Notes: Lee took Choi's tough assessment to heart
HONOLULU – When last we saw South Korean Dong-Hwan Lee, he was earning medalist honors at last month’s PGA Tour Q-School in La Quinta, Calif. This week he showed up at the Sony Open to begin his rookie season with a new name on the bag: D.H. Lee.
His agent, IMG’s Michael Yim, said too many people were having trouble with his player’s name, so Lee did everyone a favor and simplified it. Whatever name he goes by, Lee is a player to keep an eye on this season. He’s won twice on the Japan Tour, has a very good short game, and though he’s only 25, he carries a maturity beyond his years.
Yim relayed a funny story about Lee while on the range at Sony earlier this week. Lee played a practice round with countryman K.J. Choi at last summer’s U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco. Afterward, he was eager to know what Choi thought of his game. At first Choi politely complimented Lee’s game, but Lee kept pressing him to be more specific. He asked Choi, “Be straight with me.”
So Choi told him bluntly, “You hit it like a woman.”
What he meant was, he thought Lee could go after the golf ball harder with his swing, and pick up distance he’ll need to be a factor on the PGA Tour. Lee went home, worked with a trainer, and when the two played a practice round this week at Sony, Choi noticed the difference in Lee’s length.
“Nice job,” Choi told him.
Lee, who will make his U.S. base in Dallas, plans to play six events in a row to help his status going into the season’s first reshuffle.
Lee played beautifully Thursday in his first round as a PGA Tour member, his birdie at the par-5 18th leaving him at 2-under 68.
Unfortunately, that only left Lee in a share of 27th, because scoring conditions were optimum on Thursday and the boys took advantage. Some of the highlights:
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EASY? DON’T TELL THEM: With six eagles and 69 birdies and a field average of 4.532, the 506-yard, par-5 ninth hole proved to be the second softest. It’s just that Dustin Johnson and Ben Curtis didn’t prove it.
Johnson closed out a sloppy finish by pushing his second shot wide right and after it hit a tent and bounced out of bounds, he was on his way to a bogey. He had also bogeyed the fourth and eighth and so a lucrative day turned sour, a level-par 70.
But that was nothing compared to Curtis’ misery. After spraying his tee shot into the canal that runs down the right side, Curtis took a drop. But out of gnarly Bermuda rough he hit his third shot into a palm tree and that ball, too, ricocheted into the canal. Curtis wound up with one of the day’s three doubles at the ninth and signed for a 74.
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TRICK SHOT: Fair? No one ever said golf was fair, and for proof, re-visit the 17th green when Choi got robbed. His tee shot at the 195-yard hole should have come to rest on the green and within decent birdie range, only it hit Webb Simpson’s golf ball and caromed dead right into the bunker.
Simpson’s ball also went off in another direction, but he was able to place his ball back at about 10 feet from the hole.
Shaking off the misfortune, Choi blasted to 6 feet and made the putt, so all was not lost. Simpson, meanwhile, made his birdie putt in a round of 4-under 66.
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COMING UP EMPTY: So, the field played Waialae CC to the tune of 69.775, with 461 birdies and 10 eagles? Easy stuff, eh?
Well tell that to a trio of players who failed to make a birdie, most notable being Davis Love. Maybe some prime snowboarding in Idaho wasn’t the best for his golf game, because Love struggled mightily on a four-hole stretch starting at the par-3 eighth to ruin his opening day.
He bogeyed eight, didn’t birdie the soft par-5 ninth, then made the day’s only double at the par-4 10th. Love then bogeyed 11 and went on to shoot 75, matching his worst opening round score here.
Tommy Gillis (75) and Bobby Gates (74) also failed to make a birdie.
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REMEMBER HIM? Hard to believe, but it’s fast-approaching the ninth anniversary of his Masters victory. Not that Mike Weir is thinking in those terms. More likely, he’s trying to focus on getting his game back in some sort of form.
Trying to make the cut in a PGA Tour tournament for the first time since July of 2011, the diminutive lefthander opened with a 1-over 71 at Waialae CC. He’ll need to do something much better Friday morning, because the cut figures to be 2 under or better.
Weir, 41, missed the cut in all 12 starts a year ago and he’s taking a one-time exemption for being Top 25 on the career money list.
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SHORT SHOTS: Showing off his shock-white mallet-cut hair and American flag Loudmouth pants, John Daly opened with a 70 . . . . . Of the 10 eagles, six came at the par-5 ninth and two at the par-5 18th. But the most impressive ones came with hole-outs, Jonas Blixt from 210 yards at the par-4 sixth and Brad Fritsch from 154 at the par-4 fifth . . . . . The good news is, Andres Gonzales made five birdies and only 12 players made more than that. The bad news is, he made a triple, two doubles and shot 74 . . . . . Rough start to Bud Cauley’s 2013 season – two doubles and two bogeys in his first eight holes before he settled down to shoot 1 under for his next 12 . . . . . Faces in the crowd: The Great One, Wayne Gretzky and his wife, Jennifer Jones followed the morning golf alongside their daughter, Paulina, who is here with her boyfriend, Dustin Johnson.