Grace, DeLaet share early Honda lead in Round 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 28, 2013, 8:17 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Branden Grace was downright bullish when it came to the Bear Trap on Thursday in the Honda Classic.

Grace knew from television and from Charl Schwartzel about the notorious four-hole closing stretch at PGA National. It didn't seem to bother him Thursday when he birdied every hole in the Bear Trap – Nos. 15, 16 and 17 – and added a birdie on the 18th for a 5-under 65 that gave him a share of the lead with Graham DeLaet of Canada among early starters.

Dustin Johnson finally got his game on track to join the group at 66.

Tiger Woods turned around his fortunes with one risky decision. He stepped into the water left of the sixth fairway to play a shot that was half-submerged in a creek, turning a likely double bogey into a par that enabled him to salvage a 70.

Grace, part of the core group of young South Africans on the rise, is making his Honda Classic debut.

''I sat down with Charl last week at the Match Play and he said, 'Listen, the four finishing holes are quite a beast out there.' So I was a little nervous coming here,'' Grace said. ''I just thought, 'What's going to happen around that corner?'''

The first one was easy after a tee shot to 2 feet on the par-3 15th. He holed birdie putts of about 18 feet on the next two holes, and then his 3-iron barely cleared the water in front of the green on the par-5 18th, leading to a simple up-and-down to finish in style.

Some of the tees were moved forward because of rain earlier in the week that softened the course, and players were allowed to lift, clean and replace their golf balls. PGA National is converted into a par 70 for the tournament, however, which keeps scoring at a premium.

''This is a golf course that you have to really hit good shots,'' said DeLaet, who missed only one green in regulation. ''You can save yourself with a few putts here and there, but if you're hitting it poorly, it's going to eventually catch up to you.''

Woods didn't hit it all that poorly, except for his tee shot on the par-4 sixth, with the tees moved forward 40 yards. He drove it left and down the bank into the water. Because of where it first crossed the hazard, he would have had no chance to get near the green after a penalty drop. Woods saw enough the ball to give it a shot.

He removed his shoes and socks as the gallery came to life, and then put on rain pants and removed his sweater. The ball shot out with a big splash, leaving Woods about 80 yards to a front pin. He hit wedge to 8 feet and saved par.

''I wasn't trying to advance it very far, just make sure I got it back in the fairway and give myself some kind of wedge shot in there, which I did,'' Woods said. ''I was 1 over at the time, and if that ball is not playable from where it's at, where I crossed was pretty far back. ... Looking at 6 – 3 over – and all of a sudden I flip it, make par there and birdie the next.''

Woods said it was an otherwise boring round, and he was right. He dropped one shot from the middle of the 10th fairway (his first hole), and another when his plan to hit a cut from around a palm bush didn't go as far as he wanted and left him a long, tough bunker shot.

Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world and the defending champion, was among those who played in the afternoon.

Johnson, playing alongside Woods, was coming off a miserable stretch of golf in which he missed the cut at Pebble Beach, missed the cut at Riviera and then was bounced from the first round of the Match Play Championship by Alex Noren.

But he spent enough time at home in South Florida with Claude Harmon III, mostly on his driver. His miss was a hook, and it was a big miss. This time, he kept the ball in the short grass for most of the cool, cloudy morning and took advantage of his birdie chances.

The weather didn't get much better at the start of the Florida swing.

In a year that already featured high wind on Maui, a fog delay at Torrey Pines and snow – yes, snow – in Arizona for the Match Play, players showed up in sweaters because of a front that moved through behind the rain.

This is not what Grace imagined during this stretch run leading to The Masters.

''I've never seen or touched snow before last week,'' said Grace, who grew up along the Garden Route of South Africa near some of the world's most pristine beaches.

He is covering a lot of new territory.

One week after this first experience with snow, Grace played his first practice round with Ernie Els on Tuesday.

Grace, just like former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, honed his game through Els' golf foundation at Fancourt. It was a big deal to play with his idol for nine holes, though Grace politely left out that they have played with each other once before – in a one-hole playoff in South Africa when Grace beat Els and Retief Goosen for his second pro title. Grace went on to win five times last year, four of them on the European Tour.

Johnson was joined at 66 by Boo Weekley, Sean O'Hair, Billy Horschel and Fabian Gomez.

Charles Howell III shot 67, an important start for him. Howell is at No. 64 in the world, and he has until the end of March to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in his hometown of Augusta, Ga.

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off Olesen to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.

Sunghyun Park (left) and Minchel Choi (right). Getty Images

Choi, Park qualify for Carnoustie from Korean Open

By Nick MentaJune 24, 2018, 2:54 pm

Two players - Minchel Choi and Sanghyun Park - qualified for next month's Open Championship at Carnoustie via the Open Qualifying Series on Sunday.

Choi (69) held off Park (66) to win the Korean Open by two shots.

This was the Qualifying Series debut for the Korean Open, whiched awarded Open Championship exemptions to the tournament's top two finishers inside the top eight and ties who were not already qualified.

Choi, the 532nd-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, punched his ticket in his first professional win.

Park, the 146th in the world, is a six-time Korean Tour champion who has already won twice this season. 

Both players will be making their first ever major starts.

“I am absolutely honored to be playing in The Open and I wanted to win this championship to give me [that] opportunity," Choi said. "I cannot believe that I have won today. I am so happy and excited."

“It is a great honor to have qualified for The Open and make my first appearance in the championship," Park added. "I’ve watched The Open on television every single year and I can’t really believe that I have qualified, it is amazing."

The Open Qualifying Series continues next week at the Open de France, where as many as three exemptions will be awarded to the three leading players inside the top 10 and ties who are not already qualified.

The 147th Open will be held at Carnoustie from July 19-22.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.