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U.S. Ryder Cup players successful at Kapalua


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POSTED: Monday, January 12, 2009

KAPALUA, Maui » The success of the United States Ryder Cup team spilled over at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship with six of the 12 players touring the expansive Plantation Course.

This week, talk centered on 2009 among those team members here for the winners-only tournament, but the memories of that huge victory at Valhalla Golf Club were still fresh on everyone's minds. Young star Anthony Kim, whose 5-and-4 win over Sergio Garcia on that September day set the tone for Team USA, continued to have a hot hand nearly four months later.

Granted, Australian Geoff Ogilvy walked away with the title in the third wire-to-wire victory since the Mercedes shifted to Maui in 1999, but the half-dozen Americans teeing it up this week didn't do half bad.

Kim settled for a tie for second with fellow American Davis Love III, some six shots off the blistering 24-under 268 pace set by Ogilvy. Kim was one of three Ryder Cup players to finish in the top 10. Justin Leonard was alone in fifth at 16-under 276, with Kenny Perry tying for sixth just one shot back at 15-under 277.

Had Boo Weekley not four-putted from 13 feet at the closing hole on Friday, it's likely he would have landed higher up the leaderboard, but he overcame that double bogey to tie for 15th.

Stewart Cink got off to a bad start yesterday, going 4 over on the first four holes, but still managed to shoot a 1-over 74 for a tie for 24th with J.B. Holmes rounding out the Ryder Cup contingent here this week with a tie for 29th.

"I came here to Maui this week with some goals in mind that I will keep to myself," Kim said.

"I've been competing hard the last few months and I wanted to continue that here this week, even though I haven't played that much the last few weeks. It was a very adventurous week. I got to do a lot of fun activities like snorkeling, but I still came here wanting to win. Geoff played a tremendous tournament and my hat goes off to him."

After Ogilvy carded four bogeys on the first eight holes, Kim closed to within one shot of the lead thanks to a birdie on nine. Ogilvy built that advantage to three shots with an eagle at the par-5 closing hole on the front side and went on to go 5 under over the next six holes to seal the deal.

"I knew he was going to make some birdies," Kim said. "So I had to do the same. And I just haven't been able to read the greens on the back nine this week. I grinded on every single putt and hit quite a few good putts that didn't go in. So I knew he was just teasing me for a little while there, and he was going to make some birdies and I had to keep it going. Unfortunately, I couldn't do it."

What Kim almost did was manage a double eagle at the par-5 18th. He used a 3-wood from 278 yards at the famed 663-yard closing hole to land his ball only 7 inches from the cup for a tap-in eagle.

"I've had three double-eagles, but nothing like that," Kim said. "I had just come off a 3-putt on 17, so I wasn't very happy. It looked like the hole was on an island, really. But I hit a great shot and it worked out perfectly and almost went in."

Leonard had a near-perfect round on Saturday with an 8-under 65 to play himself into contention. He followed it with a 3-under 70 yesterday, but just couldn't put enough good shots together to make a run. Still, the Dallas resident had another good tournament here. It was his fifth top-10 finish at the Mercedes and third top five here on Maui.

"I'm still trying to knock some of the rust off," Leonard said. "I wasn't able to match what I did on Saturday—and I needed to do that to make a run—but I'm still pleased with how I played. The first day, I probably got out of it what I should have, shooting 1 over and not having much feel.

"My distance control wasn't very good, which is very important to play well on this golf course. But you know, I kind of got all that taken care of, and I've played pretty nicely the last couple of days."

Perry played well himself, kidding the guys all week that at age 48, he's the old man in this elite field of 33 players. Last year, his goal was to play at the Ryder Cup in his home state of Kentucky. Recently, he's had several family members dealing with prolonged illnesses, but still came over here to play with his peers.

"I knocked it around pretty good this week," Perry said. "It was tough out there with a lot of different conditions each day. It tests your game."