Choi Leads in Hawaii after Day 1

By Associated PressJanuary 10, 2008, 5:00 pm
HONOLULU, Hawaii - K.J. K.J. Choi is accustomed to starting strong at the Sony Open, closing with a birdie for a 6-under 64 that gave him a one-shot lead Thursday and his sixth consecutive opening round in the 60s at Waialae Country Club.
 
Jimmy Walker usually expects the worst when he comes to these shores.
 
The former Nationwide Tour player of the year suffered a serious neck injury at the Sony Open in his rookie debut three years ago. Walker returned the next year and shot 80. A reluctant return to Waialae helped erase some bad vibes, as Walker was among three players at 65 on a day of low scoring and no wind.
 
It was reflected on the scoreboard, with more than half of the 144-man finishing under par.
 
That Choi was atop the leaderboard was no surprise. He also opened with a 64 last year and wound up in a tie for fourth. It was a continuation from last week at the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship, where Choi was in last place until closing 69-69.

'I'm getting back to my rhythm,' he said.
 
Heath Slocum, who teamed with Boo Weekley for a runner-up finish at the World Cup in China over Thanksgiving, and Stephen Marino joined Walker at 65. The group at 66 included Mercedes winner Daniel Chopra, Chad Campbell and Rory Sabbatini.
 
Tadd Fujikawa, who turned 17 on Tuesday, was headed for a short week.
 
One year after he became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour, Fujikawa never recovered from a double bogey on the second hole. He didn't make birdie until No. 12 and wound up with a 74, leaving him a long shot to earn his first paycheck since turning pro last summer. This is eighth event as a pro.
 
'I had a rough day,' Fujikawa said. 'I've got to shoot a good round tomorrow to make the cut. I think I can do it. Anything is possible.'
 
The other teenager in the field, 17-year-old amateur Alex Ching, fared slightly better with a 72. Missing from the teen brigade was Michelle Wie, who is not playing the Sony Open for the first time since 2003. That was noticeable only by a sign in the backyard of a house along the first fairway, which was changed from 'Wie Why?' last year to 'Wie Where?'
 
Marino was a rookie last year and played the first two rounds with Wie.
 
'It was a lot different than last year,' Marino said, a reference to a quiet afternoon. 'I told my caddie on the first tee, this time last year I was standing on the first tee with Michelle Wie with about 3,000 people right behind us. It was a little bit different, but it was nice.'
 
Choi also noticed a difference in the gallery. The more he wins, the more support he seems to get. It helps that Honolulu has a large Korean population, but he said winning the Memorial and the AT&T National at Congressional didn't hurt.
 
'The way they look at me, it's all changed for the better,' Choi said.
 
He is giving them something to cheer.
 
It began with a 20-foot birdie on the opening hole, one of only five birdies on Waialae's toughest holes, and an 18-footer on the sixth. Choi also handled the par 5s, but he was most pleased with keeping bogeys off his card.
 
'What's meaningful is that I had a bogey-free round,' he said. 'My score reflected it.'
 
Walker, who turns 29 next week, is trying to forget about his first trip to Hawaii. He was the Nationwide Tour player of the year, a rookie in the big leagues, but he never made it to the first tee. While hitting balls on the range, he felt stiffness in his back and was taken to the emergency room, where tests revealed a bulging disk in his neck.
 
That set the tone for a year in which he played only nine times. The following year wasn't much better, but Walker made it back to the PGA TOUR by finishing 25th on the Nationwide, earning the final card.
 
'When I saw I was getting in, I was like, 'Oh, good. I get to go back to Hawaii.' I've got some good memories,' he said, smiling wryly. 'My wife stayed home; it hasn't been a great couple of trips for us. When you get in, you've got to play.'
 
The blessing was playing well, starting with a birdie on No. 10, his first hole of a new season. He kept moving right along, using short irons from fairway and thick rough to get it close enough to make some putts, then finishing on the easy par-5 ninth with a 322-yard drive that left him a 7-iron for his second shot, and putt that put him atop the leaderboard.
 
