Date: July 03, 2009
Author: PA Sport

Kim fires, Elk in the hunt

Anthony Kim got his AT&T National title defence off to the best possible start at Congressional Country Club but has tournament host Tiger Woods right on his tail and Australian veteran Steve Elkington not far behind. American Kim shot a course-record eight-under-par, bogey-free 62 on Thursday to set an early target for the late-starting world No.1 and then saw Woods post a 64 to take a share of second place overnight. Elkington birdied three of the last six holes to fire a bogey-free 65 to lie in outright fifth place at five-under. Stuart Appleby, Swede Daniel Chopra and American Jim Furyk are a further stroke back after rounds of 66, while Rod Pampling is tied for ninth after a three-under-par round. Kiwi teenager Danny Lee is also handily placed after an opening 68 to be in a tie for 14th. Woods was making up for lost time having missed last year&aposs second edition of his own event, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and honours US servicemen and women, due to injury. Playing alongside Charley Hoffman and Lucas Glover, the man who succeeded him as US Open champion at Bethpage Black 10 days ago, Woods sent down seven birdies and one bogey on the par-70, 7,255-yard Blue Course for a 64 to match fellow Americans DA Points and Bryce Molder. England&aposs Justin Rose put bad recent form behind him, having missed three cuts in succession, with a three-under 67 that leaves him five shots behind Kim. A Ryder Cup hero for the US at Valhalla last September, Kim has struggled with injuries all year and he admitted earlier this week his confidence had been at rock bottom after missing the cut at The Players Championship in early May. Yet he has turned a corner recently with a tie for 16th at the US Open two weeks ago and last week&aposs tie for 11th at the Travelers Championship. That improvement continued at Congressional as Kim, starting early and playing the back nine first, made the turn at two under with a 33 and came home with six birdies in 28. He even missed a birdie putt at the last, the par-five ninth, but had the luxury of a tap-in for par and a 62. “It was a good day,” Kim said. “I really thought my way around the course.” “I did a good job of picking some intermediate targets and some better lines than we have been this whole year and I think that&aposs what has led to the good play.” “It&aposs been a tough year, it really has. The injuries have not allowed me to swing the way I wanted to and we&aposre finally getting to that point where I can.” “So I&aposm looking forward to keeping the ball in play and making a couple of putts.” Glover had kept pace with Woods early on to get to three-under after seven holes but, having continued playing following his Bethpage Black heroics, the American struggled with three bogeys and one birdie on the back nine to finish with a 69. Meanwhile, blistering heat and a blistered foot served only to bring out the best in young German star Martin Kaymer as Aussie Scott Strange also got off to a great start in the opening round of the Open de France. Kaymer, 24, began the week with a course record-equalling nine-under 62 at Le Golf National – 10 better than Padraig Harrington, who now has a fight on his hands to avoid a fifth successive missed cut just two weeks before his bid for a British Open hat-trick at Turnberry. So bad was Kaymer&aposs right foot that as well as being seen by a doctor he had a hole cut in his golf shoe to allow him to play Wednesday&aposs pro-am. With the help of his three partners he won that by four with an amazing 16-under best-ball of 55, but to be only seven worse than that on his own underlined what a massive talent he is. Strange is among a group of five players three shots back in a tie for second place at six-under. Also at six-under are England&aposs 2006 winner John Bickerton, Thai Thongchai Jaidee, Swede Peter Hanson and Argentina&aposs Rafa Echenique. Aussies Marcus Fraser and Richard Green are in a share of 20th place at three-under-par. Kiwis Michael Campbell (tied for 130th) and Mark Brown (tied for 151st) are well down the field, shooting four-over 75 and 79 respectively. Campbell failed to sink a single birdie while Brown managed two but also suffered two double bogies and a horrendous eight at the par-three 2nd. Harrington was paired with Ian Poulter, runner-up to him at Royal Birkdale last year and to Swede Henrik Stenson in May&aposs Players Championship in Florida, but they both finished down the field on one-over. Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, without a top-10 finish since he was runner-up in this event last year, returned a 69, but major winners Jose Maria Olazabal, Angel Cabrera and John Daly all fared worse than Harrington. Daly was already eight-over when he quit with a bad back on the 17th, Olazabal had a 74 and the 75 of Masters champion Cabrera meant he even finished five behind his 20-year-old son Federico. The youngster was even on the leaderboard early in the day at three-under, but then matched Poulter&aposs seven on the last. Miguel Angel Jimenez, whose 500th European Tour event began with a hook into the water, hit back for a 67 and fellow Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, the defending champion, matched that with five birdies in the last six holes – after a triple bogey eight on the ninth.