Fueled by the confidence he gained during last weekend's Ryder Cup Matches, Anthony Kim kept his positive momentum rolling Thursday in first-round play of the Tour Championship.
Playing on a more-difficult-than-expected layout at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club, Kim shot a 6-under-par 64 and surged to a four-stroke lead in the final PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoff event. The Ryder Cup star was one of just five golfers in the 30-player field to shoot below par, joined by Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman and Phil Mickelson - all tied for second at 2-under 68 - and K.J. Choi, who was fifth after a 1-under 69.
Mike Weir and Sergio Garcia were tied for sixth after shooting even-par 70 in the opening round.
The first-round results represented a stark contrast to last year. In 2007 at East Lake, 24 of the 30 players managed to shoot below par.
"The course is playing a lot tougher than I had heard about," Kim told reporters. "I thought the winning score was going to be around 20 under again, and I don't think it's going to get there."
Els said the playing conditions were completely different from 2007's Tour Championship.
"Last year, the ball was plugging with a 3-wood into the greens, and this year the grass is different," Els told reporters. "If you miss a fairway you've really got some issues out of the Bermuda rough. The ball comes out with no spin, so you can't really control the ball.
"You've really got to hit the fairways, but the surfaces are great. If you get it on the greens, you can make some putts.
The degree of difficulty didn't seem to bother Kim, who is shooting for the $3 million prize as the runner-up in the FedEx Cup standings.
The No. 6 player in the FedEx Cup standings answered a first-hole bogey with birdies on Nos. 3, 4, 7, 9, 10 and 11. Kim's momentum was slowed by a bogey at No. 12, but he responded by making birdies on holes 15 and 17.
"Almost everything in my game was clicking pretty well out there," Kim said. "If you don't drive it in the fairway and you get a dicey lie in the rough, there's no way you're going to keep the ball on the greens out here."
It marked the third time in his career that Kim has held at least a share of an 18-hole lead in a PGA Tour event. He held a share of the lead at this year's RBC Canadian Open (finished tied for eighth) and the 2007 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (finished tied for 18th).
In the 21-year history of the Tour Championship, the first-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win the tournament 10 times. The last player to accomplish the feat was Bart Bryant in 2005.
Kim admitted that the Ryder Cup Matches — and the ensuing celebration after the 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory for the Americans — made preparation for the Tour Championship difficult.
"But I'm over it now," Kim said. "I'm just focusing on this tournament."
On Thursday, Kim said he was still receiving congratulations for his play last week. The highlight for the 23 year old was a rout of Sergio Garcia in Sunday's singles matches at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., that still had Kim on a high.
"I feel like when I'm happy, having a good time, I'm going to make some birdies," Kim said. "So it was a good vibe out there."
Vijay Singh, who needs only to complete the 72-hole tournament to win the FedEx Cup and take home the $10 million first prize, shot a first-round 73. He's tied for 17th place.
September 26, 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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