GOLF

For Choi, It's Paradise Found at Sony

K.J. Choi hits his second shot on the 15th hole during the Sony Open's second round on Friday in Honolulu, Hawaii. Choi led the event after the second round's morning finishers.
K.J. Choi hits his second shot on the 15th hole during the Sony Open's second round on Friday in Honolulu, Hawaii. Choi led the event after the second round's morning finishers. (Jonathan Ferrey - Getty)
Saturday, January 12, 2008

A different week, a different island and a much different view for K.J. Choi.

Seven days ago, Choi was bringing up the rear at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, last among 31 winners at Kapalua entering the weekend. Yesterday, he closed with three straight birdies for a 5-under-par 65 and a two-shot lead at the Sony Open in Honolulu.

Kevin Na was the only player in the afternoon to make a move, making seven birdies in a round of 64 that left him two back.

Na saw that Choi was at 11-under 129 while on the putting green and was determined to get in the final group with him. Then he hooked his opening tee shot into the trees, and his next tee shot in the bunker, scrambling for par both times.

"I settled down after that," he said, laughing.

Stephen Marino was atop the leader board for most of the morning until his momentum stalled with a bogey on the easy No. 9, although he recovered for a 67 and was three shots behind.

Fred Funk, aided by a tip from his wife, finished birdie-eagle for a 64 to give the 51-year-old a decent chance before leaving the kids to play on the Champions Tour in Hawaii the next two weeks. He was at 7-under 133 with Jimmy Walker (68).

"Pretty good for an old guy," Funk said.

Choi is off to his best start ever at Waialae, where the second round has derailed him in the past. He was only 1 under for his round with five holes remaining until making four birdies, the last one a two-putt on the par-5 ninth from some 25 feet.

That made him 25 shots better than his 36-hole start at Kapalua.

"After the third round [at the Mercedes], I really found my rhythm coming back," Choi said. "My putting was getting better, and I was actually motivated. I knew that I was going to play better than last week, but I didn't really think about being in the lead or anything." . . .

In Johannesburg, South Africa's Mark Murless shot a 3-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Joburg Open.

Murless had a 9-under 133 total on the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

Spain's Pablo Larrazabal (68) was second, and South Africans Warren Abery (65), Charl Coetzee (67) and Tyrone Ferreira (70) followed at 7 under.

-- From News Services


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