Friday, January 11, 2008

Sony Open - Day 1 Wrap

SOUTH Korea's KJ Choi reeled off six birdies in a blemish-free display to grab a one-shot lead in the Sony Open first round.

Bidding for his seventh PGA Tour title, Choi fired a six-under-par 64 in surprisingly calm conditions at Waialae Country Club to take control of the second event of the 2008 season.

The 37-year-old Korean rolled in an 11-foot birdie putt at the 15th to move into a four-way tie for the lead before edging ahead with another birdie at the par-five last.

Americans Heath Slocum, Steve Marino and Jimmy Walker had to settle for joint-second spot after opening with 65s.

Nathan Green was the best of the Australians after shooting a two-under 68 with Aaron Baddeley and Matt Jones a further shot back.

“In practice I felt my shots were coming back, that I was getting into my rhythm,” Choi said after getting up and down from a greenside bunker on the final hole.

“Last week I had a bit of trouble with the putting. But this week I felt like my putting was coming back, and I felt very good. I'm adjusting to the course very well.”

Choi, who tied for 28th in a winners-only field of 31 at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, needed only 25 putts at Waialae where he was urged on by the galleries.

“It's a good vibe that I'm feeling,” he said. “With all the local fans supporting me, I feel a lot of support out there. They are treating me well.”

Slocum was delighted with his first round on the 2008 PGA Tour.

“A very good opening to the year,” the 33-year-old said after piling up five birdies on a bogey-free card.

“I played really solid, hit some quality iron shots and made some putts. We got a little break with the wind because we're definitely accustomed to windier days here. I'm definitely very pleased and hopefully can carry it over for the rest of the week.”

South African Rory Sabbatini, one of five members of the world's top 11 competing this week, moved into contention with a four-birdie 66.

“Even though I didn't drive the ball as well as my stats showed, I felt like I hit the ball very well,” the four-times PGA Tour winner said after signing off with an eagle at the last.

“I'm giving myself a lot of opportunities out there for birdies and that's key out here. The rough is definitely up and if you hit it, it's penalising. I'm extremely happy with my position so far.”

Sabbatini was among a group of nine bunched on 66, including American Chad Campbell, Swede Daniel Chopra and PGA Tour rookie Kenneth Ferrie of Britain.

World No.4 Jim Furyk, the 1996 champion, opened with a 68 while 2005 winner Vijay Singh returned a 70.


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