Poetic justice?
 
'Too early for that,' Walker said. 'I just want to keep playing well. You'd love for the fairy-tale ending, but there's a lot of golf left. I feel good, and I hit it well, and I'm putting well. Just keep all that going, and it'll be good.'
 
Related Links:
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  • JENNIFER PODIS / The Palm Beach Post

    RIP Lou King and his history-making hats

    By Al TaysOctober 23, 2018, 1:50 pm

    A moment of silence, please, for Lou King, who died Saturday in Iowa City at age 93. If you’re wearing a hat, do NOT take it off, especially if it bears some company’s name or logo. Lou used to get mad when professional golfers would take off their hats – at least the professional golfers he was paying to wear said hats. His company’s hats.

    Amana.

    Every golfer who gets paid to wear some non-golf company’s name or logo on his hat – we’ll expand it to anywhere on his clothing – owes Lou King a debt of gratitude. We’re talking to you, Phil Mickelson, with your KPMG visors. And you, Bernhard Langer, with that Mercedes logo on your shirts. And you, John Daly, with – well, with seemingly everything, everywhere.

    In Lou King’s long, illustrious career in golf, his employers included the Ben Hogan Company, MacGregor Golf and the PGA of America (for which he served as executive director). But it was during his tenure at the Iowa-based appliance maker Amana that he had the most lasting impact on the game. His idea was simplicity itself: Give Amana exposure in person, on television and in newspapers and magazines by paying pros to wear hats with the company’s logo.

    Amana paid pros $50 per tournament – “dirt cheap,” King told me when I profiled him in The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post in 1999. And it was well targeted advertising, too, aimed at affluent people who play golf. “Those are the people who buy major appliances,” King said.

    Many of golf’s powers-that-be were less than amused, however. Tournament winners were frequently directed to doff their headgear for post-round television interviews. That made King see red. “If you’re going to take your hat off,” he would complain to any of his client pros who did, “why am I paying you?”

    It was practically a moot point, though, as TV directors schemed to keep the controversial caps out of the camera’s frame.

    Legendary CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian was particularly galled by King’s hat strategy. Burned into his memory was the first pro he saw wearing an Amana hat on one of his broadcasts: Larry Ziegler, in a late-1960s Masters.

    When I interviewed him for my 1999 article on King, Chirkinian, who died in 2011, said he refused to show Ziegler because “I was all of a sudden quite incensed that he was wearing this identification representing Amana, and I felt that I had to do something to protect the integrity of our sponsorship.”

    By 1999, however, most of those involved in network broadcasts of golf tournaments had ceased trying to stem the tide of corporate logos. “You really don’t think about it anymore,” said Jack Graham, current Golf Channel and former ABC Sports producer. “It’s become so much an accepted practice.”

    Still standing guard on the wall, however, was NBC’s golf producer, Tommy Roy. “We do think about it still,” Roy said at the time. But last week, when I asked Roy the same question I had asked him in 1999, he chuckled. “No,” he said, “we haven’t worried about that in years.”

    The networks’ vigilance during the 1960s sometimes bordered on the absurd. Graham told me in 1999 that former ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson insisted on wiping out hat logos on still pictures of players that were used on ABC’s golf broadcasts. “I understood what Dennis was saying,” Graham said, “but at the end of the day I said ‘Look, you see them eight gazillion times on the golf course with their logos on. I think we make them look foolish with a hat that has nothing on it.’”

    There was concern in some quarters that the Amana logos would spawn competitors, with players starting to look like NASCAR drivers. Some would say that has already come to pass. A photo of Daly, who admittedly is an extreme case, taken at this year’s Constellation Senior Players Championship reveals no fewer than six sponsor logos on his golf shirt – one on each side of his collar, one on each sleeve and one on each breast.

    King would not have approved. “If it gets to be bad taste to where they start to look like some of these race cars, I think it’s bad,” he told me. “I personally don’t think it’s right for a player to have three or four different logos on their golf shirt.”

