Hoylake, July 17: Korean star K.J. Choi laughed off a ‘colourful’ last 10 holes which did not include a single par en route to a level par 72 in the first round of The Open Championship on Thursday.
The eight-time PGA Tour winner, who is also an Asian Tour honorary member, launched his campaign at Royal Liverpool with early birdies on the first and fourth holes before enduring a roller-coaster ride coming home with four birdies against six bogeys.
“Birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey …. I’ve never had that on my back nine before. It was very colourful. No par on back nine, I think it’s the first time in my life,” said Choi, who is making his 13th consecutive Open appearance and 15th overall this week.
“It doesn’t matter, just disappointed with the last hole where I three putted.”
Choi, who missed the cut when the Open was last held at Hoylake in 2006, said the famous links course threw him off guard despite the near ideal conditions for scoring.
“The course is tricky. Sometimes, the ball releases. We can’t tell the condition of the ground. Sometimes, it runs up to the green and sometimes, it doesn’t release. It’s hard to control that. Even par is a good start,” said the 44-year-old.
“My start was very good but at the turn, I made a couple of missed shots. On this course, my distances with the driver are always within the bunker range. On the right, the bunkers are 295 to 300 yards and on the left side, it’s 275 to 285 which are exactly my driving area. If use a three wood to layup, then I will have a longer club into the green. The long hitters have an advantage here.”
Despite trailing early leader Rory McIlroy by six shots in the year’s third Major, Choi was hopeful of staying within striking reach of the leaders.
“My putting was good and my rhythm is okay. There wasn’t anything bad but I need to practice a bit in the wind. Hopefully tomorrow would be better than today. There are three rounds to go,” he said.
“Today I felt comfortable. My feel and swing felt good. I hit a couple of bad shots but had some good recovery with the putting. That’s why I had an even par start. In the next few days, I will try to have more control with the iron play.”
Countryman Kim Hyung-sung, a member of the EurAsia Cup Asian team which drew with Europe in March, also carded a 72 in a round that included four birdies, two bogeys and one double bogey.
“I was going alright until the 14th hole. It shouldn’t have been a double bogey and I was disappointed with that. I just hit a massive hook there from out of no where. Although this is only my second Open Championship, I am kind of used to links golf as we play on some links-styled courses in Japan. The only problem I had last year was off the course as I couldn’t find any Korean food. This year, I’ve come prepared by bringing our own Korean food,” said Kim, who has won once in Japan this season.
Source: Asian Tour