K.J. Choi didn’t waste any time in the first round of the Chevron World Challenge, firing off five birdies in the first five holes — just before the Santa Ana winds let loose at Sherwood Country Club. Tiger Woods picked up where he left off in the Down Under, starting strong by rolling in four birdies in the first five, as well. Then, the conditions toughened and the comfortable breeze turned into swirling gusts up to 30mph, throwing Tiger off his game a bit.
“It’s one thing to have it blow, but you don’t know which way it’s coming from,” said Woods after posting a three-under 69. “Then you have intensity changes on top of that. So it’s really hard out there.
“You know, there’s a couple times, you know, Stricks (Steve Stricker) got fooled, I got fooled. This is a golf course in which — like most Nicklaus courses — you can’t bump the ball around the golf course. You have to draw the ball up into these greens. It would be one thing if we could run the ball on the green, we wouldn’t have to worry about this stuff, but that’s not the case.”
Meanwhile, Choi seemed to be the only one with a firm enough grasp to control the ball.
Said Tiger: “Anything under par is a good day today with the wind up. If the wind stayed down, you’re going to have to shoot probably 68 or below for it to be a good score…Guys behind us, like K.J. is playing an amazing round because he’s got most of it into the wind, and for him to play that well that early and keep it going is one hell of a round.”
Choi is used to playing in strong winds, dominating the 18-man field and firing an impressive six-under 66 to take a three-shot lead over Tiger and Stricker.
“I was used to playing in the windy conditions, not only playing in Melbourne, but also living in Dallas, where there’s 20- to 30-mile wind every other day,” Choi said. “I’m used to practicing in those conditions. I’ve become very comfortable in those windy conditions.”
Despite making a few mistakes, Tiger looked as sharp as ever, according to his playing partner, “Stricks,” and though K.J. was playing three groups behind, he saw enough to come to the same conclusion. Via the AP:
“It looks like he’s getting a lot of confidence back again,” Stricker said. “It looks like the Tiger of old, really, and it’s great to see. We need him out there playing, and playing well.”
“I think he is really 80, 90 percent back to his form again,” Choi said. I’m very happy about playing with him tomorrow. Tiger is a good friend. He’s got a very strong will. He’s got the right mental attitude right now, and I think it’s going to be a very fun day tomorrow.
“I watched him play a couple of holes today, and I was very impressed at the way he was swinging, at his rhythm, at the power he had,” Choi said. “It almost seemed like watching the old Tiger back in the day.”
Love K.J. — one of the truly good individuals out there. He wouldn’t say that about Tiger unless he actually believed it. We have three more days to see if the “old” Tiger’s form holds up.
(AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)