Northern Trust Open round one: Will the wind blow Choi off course?
It’s been 10 long years since a first-round winner went on to take the spoils at the Riviera country club - Billy Mayfair, who you will note is hovering three shots off the pace after round one. But if there’s a man to follow in his footsteps it’s K J Choi, who will almost certainly go into the second round as leader. He’s three from four for converting first round leads into wins.
If only it were that easy. The course was up to its usual windy tricks Thursday and Choi enjoyed by far the most benign conditions of the day. The stroke average of those who, like him, went out in the morning was a tad under 71.3. Those that completed their rounds in the afternoon averaged more than two shots worse at 73.5. Looks like we’re in for more of the same Friday which means Choi and his afternoon chums had better watch out.
That, of course, will include Phil Mickelson, three shots back after another patchy round, Chad Campbell, Kevin Na and Luke Donald. Perhaps the most likely to succeed of that lot is Campbell, who likes a bit of wind.
As expected, finding the relatively small greens was the key ingredient and Choi mastered the discipline well, ranking second overall. None of the overnight top four ranked worse than seventh for greens in regulation. As usual, though, we had an exception that proved the rule: Alex Cejka sitting alongside Mickelson was 116th for GIR. Deadly aim with driver and putter made the day for him.
Interesting that the best all-round figures came from John Daly, a shot further back - top 20 for everything except accuracy off the tee. But he is also likely to face an afternoon howler Friday - another spectacular Daly implosion anyone?.
And guess who was making hay in the worst of the wind Thursday? Our favourite rookie Dustin Johnson, three under with three first round holes still to go.
PS: I appreciate the wind made things tough in the afternoon, but quite why that prevented them finishing the first round before nightfall leaves me puzzled and annoyed. I can understand if weather halted play, but I’m not aware of that. Buck up guys.
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