    Times change, though. The PGA Tour’s regulations on logos read in part: “As a guideline, no more than four different sponsor logos should appear on a player’s clothing and headwear.”

    King spread the Amana hat gospel to more than just professional golfers. A former starting quarterback for the University of Iowa, he later became friends with legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. King and Bryant would occasionally play together in golf outings and charity tournaments, and King would always make sure to give Bryant a pristine white golf hat with the Amana logo.

    King was also friends with former Minnesota Vikings coach Jerry Burns, and provided Amana stocking caps for the team to use when the temperatures plummeted. “For three years we had terrific logo recognition in pro football,” King said.

    The question of which pro was the first to be paid to wear an Amana hat is somewhat muddled. King paid eventual winner Bob Goalby to wear an Amana hat in the 1968 Masters (that featured the infamous Roberto De Vicenzo scorecard gaffe), but Amana’s official program of paying pros didn’t begin until later that year, when King saw Julius Boros put on an Amana hat (that he had gotten when he played in the company’s yearly pro-am) in the Texas heat of the 1968 PGA Championship in San Antonio. That convinced King that a widespread program would be worth the investment, and the rest is hat history, logo lore.

    So tip your hat – just don’t take it off – to Lou King, a man ahead of his time.

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    Golf Channel adds Matt Farrell as GM of Alternative Golf & Exec. Director of World Long Drive Association

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsOctober 23, 2018, 1:20 pm

    Farrell’s New Role Follows Past Decade Spent as CMO of USA Swimming

    Matt Farrell, CMO of USA Swimming, has joined Golf Channel as General Manager of Alternative Golf and Executive Director for the World Long Drive Association. Farrell is a 20-year veteran of sports and entertainment marketing spanning roles with USA Swimming, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Warner Brothers. The announcement was made today by Tom Knapp, Golf Channel executive vice president, partnerships and programming.

    “Golf Channel is committed to the growth of the game by engaging new and different fans in our coverage of all aspects of the game,” said Knapp. “Alternative competitions like World Long Drive expand golf’s reach, and Matt’s proven track record of elevating sports, both through grassroots efforts, digital extensions and high-profile media opportunities will further fuel our efforts. Matt has a terrific reputation within the Olympic community, where he is known as an effective and strategic partner amongst colleagues across sport governing bodies and sponsors.”

    “From the first time I experienced a WLD event, I immediately saw the progressive vision and promising future of long drive as a sport and unique avenue for golf to connect with younger, athletic-minded sports fans,” Farrell said. “And thanks to the investments of NBC Sports, the competitors, sponsors, and event hosts the past few years, we have an incredible foundation to expand upon with a global, long-term strategic plan. For me personally, I look forward to combining my background in commercial development, organizational leadership and digital content at USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee with Golf Channel’s entrepreneurial enthusiasm to grow the sport of golf in non-traditional ways.”

    In the newly created role, Farrell will lead all domestic and international business elements for Golf Channel’s owned and operated alternative golf franchises, led by the World Long Drive Association, which has aired on Golf Channel since 2013. For these franchises, Farrell will oversee event sponsorships, marketing, communications, operations, player relations and TV/digital media extensions. Farrell will lead teams focused on further development of additional alternative golf competitions, events and franchises. Farrell will report to Knapp and his official start date is December 3.

    Since making a commitment to add World Long Drive to its business portfolio in 2015, Golf Channel has elevated the sport to feature five televised live competitions in 2018, culminating in the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in primetime, and adding the women’s division to televised events for the past two years. Previously, World Long Drive’s exposure was limited to a single, tape-delayed presentation of the men’s world championship on ESPN2. Despite a history as a sport dating back to 1976, Golf Channel’s support drove World Long Drive to be named a 2018 finalist for a “Breakthrough Sports League of the Year” by the annual Cynopsis Sports industry awards. The broader sports industry also has taken notice, including ESPN proclaiming that long drive has “recently started to enter the mainstream of golf;” Men’s Journal noting “with the sport’s ascendant profile and ever-growing prestige,” fans should “buckle up for more high-octane action;” Golf Digest saying the WLD atmosphere is “on the upswing, gaining traction;” and Golf.com claiming it is “an eye-opening experience”.

