The 37-year-old South Korean continued the trend Thursday, carding a bogey-free round of 6-under-par 64 at Waialae Country Club to take a one-shot lead in the PGA Tour's first event with a full field this season. Playing in his seventh Sony Open, Choi has never posted a score above par in the opening round of the event.
Last year, Choi also shot 6-under 64 in the first round and went on to finish tied for fourth.
Choi has historically been a good front-runner. He has been the leader or co-leader three times after the first round in his PGA Tour career and wound up winning twice (the 2002 Tampa Bay Classic and the 2007 AT&T National).
"Today, I think what's meaningful is that I had a bogey-free round," Choi told reporters. "My score reflected it. Yesterday, I felt like my shots were coming back. I was getting back into my rhythm. I feel like today, this year, I'm adjusting to the course very well."
Choi's opening round featured consistency. He opened with a birdie on the first hole and then added birdies on Nos. 6, 9, 10, 15 and 18.
Choi is coming off a tie for 28th at last week's Mercedes-Benz Championship, which featured a 31-player field of players who had won PGA Tour events in 2007. In his first outing of 2008, Choi started slowly with rounds of 79 and 75 before shooting back-to-back 69s.
"Last week I had a bit of trouble with the putting," Choi said. "It really didn't go the way that I wanted to, but this week I felt like my putting was coming back."
Choi enters the second round with a one-stroke lead over Jimmy Walker, Steve Marino and Heath Slocum, who are all tied for second at 5-under 65. Rory Sabbatini, Chad Campbell, Steve Lowery, James Driscoll, Kenneth Ferrie, J.P. Hayes, Brad Adamonis and last week's winner, Daniel Chopra are all tied for fifth at 4-under 66.
Tadd Fujikawa, a 17-year-old high school junior who became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut at a PGA Tour event last year, struggled to a round of 4-over 74. A double bogey on his second hole set the stage for a disappointing day, despite strong fan support for the home-state player.
"I had a rough start, doubled No. 2 and misread a few putts here and there," Fujikawa told reporters. "It was actually pretty close to going in on a few of them and just got unlucky on a few shots.
"The back nine I started playing a lot better and I felt better about my game."
Choi, who made the cut in 21 of 25 events last year and won twice, said he only hopes he can continue his strong play in the tournament.
"All I can say is I'm going to try my best until the end of the week," Choi said. "I feel good this week. It's a good vibe that I'm feeling, and with all the fans, the local fans supporting me, I feel a lot of support there. It's treating me well."
January 11, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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