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K.J. Choi Leads at L.A.`s Northern Trust Open

Posted February. 16, 2008 04:02,   


K.J. Choi (38, Nike Golf) claimed victory at the PGA’s season opener in last month’s Sony Open in Hawaii.

It was more meaningful since the last round was held on “Korean-Americans Day,” honoring the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to Hawaii in 1903.

Choi, who has been the pride of Koreans for his smooth cruise in the U.S., is seizing the chance to win a second title in Los Angeles, the city with the most number of Koreans in the U.S.

The first round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament was held at the Riviera Country Club near L.A. on Feb.15.

Just 30 minutes away from Los Angeles’ Koreatown, Choi played bogey-free for a 6-under 65 to hold a lead over Kevin Na (25, Cobra Golf) who has a 5-under 66. Na immigrated to the U.S. as an elementary school child.

Choi has raised hopes since he has gained three victories out of four in PGA tournaments where he has led the first round.

Before the tournament, he said, “The green is tricky, so I have to make good iron shots.”

He narrowed the gap with a high success rate of 77.8 percent.

His average driving distance is 300.5 yards. By last year, he had played seven tournaments on this course and tied for fifth in 2003. He has failed to gain a spot within the top 20.

He said, “I want to succeed this time here where many Koreans live.”

Kevin Na, who measured the distance with the help of his golf caddie because of poor vision following a failed lasik surgery last December, ranked within the top five twice this season.

His performance has been solid since an ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills told him last week that he could wear contact lenses again.

Short games within 100 yards and long putts challenged him, but he reduced the bogey-free putts to 25 thanks to the contact lenses.

It was the first time that Korean players ranked first and second in the same first round. Both were fortunate to tee off in the morning before 40-km-per-hour winds came in.

Phil Mickelson is tied for fifth with a 3 under 68.