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NISSAN OPEN NOTES

Kim can play after getting `a slap in face'

February 17, 2007|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Anthony Kim, 21, is the youngest player on the PGA Tour this year, but he said he already feels like he belongs.

In fact, he felt like he belonged last year when he turned professional after his junior year at Oklahoma State. Unfortunately for Kim, tournament directors did not feel the same.

"I thought I was going to have an opportunity to get my card through sponsor exemptions, but obviously I feel like I got snubbed there," said Kim, who earned his card through qualifying school.

"I was 165th on the money list in two tournaments that other people are playing 30 events in. Not to get an opportunity when people said they were going to give me an opportunity is a slap in the face."

Kim, a La Quinta High graduate, made $338,067 at the Valero Texas Open and Southern Farm Bureau Classic last fall. Another $157,247 over the final four tournaments and he would have finished among the top 150 on the season money list and been given a conditional exemption this season.

Kim, who is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption because his Q-school status wasn't enough to get into the popular event, said he applied for several sponsor exemptions, but his calls went unreturned.

"Having the chance to get my card or at least bypassing two stages of Q-school would have been nice," he said. "But to not have that opportunity was pretty tough to swallow."

Kim had to play all three stages of qualifying school, a grueling five-week stretch that he blames for his slow start this season. He missed three cuts in four tournaments this year before shooting 72-69 at Riviera to make the cut in the Nissan Open.

Now that he has his card, Kim said he won't hold a grudge against those tournaments that ignored him last year -- maybe.

"Obviously, I'm here now and they're going to be asking me to play in their tournament," he said. "We'll just play it by ear right now and we'll see what happens. I'm definitely going to remember what happened. "

*

Rocco Mediate shot five-under 66 Friday, behind only the 65s by Phil Mickelson and Charles Howell III.

Not bad for a guy who nearly quit last year because of recurring back problems.

Mediate, 44, even tried his hand at television, working for the Golf Channel at the first three events this year, but he decided to give the game another try.

"What am I going to do, announce on television?" the loquacious Mediate said. "You don't get to talk much. You get four, five, six seconds. I can't say anything in less than 30 seconds."

*

A day after six players did not finish because of darkness, only one did not finish Friday.

George McNeill was one under through 17 holes and hit his approach shot to within 40 feet on the ninth hole -- his 18th --before deciding it was too dark to continue.

The cut line is one over, so McNeill would have to five-putt to miss the cut, but he decided putting in the dark wasn't worth the risk. He'll return today at 7 a.m. to face the 40-footer in daylight. Then the third-round pairings will be announced.

McNeill's playing partners in the final group, Steve Conway and John Merrick, former UCLA standouts, opted to finish, but neither had a chance to make the cut by then.

*

Defending champion Rory Sabbatini had back spasms Friday morning and required treatment before he teed off, but he shot one-under 70 and made the cut at three under.

*

The always colorful Ian Poulter wasn't so vibrant on the 16th hole Friday, when he four-putted from five feet. After reaching in regulation, he missed his birdie putt, then took a frustration swipe at the ball backhanded and between his legs. That missed by three feet and he missed the comebacker for a double-bogey five. Poulter shot 75 and finished at 10 over.

*

Notables who missed the cut: Justin Leonard, Luke Donald, David Duval, Duffy Waldorf and Brad Faxon.

It is Faxon's fourth consecutive missed cut to start the year and seventh in a row.

Jason Gore withdrew after his first-round 77 because of personal reasons.

*

Times staff writer Thomas Bonk contributed to this report.

peter.yoon@latimes.com

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