Choi Day 1 Leader at Hogans Alley

By Associated PressFebruary 14, 2008, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenPACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- K.J. Choi has won tournaments hosted by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods over the last nine months during a steady climb into the top 10 in the world. Further proof of his staying power came Thursday on a cool, windy morning at Riviera.
 
He managed to take the early lead at Hogan's Alley.
 
On a course that has given him fits, Choi played bogey-free in breezy conditions for a 6-under 65 and a one-shot lead over Kevin Na among the early starters in the Northern Trust Open.
 
'This course, I've always had trouble putting and my iron shots have always been a problem,' Choi said. 'But I felt like they were working today, and I think even the weather was pretty pleasant when I played. So it all worked out good.'
 
A cool breeze finally pushed away the clouds, leaving Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and the late starters to face strong wind that could be heard as much as it was felt, and rattled the pins on every green.
 
Chad Campbell and Vaughn Taylor were at 67. Phil Mickelson took a 30-minute commute by helicopter from his home north of San Diego and opened with a 68, dropping a shot on his final hole when his drive found the bunker and left him unable to reach the green.
 
A host of international players making their '08 debut on the PGA TOUR were among the late starters and faring poorly. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen played the back nine in 42, while Adam Scott opened with an eagle, only to make four bogeys in a five-hole stretch around the turn.
 
That wasn't surprising, mainly because of the conditions and the course.
 
Riviera, where Ben Hogan won the Los Angeles Open and the U.S. Open in 1948, is firm and fast this year with recent dry weather, and it showed on some of the greens, where the ball sprung forward upon landing and made it tough to get close to the pin.
 
Choi usually struggles at Riviera in any conditions. He has played the last seven years and finished in the top 20 only once, in 2003 when he tied for fifth. But he worked on his game last week instead of playing Pebble Beach, and while he was still confused over the breaks on various putts, his final assessment would have made Yogi Berra proud.
 
'Shooting 6 under, you can't be sad about that, so I'm very happy,' he said.
 
John Daly was atop the leaderboard at times during the morning and finished with a 69, which might have been better had he not taken a tour of the barranca that divides the eighth fairway. But for a guy whose season is defined by initials -- one MDF, one WD, two MCs -- he had few complaints.
 
'It's nice to finally get off to a decent start,' he said.
 
Daly's only paycheck this year came at the Sony Open, where he was among 18 players who technically made the cut but was not allowed to finish (also known as MDF). He withdrew from the Bob Hope Classic and missed the cut at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach. This was only the second time in 11 rounds this year that he broke 70.
 
Mickelson didn't mind his start either, even if it ended badly.
 
Los Angeles is the only city on the West Coast Swing were Lefty has never won, although he came close last year. Needing a par on the last hole to win, he hit a poor chip and made bogey, then lost to Charles Howell III in a playoff.
 
Putting hurt him at Pebble Beach, along with that 11 on the 14th hole that sent him home early, although Mickelson said he wasn't overly concerned, and that showed in the first round at Riviera.
 
'If I can putt like that, I should have a good chance on the weekend,' he said. 'If
 
'Today, it was close,' he said of his game. 'The putter felt good. If I can putt like that, I should have a good chance on the weekend. And if I start to eliminate a couple of misses like that drive on No. 9, hitting in the bunker and stuff like that, I should be able to put together some good rounds. I'm looking forward to the next three days.'
 
Ditto for Na, who grew up in Southern California and already has two top 5s this year, playing in the final group at the Sony Open and with Mickelson in the FBR Open two weeks ago. His only problem seems to be with his eyesight. Na said his laser surgery didn't go well, and last week his doctor told him to wear contacts.
 
'Last week was the first week I was able to see somewhat decent,' he said. 'I can see really well, and I'm excited about it.'
 
DIVOTS
 
J.B. Holmes was among several players who tried to drive the 312-yard 10th green. He went long into a back bunker, took three shots to get out and was lucky to escape with bogey. He opened with a 74. ... David Duval withdrew with a neck injury. He was 7 over through 11 holes. ... Nick O'Hern withdrew with an illness. He was 2 over at the turn.
 
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    Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

    Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

    Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

    It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

    "Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

    Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

    But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

    As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

    The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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    Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

    Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

    Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

    Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    "I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

    Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

    Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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    Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

    A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

    The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

    There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

    As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

    This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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    Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

    There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

    Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

    Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

    The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

    Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.