HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Before the rain got to the point that play had to be halted Friday, K.J. Choi rose to 5 under while a trio of first-round co-leaders fell off the mark.
Here are 5 Things to know from Hilton Head:
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1. LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE: The last time K.J. Choi won on the PGA Tour was in 2011 at the Players Championship. in a playoff. Since then, it’s been lean times with only one top-three, a second at the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year.
With a 4-under 67, Choi put together the best round in a Friday morning that was windy, overcast and fraught with intermittent rain.
Now for the first time in a very long time, Choi is on top of a leaderboard. At 5 under, the South Korean holds a one shot lead over Robert Allenby, who only played five holes before a torrential downpour postponed the second round.
“I’m really happy in the tournament,” Choi said without an interpreter, explaining that he often has headed home to his three children after the Masters rather than playing the Heritage. “Last three or four years I’m changing: After Masters I stop here, because golf course is very generous.”
Choi has played in three previous Heritages, missing the cut in 2001 before finishing T-41 in 2010 and T-18 last year.
Now Choi has a chance to have his best finish in his career at Hilton Head.
“I had some bad rounds, as well, but I always keep a positive mind,” Choi said of his season through an interpreter. “A lot of the older PGA players, I’m learning a lot from those guys. “
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2. U.S. AM MAKES GOOD: Matthew Fitzpatrick had played in three professional events in his career. In last year’s British Open, he finished T-44. After the calendar turned to 2014, Fitzpatrick’s luck turned and he missed the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters.
But that all changed when Fitzpatrick shot consecutive even-par 71s to make his first cut in the U.S. at Hilton Head Island.
“Obviously delighted, really happy,” Fitzpatrick said. “Disappointed, as well, in that I doubled 16. Just hit one bad out of bounds and caused a double there, just one of them things. No, happy to make the cut, and first PGA Tour event I’ve made, and around my favorite course. So yeah, it’s all good.
Fitzpatrick has no confirmed plans to play in any events before the U.S. Open, so his next two rounds will be his only tournament preparation unless he can get an exemption into the FedEx Championship in Memphis.
“Probably got to do a few things to try and get that sorted, but that’s mainly just a warm-up to the U.S. Open, I guess,” Fitzpatrick said of trying to get an exemption into Memphis. I plan then to play the U.S. Open and just see what happens after that, really. I’ve not got any plans to turn pro in the immediate future. It could be after U.S. Open, could be after British Open, could be next week. You just don’t know, really.”
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3. A VERY WET AUSSIE: Robert Allenby walked into the media center after playing just five holes. Wet and tired, Allenby made the most of his time with consecutive birdies to start his round and at 4 under is just one back of Choi.
“The funny thing is that we probably could have still played because the greens and the fairways really didn’t have any water on them, at least the ones that we were faced in front of us,” Allenby said “But it’s not fun when it’s blowing 20 miles an hour every different direction and it’s raining at the same time as well. So it was nice to get out of there. “
Allenby said he likes the fact that this event doesn’t require 25-under to win, yet with the Aussie recording seven birdies in 23 holes, Allenby might be wrong on the winning score.
“The thing I like about the golf course is that you have to use your imagination off the tee and then you have to use your imagination into the greens,” Allenby said. “And it’s not about just hitting one particular shot. You don’t have to be the longest hitter in the world. You’ve just got to strategize yourself around the golf course and then make some putts, obviously.”
Allenby will resume play at 8:00 a.m. in the sixth fairway with Martin Kaymer and Brian Gay.
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4. ANOTHER AUSSIE SUCCESS: U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy has struggled during the 2014 season while making only five cuts in 11 events, none yielding a top-10 finish.
With a FedEx Cup ranking of 146, Ogilvy’s season finally seems to be on the upturn. Ogilvy’s T-11 at the Valero Texas Open was his best finish since a runner-up finish at The Honda Classic last year.
Now with rounds of 72-68, Ogilvy’s 3-under-par Friday morning positioned him in a tie for eighth with half the field still on the course.
“I know I’ve been playing better,” Ogilvy said after making two birdies over the last three holes. “I’m not too stressed about it all. Maybe I used to get too stressed about it all. As I said, as hard as it was this morning, it was nice knowing it was probably going to be worse this afternoon, so the only thing wrong with this morning is maybe it was going to be so bad they won’t play.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Play was suspended because of heavy rain at 2:54 p.m. and called for the day at 4:40 p.m. The second round will resume at 8:00 a.m. Saturday, with the entire afternoon wave (65 players) yet to complete their round. . . . Because of the rains, preferred lies are being utilized in the second round. . . . Of the completed rounds, only Billy Hurley III (69) has the only bogey-free round. . . . The morning scoring average Friday was 73.43, 0.88 strokes more difficult than Thursday morning’s 72.55. . . . Barring some miracle, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and CBS analyst Nick Faldo will miss the cut. . . . Other prominent players who won’t see the weekend include Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Lucas Glover and Justin Leonard.