    Matt Farrell Professional Background:

    • USA Swimming, Chief Marketing Officer since 2008, previously Managing Director of Business Development since 2005.
      • USA Swimming is a National Governing Body with 400,000 members and the No. 1 Olympic swimming country in the world.
      • Under his leadership, delivered highest corporate partner revenue in organization’s history, including corporate partners such as BMW, Marriott, MilkPEP, Arena, TYR, Blue Diamond and Chobani, in addition to long-term partnership renewals with Speedo and Phillips 66.
      • Farrell developed partnerships with Disney and Discovery Education, as well as a diversity and inclusion partnership with Sigma Gamma Rho, an African-American sorority.
      • Signature programs created by Farrell include USA Swimming Productions digital video department, SwimToday youth participation campaign, USA Swimming House VIP hospitality experience, and annual SwimBiz conference focused on elevating the swimming industry’s business potential, sponsorship opportunities and social media influence.
      • Previous professional experience includes serving as Associate Director, Internet Marketing at the U.S. Olympic Committee from 2000-2005, and Director of Internet Marketing, Warner Home Video for Warner Bros. from 1999-2000. Additionally, Farrell served previously at the U.S. Olympic Committee as Manager of Online Projects from 1997-1999 and Communications Coordinator at USA Swimming 1993-1997, after starting his career in the Purdue University’s Sports Information Office from 1992-1993.
      • Farrell additionally has served on the boards for Adaptive Adventures (2013-16) and USA Ultimate (2010-12).
      • Farrell graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BA in Broadcast Journalism.
      • Farrell, a life-long golfer, will be relocating to Golf Channel’s World Headquarters in Orlando, Fla.
      • Farrell is married to Michelle Dusserre, 1984 Olympic silver medalist in gymnastics, who currently works in international sports consulting. They have two daughters – Abby and Zoe. Abby is currently at the University of Illinois and competes on the wheelchair basketball team; while Zoe competes in soccer, swimming and playing in the marching band.
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    Randall's Rant: Tales of the lost and found

    By Randall MellOctober 23, 2018, 12:28 pm

    Give me a player who lost his way.

    Give me a player who lost his motivation, or his confidence, or maybe just his hard-fought momentum, or, better yet, a player who lost all of the above.

    Give me a man or woman like that as a winner on a tour Sunday, because there’s inspiration for all of us in those kind of stories.

    This wicked, mysterious game comes with the dreary certainty that eventually we’re all going to have to make our way out of some deep patch of woods.

    That’s what made this past week so special.

    We hit the trifecta.

    We didn’t just get one winner who came out triumphant after feeling lost this year. We got three of them.

    We got Brooks Koepka winning the CJ Cup @Nine Bridges in South Korea, Danielle Kang winning the Buick LPGA Shanghai and Sergio Garcia winning the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Spain.

    If you’re a golf fan needing an offseason as much as the players do, maybe you were tempted to take the week off and just gorge on high school, college and NFL football. Koepka, Kang and Garcia made that hard to do. They had compelling stories to tell, or to keep telling.

    Koepka, 28, ascended to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time with Sunday’s victory. Yes, it comes after he won his second and third majors this year and after he was named PGA Tour player of the year, but it also comes in a year that began with such a troubling start.

    Koepka’s success is more remarkable when you remember he missed the Masters with a wrist injury. You can’t fully appreciate where he is now without reminding yourself he missed four months early in the year with a torn tendon in his left wrist, and that he spent two months in a soft cast and didn’t touch a club for 91 days.

    “You go from playing some of the best golf I’ve probably ever played to being at the lowest point professionally that I’ve been,” Koepka said on the eve of the U.S. Open back in June. “It wasn’t anything I’d wish upon anyone.”

    Six months ago, who would have believed he would seize the No. 1 ranking by fall? Six years ago, who would have believed it possible with Koepka beginning his pro career in Europe’s minor leagues? He’s the first European Challenge Tour player to win three majors.

