Sports Outside the Beltway

British Open after 36 holes- KJ Choi leads by one shot

The seven-time PGA Tour winner has never finished better than third in a major championship. From AP-

K.J. Choi rolled in a 25-foot birdie on the final hole for a 3-under 67 in more gloom and wind along the Irish Sea, giving him his first lead in a major championship. It will be the second straight year he plays in the final group at the British Open going into the weekend.

But the biggest surprises were right behind him, starting with a pair of British Open champions who once were No. 1 in the world.

Norman barely touched a club in the month leading up to his 26th appearance in golf’s oldest championship. The 53-year-old married tennis great Chris Evert three weeks ago, and a trip to England counts as the tail end of his honeymoon.

He wound up renewing his love affair with links golf, delivering great escapes over his final three holes for an even-par 70 that put his name atop the leaderboard for most of the afternoon until Choi birdied the final two holes.

Choi was at 1-under 139, one shot ahead of Norman.

An argument can be made for Choi as the best player in the world without a major. It will have to be seen if he can hold up over the weekend.

Norman, the 1986 and 1993 British Open Champion, playing well is one of the two biggest surprises so far in the tournament. It will be even a bigger one if he is still around the top of the leaderboard on Sunday. I said the same thing about Rocco Mediate at last month’s US Open, and we all know how that ended.

Choi and Norman will be playing together tomrorrow. When Norman won the 1986 BO, his final round playing partner was Tommy Nakajima. Like Choi, Nakajima was probably the most recognizable Asian player in the world and arguably the region’s best player. Nakajima shot a final round 77 that day in 86, and was not a factor on Sunday as Norman won by 5.

I wish the media would stop talking about Norman’s divorce and then his marriage to Chris Evert. Norman has a home in my end of Florida, I’ve worked hard to avoid this incessant gossip reporting. I want to read about the British Open, not what a player is doing in their private life.

Camillo Villegas is in solo third, two shots back. The group at 142 three strokes behind Choi include Jim Furyk(One of my three picks this week. Stuart Appleby is at 143, Justin Leonard is further back but made the cut), Defending BO Champ Padrig Harrington, Robert Allenby, and 2001 British Open Champ David Duval. Duval’s being contention has to be considered as equally suprising as Greg Norman at this stage. Since his win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001, Duval’s career has been in a tailspin.

Time to settle in for a weekend of links golf. There really hasn’t been a boring British Open weekend in some years. Probably the last was Duval’s 2001 triumph. I expect a great deal of leaderboard changes as a result of tomorrow’s round, after all Saturday is ‘moving day’ in professional golf.

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