Thursday, February 14, 2008

Golf News: Northern Trust Open Day 1 Wrap

South Korea's K.J. Choi shrugged off increasingly blustery conditions to go into an early one-shot lead in the Northern Trust Open first round on Thursday.

The 37-year-old, who won his seventh PGA Tour title at last month's Sony Open in Hawaii, fired a flawless six-under-par 65 at Riviera Country Club.

South Korea-born Kevin Na, who is now a U.S. citizen, was alone in second place after carding a five-birdie 65.

Americans Chad Campbell and Vaughn Taylor opened with 67s while world number two Phil Mickelson, the highest-ranked player in a strong field at Riviera, returned a 68.

Choi, who spent last week relaxing at his Texas home, made a fast start in calm early conditions with birdies on the first two holes.

With his approach play in sparkling order, he then picked up further shots at the fifth and seventh to reach the turn in four-under 31.

As the wind strengthened on the tree-lined layout, he struck a sand wedge approach to three feet to set up another birdie at the par-five 11th before rolling in a 12-footer at the 17th.

"I'm very happy," Choi told reporters, speaking through an interpreter. "In the past on this course, I've always had trouble putting and my iron shots have been a problem.

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