Eagle wings lift Choi level at Open
South Korea's KJ Choi, three-over par after only six holes in Thursday's first round of the Open Championship, eagled the par-5 seventh on his way to an even-par 70 fightback round at Royal Lytham.
The eight-time US PGA Tour winner, who has missed the cut in two of his last three Open Championship appearances, struggled early with his distance control, taking bogeys at the second, fifth and sixth holes before his unlikely eagle.
"In the beginning things weren't panning out well. It was a hard day and I thought to myself that this year would be another disappointing tournament for me again," Choi said.
"That eagle really changed the mood.
"Before I was getting ready to hit the putt, my caddie said 'You are going to make the putt.' Then I putted and it actually went in. I turned to him and said 'How did you know?' It was from 35 feet out."
Choi, whose only top-15 showing in 12 prior Opens was a share of eighth a Carnoustie in 2007, caught a flier from the rough simply to produce the extra distance to reach the green and set up the long putt.
"If it was on the fairway, it would have ended up short, but because it was in the rough, I actually hit a flier and it found the green and made the eagle possible," Choi said.
"I had trouble with my irons early on. I thought they would bounce (onto the green) but they came up short. That gave pressure on my putting and even the bunker shots were kind of difficult."
Choi said the calm conditions threw him off after daysof practice in stiff breezes.
"It was subtle winds and it made the round more difficult," Choi said. "If it was strong winds, you can hit it accordingly. Subtle winds kind of confused me. You hit your shot and you know your yardages but I couldn’t figure it out."
Countryman YE Yang, who became the the first Asian man to win a major by capturing the 2009 PGA Championship, fired a 74 while Bae Sang-moon and Kim Kyung-tae, both former Asian Tour winners, shot 72 and 75 respectively.