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:
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.