    “It’s unbelievable,” Koepka said. “Look where I started. My first pro start was in Switzerland. I don’t think I could have said six years later I’d be No. 1.”

    And then there’s Kang.

    Last year, the two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur winner broke through to win her first LPGA title, making it a major at the KPMG Women’s PGA.

    By late this summer, Kang’s confidence was gone.

    Kang, 26, said she was struggling with the yips over full shots and over putts in a run of missing five cuts in six starts. While she began working out her issues going to Butch Harmon a month ago, she was still wrestling with demons just a week ago. She said she needed “four minutes” to take the club back over a shot at the KEB Hana Bank Championship.

    “I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball,” Kang said. “I just kept trusting my golf game.”

    Kang was a bit of a mess early on Sunday in Shanghai, until her caddie handed her a wedge going to the back nine and told her to smash her golf bag with it, to exorcise her demon anger.

    “I thank him for that,” she said.

    And there’s Garcia, who broke through to win the Masters a year ago but looked as if he might not be worthy of a spot on the European Ryder Cup team last month. He missed eight of 11 PGA Tour cuts leading up to the Ryder Cup, including the cuts at all four majors, but he flipped a switch going to Paris. He returned to his former brilliance going 3-1 to help the Euros win.

    Garcia, 38, carried his Ryder Cup momentum to Spain.

    “To be able to win here at Valderrama three times in a row is a dream come true,” Garcia said.

    Yes, but give me players who know what nightmares are. Watching them find their way out makes for terrific golf theater. It makes football’s shadow a little less formidable this time of year.

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    Stock Watch: LPGA raises some Q-uestions

    By Ryan LavnerOctober 23, 2018, 11:42 am

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Brooks (+9%): Golf’s new king looks built to last, with a powerful game, a rock-solid stroke and a chip on his shoulder the size of his South Florida mansion. As long as Koepka stays healthy, the game’s preeminent big-game hunter will continue to eat.

    Danielle Kang (+7%): Two weeks ago her mind was so cluttered that she needed four minutes to pull the trigger on a shot. Battling chip and full-swing yips, she kept the demons at bay to earn an LPGA title even more satisfying than her major breakthrough.

    Paul Azinger (+5%): Tabbed to replace the inimitable Johnny Miller in the NBC booth, Azinger was the best and the most logical choice for the job. He’s a sharp observer of the game who won’t be afraid to let it rip, when necessary.

    Sergio Garcia (+4%): Whenever the Ryder Cup inevitably returns to Valderrama, even if he’s 65 years old, Garcia deserves at least some consideration for a captain’s pick. His record there is stupid-good: 14 appearances, three wins, seven top-3s, 13 top-10s.

    Gary Woodland (+3%): He’s 37 under par across the first two events of the season, with no wins to show for it. Tough sport!


    FALLING

    Ian Poulter (-1%): Playing in the final group with Koepka in Korea, Poulter threw up a 1-under 71 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 22 – and nearly tumbled out of the top 10.

    Slow-play penalties (-2%): Good thing the PGA Tour Champions rules officials finally cracked down on slow play at the senior level – by picking on Corey Pavin and not notorious slowpoke Bernhard Langer, who just so happens to be No. 2 in the points standings.

    LPGA Q Series (-4%): The LPGA’s new version of Q-School gets underway this week, and the women’s college golf coaches are not happy about it: The top 5 players from last season’s individual rankings (Jennifer Kupcho, Maria Fassi, Patty Tavatanakit, Lilia Vu, Lauren Stephenson) automatically earned a spot in the final stage, guaranteeing at least some Symetra status and likely a full LPGA card, if they finish inside the top 45. The LPGA is cherry-picking the best from the college ranks, even if they’re not yet ready to make the jump.

    World No. 1 parity (-5%): This was just the second time since the world rankings debuted that four players reached No. 1. That trend doesn’t seem like it’ll end in 2019, either – especially with Tiger Woods once again eyeing the top spot.