Tiger replacement Sepp Straka shares lead in the Bahamas

Dec 1, 2022, 1:37 AM | Updated: 3:41 pm
Sepp Straka, of Austria, tosses a ball to his caddie during the first round of the Hero World Chall...

Sepp Straka, of Austria, tosses a ball to his caddie during the first round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

              Viktor Hovland, of Norway, left, and Collin Morikawa, of the United States, look for the flag on the green before the tee off at the first hole during the first round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Collin Morikawa, of the United States, studies his putt on the 17th green during the first round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Viktor Hovland, of Norway, hits from the rough at the 16th hole during the first round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Viktor Hovland, of Norway, lines up a putt on the 17th green during the first round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Tom Kim, of South Korea, chips onto the third green during the first round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Tom Kim, of South Korea, lines up a putt on the third green during the first round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Sepp Straka, of Austria watches his shot on the 9th green during a practice round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Sepp Straka, of Austria, tosses a ball to his caddie during the first round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Sepp Straka was home in Alabama preparing for a big week of golf matches at his club, a friend’s wedding and the SEC Championship game. And then Tiger Woods couldn’t play in the Bahamas because of a foot injury, and Straka had a change in plans.

It worked out OK for him.

The replacement for Woods managed six birdies at rain-soaked Albany for a 3-under 69 that gave him a share of the lead at the Hero World Challenge with defending champion Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim and Collin Morikawa.

Straka was first off in the pro-am, the time usually occupied by Woods. He was paired with Justin Thomas, who typically plays the first round with Woods.

Did he get anything else from the tournament host?

“The iron game wasn’t as good as his, but maybe rubbed off a little bit on me,” Straka. “So yeah, that was nice.”

Hovland was the only player to reach 4 under at any point before a bogey on the 16th. He is trying to join Woods as the only players to win this holiday event back-to-back.

Hovland is staying with Morikawa again. A year ago, Morikawa had a five-shot lead and needed a win to reach No. 1 in the world when he shot 76 in the final round and Hovland rallied with a 66 to win.

And then there’s Kim, the 20-year-old rising star from South Korea who already has won twice on the PGA Tour and delivered on a big stage in the Presidents Cup. His week began by meeting Woods for the first time — “It was really cool. I have to pinch myself a little bit,” he said — and then he somehow went bogey-free at Albany.

The course typically yields low scores, except for rain that left foot-deep puddles in some of the sandy areas and made chipping difficult from tight lies on soggy turf.

Kim was superb with his short game. He was in the front bunker on the par-3 17th and clipped the shot of muddied sand with such speed that it checked 3 feet from the hole.

Cameron Young, who came within inches of an ace on the hole, smiled at his father and said, “He’s allergic to bogeys.”

Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year and one of seven newcomers to the elite, 20-man field, had a 71 and was among only eight players who broke par.

Straka is the only player to have never played in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup at Albany. He is No. 29 in the world, a winner for the first time at the Honda Classic, earlier in the year, and had no intention of being in the Bahamas.

He is a member at Shoal Creek, and this was the week of the club matches against Greystone. J.T. Poston, a two-time winner on tour, is getting married on Friday. The big day was Saturday, when Georgia plays LSU in Atlanta.

He was about to tee off Monday afternoon to get ready for the matches when the call came in to say Woods had plantar fasciitis in his right foot and would not be playing.

It was an easy decision for Straka, who was born and raised in Austria and moved to Valdosta, Georgia, when he was 14, played at Georgia and bounces seamlessly between German and Southern in speech.

“It was a huge opportunity and just awesome to be here,” he said.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, a runner-up at the World Challenge last year, had a 72. He needs to win to get back to No. 1 in the world.

As for Woods, he kept up his presence at the tournament spending time in the television booth. He has not played since the British Open in July.

___

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James appears to tear up after passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to bec...
Associated Press

LeBron sets NBA career scoring mark in Lakers’ loss to OKC

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James became the NBA’s career scoring leader on a stepback jumper late in the third quarter, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record during his 38-point performance in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 133-130 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. James surpassed the mark held since April 1984 by Abdul-Jabbar, who […]
23 hours ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James tosses powder in the air prior to the team's NBA basketball...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: LeBron James’ run to the NBA scoring record

Associated Press photographers have captured LeBron James for the entirety of his 20-year career, starting from when he was an 18-year-old rookie to now as a 38-year-old who just became the most prolific scorer in NBA history. That covers both his stints in Cleveland, his two championships in Miami, the third title when he returned […]
23 hours ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, scores to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA...
Associated Press

Reaction to LeBron becoming the NBA’s career scoring leader

Reaction from social media and elsewhere poured in after LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. ___ “To be in a position to break one of the all-time records of most points ever scored, it’s quite remarkable. I think it’s such a testament to him. And he’s not just sort […]
23 hours ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, poses with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after passing Abdul-J...
Associated Press

Scoring King: James passes Abdul-Jabbar for NBA points mark

LeBron James got the first official statistic of his NBA career on a rebound. His next entry on the stat sheet was an assist. Even then, points weren’t the priority. They never were. Somehow, he became the most prolific scorer in NBA history anyway. It finally happened Tuesday night, the kid from Akron, Ohio, connecting […]
23 hours ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is surrounded by cameras after scoring to pass Kareem Abdul...
Associated Press

LeBron James makes NBA history on a star-filled night in LA

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James has been thriving under formidable pressure for his entire adult life. An arena packed with celebrities, his entire family and thousands of raucous Lakers fans demanding to see a slice of NBA history was nothing the King couldn’t handle. James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA career scoring record Tuesday night […]
23 hours ago
Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., right, pulls in the ball as Minnesota Timberwolves cente...
Associated Press

Jokic posts triple-double by halftime, Nuggets rout Wolves

DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic may not always dazzle with his athleticism. He sure does with his numbers. Jokic posted his 19th triple-double of the season by halftime and the Denver Nuggets rode a 49-point first quarter to a 146-112 rout of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. Jokic finished with 20 points, 16 assists […]
23 hours ago
Tiger replacement Sepp Straka shares lead in the Bahamas