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Archive for Saturday, August 25, 2007

Choi surges to top spot at Barclays

Eagle on seventh hole highlights round of 66

August 25, 2007

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— Tiger Woods looks like he might lose his No. 1 seed by skipping The Barclays, thanks to some stellar golf at Westchester from one of the top players chasing him in the PGA Tour Playoffs.

The surprise is that it's K.J. Choi, not Vijay Singh.

On a course that has given him fits, Choi holed out from 94 yards for eagle on the seventh hole and marched along to a 5-under 66, giving him a two-shot lead over Rich Beem going into the weekend at the first of four playoff events for the FedEx Cup.

And on a course where Singh has won three times, the defending champion cleaned out his locker Friday after missing the cut for the first time at Westchester in five years. He wasted a brilliant start to shoot 71 and miss by four shots.

Geoff Ogilvy, who won the U.S. Open down the road at Winged Foot last summer, had a 66 in the swirling breezes of late afternoon and joined Steve Stricker (68) and Rory Sabbatini (71) at 8-under 134.

No one else was within six shots of Choi at 12-under 130.

"It's going to get firmer, and as it gets firmer, it will get tougher," Ogilvy said.

But while The Barclays still has 36 holes remaining, the FedEx Cup season ended Friday for 13 players who were below No. 120 and either missed the cut or withdrew. That makes it impossible for them to be among the 120-man field in round two at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

For Choi, it was another reminder that this has been his best year in golf. He already has two PGA Tour victories against strong fields this year. He is No. 5 in the FedEx Cup standings. He is on the verge of cracking the top 10 in the world ranking. And his confidence is growing with a controlled fade off the tee that has spurred his success.

His name atop the leaderboard at The Barclays was more evidence.

In 10 previous rounds at this tournament, Choi had never shot better than 67 and had broken par only three times.

Beem celebrated his 37th birthday with a 68, then sang "Happy Birthday" to himself. The best gift for Beem would be his first victory since the 2002 PGA Championship, but even a top-10 finish would at least qualify him for the second playoff event next week outside Boston. Beem is No. 134 in the standings.

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