Choi, Clarke tied for the first round lead at Sanford International

Sanford International

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO/SANFORD SPORTS) — The 4th Sanford International began on Friday with the first round. Miguel Ángel Jiménez is the defending champion, while fellow former champions Rocco Mediate and Steve Stricker are both back in this year’s field.

K.J. Choi and Darren Clarke both birdie the 18th hole to move to 7-under par to share the first round lead.

Matt Gogel, Rod Pampling, Robert Karlsson are tied for third at 6-under par. 2019 Sanford International Champion Rocco Mediate posted an opening round of 67, and is tied for 19th place, as is 2018 winner Steve Stricker.

Some notes from Friday’s first round.

K.J. Choi, 33-30 – 63 (-7)

  • After playing the first 10 holes in 1-under, Choi made four birdies and eagled No. 16 to shoot 6-under 30 on the back nine.
  • In his bogey-free round, Choi hit 13 greens in regulation and was 5-for-5 in scrambling. He led the field in putts (25).
  • Choi’s 63 is the lowest round of his rookie season on PGA TOUR Champions (42 rounds).
  • This matches the lowest first-round score in Sanford International history and is one stroke shy of the tournament’s 18-hole scoring record (62; Darren Clarke, 2020; Scott Parel, 2020).
  • This is the first time Choi has co-led after any round on PGA TOUR Champions. His previous best position on the leaderboard after any round was T3 on five different occasions.
  • A win by Choi on Sunday would be the first victory on PGA TOUR Champions by a player from South Korea.
  • With a win on Sunday, Choi would be the 11th different rookie to win on PGA TOUR Champions during the 2020-21 season (16th win by a rookie).
  • With a win on Sunday, Choi would be the 13th first-time winner on PGA TOUR Champions during the 2020-21 season. The 12 first-time winners are the most in any single season in Champions Tour history.
  • Choi’s last win was at the 2012 CJ Invitational hosted by K.J. Choi on the Asian Tour. With a win on Sunday, Choi would snap a winless streak of eight years, 11 months and 15 days (or 3,272 days).
    • Choi’s last win on the PGA TOUR was THE 2011 PLAYERS Championship. In all, Choi won eight times on the PGA TOUR.
  • Making his 14th start on PGA TOUR Champions, Choi has four top-10s, including a T3 finish at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

Darren Clarke, 31-32 – 63 (-7)

  • Clarke birdied four holes on each nine to shoot 7-under 63.
  • This matches his lowest first-round score on PGA TOUR Champions (2021 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai).
  • This is the third time Clarke has led/co-led after the first round on PGA TOUR Champions.
    • Led at the 2021 Regions Tradition (finished T8)
    • Co-led at The 2021 Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex (finished third)
  • This is Clarke’s second-lowest round at the Sanford International (10 rounds). He shares the 18-hole scoring record at this event (62, R2, 2020).
  • Making his fourth appearance at the Sanford International, Clarke’s best finish is T12 (2020).
  • Making his 27th start this season, Clarke has two wins (2020 TimberTech Championship, 2021 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai) as part of seven top-10 finishes.

Other Notes

  • Robert Karlsson, who will serve as a vice captain for Team Europe at next week’s Ryder Cup, shot 6-under 64 and sits T3.
  • Matt Gogel, playing on a sponsor exemption, carded a bogey-free 6-under 64 for his lowest round on PGA TOUR Champions and sits T3.
  • Rod Pampling, who won the Boeing Classic in August, is T3 after posting 6-under 64.
  • Brandt Jobe birdied three of his last four holes en route to 6-under 64.
  • Steven Alker, who has an active streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes to start his PGA TOUR Champions career, sits T7 after shooting 5-under 65.
  • Mario Tiziani, playing on a sponsor exemption, eagled the par-5 fourth hole to fire 5-under 29 on the front nine. He is T7 after posting 65.
  • Two players in this week’s field have connections to South Dakota and here is their standing on the leaderboard after the first round:
    • Tom Byrum – T11 (66)
    • Rich Beem – T19 (67)
  • Jay Jurecic, who left his job as a middle school math teacher this summer to pursue professional golf, shot 3-over 73 in the first round. Jurecic shot 61 at the open qualifier on Tuesday to take medalist honors.

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