South Korea’s K.J. Choi, who tied for fourth with Tiger Woods at the Masters last week, continued his strong play on Thursday to seize the first-round lead at the Heritage.
Choi, who played with Woods all four rounds at the Augusta National, showed no sign of a let-down as he fired a seven-under 64 to take a two-shot lead.
Canada’s Mike Weir and England’s Greg Owen shared second on 66, followed by a big group on 67 that included Spain’s Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk of the US and Davis Love, a five-time winner.
While many of last week’s Masters standouts, including champion Phil Mickelson and Woods, are taking this week off, Choi was happy to try to build on his momentum.
“I’ve been playing good and I guess I wanted to keep the rhythm going,” he said.
Choi nabbed three birdies over four holes on the front nine at Harbor Town to take the lead. He separated himself with a similar burst on the back nine as he notched his lowest score of the season.
Choi rolled in a 30-footer for birdie on the 13th to catch Jerry Kelly and Love. He closed his charge by sticking his approach shot within two feet at 16 for birdie.
Choi, who will be 40 next month, said he reveled in every Masters moment with Woods. He said playing with the embattled superstar, whose every move was under the microscope after a sex scandal that led to a five-month absence, helped him improve his patience.
“I think that is only going to help me more and I’m thankful for the experience I had with Tiger,” he said.
Choi has only played this tournament once before, missing the cut in 2001.
Weir, too, had only played Hilton Head once before, in 1999, but the 2003 Masters champion is planning to take a break this summer for some family celebrations — he and wife Bricia’s 40th birthdays, his brother’s 50th and his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary — so he wanted to play some earlier tournaments.
Indeed, Weir, who started on the 10th, had an eagle on the par-four first hole, holing an eight-iron from 144 yards.
Owen has missed five cuts this season and withdrew from his last event, the Houston Open. His round was his lowest in more than two months.
There was a fun flashback for Jerry Kelly, whose hole-in-one at the par-three fourth was his second at the same hole, which he aced in 2007.
Filipino Jay Bayron survived a watery end to his third round to fire a two-under 70 and finish top of the leaderboard for the third successive day yesterday.
Bayron, on 13-under 203, is two shots ahead of compatriot Mars Pucay, who carded the same score in the opening event of the Mercedes-Benz Tour.
In windy conditions Bayron found the water on the par-five 17th with his second shot, carding a bogey, shortly after playing partner Pucay saw his tee shot splash into the lake on the par-three 16th, ending with a double-bogey.
Despite their erratic finish, the pair have a cushion from the chasing pack, with Angelo Que and Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines and Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk, four adrift of Bayron.
Filipino Artemio Murakami, lying in joint sixth, equaled the course record at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club with a 64.
■MOJO 6 JAMAICA
AP, MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA
Cristie Kerr, Na Yeon Choi and Amanda Blumenherst each scored 13 points in their three six-hole matches on Thursday to top the quarter-final qualifiers in the inaugural Mojo 6 Jamaica LPGA Invitational.
Kerr received the top seeding in the Raceway Golf event at Cinnamon Hill and Choi took the No. 2 seed based on their positions in the world rankings.
Anna Nordqvist (12.5) was seeded fourth in the unofficial tournament, followed by Christina Kim (12.5), Brittany Lang (12), Suzann Pettersen (11.5) and Beatriz Recari (11.5). Pettersen and Recari advanced in a two-hole playoff with Angela Stanford.
Kerr, who will face Recari in the quarter-finals, beat the Spanish player 5-2 in the opening match, then equaled Kristy McPherson at 3.5 and edged 15-year-old amateur Mariah Stackhouse 4.5-2.5.
Choi, set to play Pettersen, beat Lang 4.5-2.5, tied Sophie Gustafson at 3.5 and topped Morgan Pressel 5-2. Blumenherst routed Gustafson 6-1, beat Stackhouse 4.5-2.5, then lost to Recari, 4.5-2.5. Blumenherst will face Lang.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng finished in 13th place.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
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Former MLB pitcher Wang Wei-chung has signed the biggest contract with a local team in Taiwan’s professional baseball history, the Wei Chuan Dragons said yesterday. The 28-year-old left-hander signed a five-year US$2.08 million contract with the Dragons, team chairman Hsu Wen-fang told a news conference. It is the biggest contract in the CPBL’s 31-year history, surpassing a three-year, US$1.36 million deal Lin Chih-sheng signed in 2016 with the CTBC Brothers. Although the overall value of Wang’s deal set a new record, his average monthly salary of NT$990,000 (US$33,886) is lower than Lin’s pay of NT$1.2 million per month in 2017