Jeju Island, South Korea — Jason Day’s attempt to impress International team captain Ernie Els for a spot at the Presidents Cup took a positive turn on Thursday when the Australian shot a 6-under 66 to sit two strokes off the lead after the opening round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
In the first event of a three-tournament PGA Tour swing through Asia, Byeong Hun An took the lead with a 64 with Joaquin Niemann a stroke behind in second. Day was alone in third place.
Day is hoping Els will chose him as a captain’s pick for the International team against the Tiger Woods-captained U.S. team in December at Royal Melbourne.
“Overall, it’s a great start,” Day said. “I’m excited for the rest of the week.”
He said before his first round that he was still hoping for a Presidents Cup spot.
“It is certainly disappointing not to make the team on my own merits. But it is a reminder that nothing is given to you in this game,” Day said.
“I certainly want to be on the team and believe I can be an asset to the Internationals. Being in my home country certainly gives me an edge and I’ve had some success on the sand-belt (courses) and Royal Melbourne in the past.”
Defending champion Brooks Koepka shot a 69 with an eagle on the 18th, his final hole, Last year’s runner-up Gary Woodland had a 71.
Justin Thomas, who won the inaugural 2017 CJ Cup, shot 68 and Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth each shot 70. Spieth is looking to end a lengthy drought — he hasn’t won since the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale, a span of 54 tournaments worldwide.
“Overall a good way to start. I felt I played a lot better than my score,” Thomas said. “Anytime you play where you’ve won before, it creates a lot of good memories.”
Kevin Na, who won in a playoff in Las Vegas two weeks ago, had a 72 and Sergio Garcia shot 73.
There are 78 players in the no-cut, limited-field event.
The top-ranked Koepka stirred some controversy on Wednesday when he pointed out that Rory McIlroy, his closest challenger for the No. 1 ranking, hasn’t won a major since the American joined the PGA Tour in 2015. He was responding to a question about a rivalry between the pair.
“I’m not looking at anybody behind me. I’m No. 1 in the world,” Koepka said. “I’ve got open road in front of me. I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry. I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour.”
Buick LPGA Shanghai
Amy Yang and Nasa Hataoka shared the lead on 5-under 67 after the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai on Thursday.
Both players had six birdies and a bogey for a one-stroke lead.
“I’m happy how I played today,” Yang said. “My swing felt very stable … lot of solid shots out there and making some good putts, so it’s been a good round.”
Americans Jessica Korda and Angel Yin are tied for third, while defending champion Danielle Kang is among seven players tied for fifth on 3-under 69.
42 penalty shots
The rules have changed since Lee Ann Walker lasted played competitive golf. She found out the hard way.
Walker shot rounds of 85 and 74 at the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana. That was before she realized players no longer can putt when their caddies have been standing directly behind them.
She had to add 42 penalty shots to her first round, turning that into a 127, and 16 more penalty shots for the second round, turning that into a 90.
It left Walker contemplating a consolation prize.
“I may have made the Guinness Book of World Records,” she said Wednesday on her drive home to North Carolina, where she works in the real estate industry.
That wasn’t the idea when she decided to play in the Senior LPGA. Walker, who split time between the LPGA Tour and Symetra Tour, thought it would be fun to compete. She had heard French Lick was a beautiful course. And it would allow her to catch up with friends.
But she’s not involved in tournament golf – her last full season on the LPGA Tour was in 2008 – and the sport went through the most comprehensive overhaul of the Rules of Golf, effective this year.
One that caused the most problems on tour was caddie alignment, Rule 10.2b. Caddies no longer can stand behind players as they prepare to hit a shot unless players back away after the caddie is no longer behind them.
Walker knew to take penalty drops from knee level. She just didn’t know the caddie rule.
“When I played my first round, my caddied lined me up and I did not reset,” she said. “I did not realize I was violating any rules.”
She played the first round with Jackie Gallagher-Smith and Cathy Johnson-Forbes and said neither noticed her mistake. The second round, she played with Laura Baugh and Laura Shanahan Rowe. They did.
“They made me aware of it on 14 or 15, and I called a rules official to ask what to do,” she said. “They had me continue playing so they could have a conference on the violation and what I needed to do.”
Most amazing about this bizarre episode is that Walker could remember which holes and how many times her caddie was behind her without her starting the process over. She had 21 violations the first round – each penalty is two shots – and eight in the second round before she was aware of her mistake.
Without the penalties, Walker would have missed the cut by one shot.
“What can you do at that point?” Walker said. “It was my fault for not knowing the rules. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. Big lesson learned.”
Thanks to another new rule, her scores of 127-90 were in the books. Previously, once she realized she should have added penalty strokes, Walker would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
In this case, she finished. The scorecard from the first round featured six 9s, an 8 and four 7s. She also had a 4 – a birdie on the 18th hole.