Sepp Straka planned to play a friendly Ryder Cup style competition this week. That was until he got a call on Monday, informing him that he will replace an injured Tiger Woods in the Hero World Challenge (HWC).
Straka was happy to take the opportunity. In the first round here at Albany on Thursday, the Austrian shot a three-under 69 to take the joint lead alongside three others - Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Tom Kim.
“I found out Monday around lunchtime. I was about to play some golf back in Birmingham - we’ve got like a little Ryder Cup-style event that we play just amongst the pros over there. That was supposed to be Tuesday-Wednesday. I’ve always watched this tournament, and it’s an honour to be here,” Straka said after the round.
Hovland hit the shot of the day - nearly making an albatross on the par-4 14th hole. Hovland unleashed a powerful drive on the 276-yard hole, and nearly sank it. The Norwegian made the easy putt for an eagle. Hovland could have finished with the sole lead, if not for a bogey on the 16th.
“I like drivable holes because when I’m hitting my driver well, I feel like I can be pretty aggressive,” Hovland said, when asked about the 14th hole.
Kim was quiet on the front-nine, making pars all the way through. He finished in style, carding birdies on the 11th, 14th and 18th holes.
Kim’s recent victories at Wyndham Championship and Shriners Children’s Open has established him as among the best young talents on the tour. His calm, composed show on Monday underlined his class.
Morikawa made a happy return to the venue where he got engaged last year. He is now a married man. “I got engaged last year, and I’ve come back a married man, Bahamas is a beautiful location in the beginning of December,” Morikawa said.
The scores (top five):
69: Tom Kim, Sepp Straka, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland; 70: Sam Burns
(The author is in Nassau on invitation from Hero MotoCorp)
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