beach, especially because the tour's All-Star game will be missing Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
 
'I bet he was watching,' Els said with a laugh. 'The last two up-and-downs were big. I'll remember those for a long time.'
 
The biggest winner was Choi.
 
He started using a new driver last week that not only is square, but sounds like someone swatting an empty cola can upon contact. Els played with Choi on Saturday and compared the sound to a tuna can attached to a shaft.
 
But no one could made fun of his results.
 
He kept the ball in play when it mattered, and never let anyone get close to his lead. Choi finished at 13-under 271 for his second victory at Innisbrook; he won by seven shots in 2002.
 
Choi still had to go home to Houston for parent-teacher meetings at school, but he now gets a spot at the TOUR Championship, and at Kapalua to start next year. Asked which one he was more excited about, Choi mentioned his 11-under 62 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua that is still the course record.
 
Goydos is going to Hawaii, too, but he has to wait an extra week for the Sony Open. That beats what had been his next scheduled event, the six-round grind of Q-school. He never expected this, attributing his position on the money list to poor play.
 
'I shot a billion at Disney last week,' he said. 'My expectations were to miss the Halloween party by making the cut, and then building on a few things for Q-school.'
 
As he walked off the 18th green, he looked at tournament director Gerald Goodman and said, 'I was going to beg you for a sponsor's exemption next year.'
 
Now, Goydos can play wherever he wants as the PGA TOUR embarks on its new FedExCup competition.
 
There were other winners along the money chain.
 
Troy Matteson was 172nd on the money list six weeks ago until he went on a tear, finishing in the top 10 every week and winning in Las Vegas. He tied for ninth at Innisbrook and wound up 36th on the money list to earn his first trip to Augusta National.
 
'This is a tournament I would think I'd play maybe a couple times in my career,' Matteson said. 'To have made it my first year on TOUR ... I may have to stew on this one a couple of days. It's really exciting.'
 
Also earning a Masters invitation was Camilo Villegas, the rookie from Colombia, who closed with a 69. Missing out was Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, who was No. 40 going into Innisbrook but shot 76-75 on the weekend and slipped to No. 42.
 
Mark Calcavecchia, moved into the top 125, and while he was exempt next year because of his '05 Canadian Open victory, this puts him into The Players Championship next year.
 
Darren Clarke finished at No. 125 by $2,673 over Rich Beem, who is exempt from his '02 PGA Championship. Except for Goydos, the only player who could have knocked out Clarke on the last day was Duffy Waldorf, who was No. 131. He needed at least a 67 but shot 72.
 
It was much easier to keep track of the tournament.
 
Choi's eagle sent him to a three-shot lead that he kept throughout the front nine, and he opened the back nine with an approach into 2 feet for birdie. He made pars the rest of the way, finishing with a birdie.
 
Els, meanwhile, never looked more relieved shooting 72 to squander a chance to win. At least he can try again next week at East Lake.
 
'I'll be the happiest guy there,' Els said. 'Normally you go there like it's no big deal. But this was hard work.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Chrysler Championship
  • Full Coverage - Chrysler Championship
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.