K.J. Choi overcame the nerves of playing in his first LG Skins Game to take the first-day lead Saturday in the 26th annual event.
Choi rolled in a three-foot birdie putt worth $75,000 on the third hole, and earned that amount.
That gave him the lead over Phil Mickelson, who earned $25,000 with an eagle-three on the fourth hole. Two-time defending champion Stephen Ames and Rocco Mediate, playing in his first Skins Game, were shut out on the first nine holes.
With the foursome halving the final five holes of the front nine, $900,000 of the event's $1-million purse is still up for grabs in today's final nine holes at Indian Wells Golf Resort.
"Everybody here is a good player, good games and good short-game players," Choi said. "I was just really focused on 100 yards and inside."
The focus paid off for Choi, who missed a 12-foot birdie on the first hole that could have won a skin but then made four birdies in the next seven holes. Choi halved the second hole with Mediate with birdies, then won the $75,000 carry-over money on the third with an easy three-foot birdie while Mickelson and Ames missed the green long and Mediate missed a 90-foot birdie putt.
The first hole today will be worth $250,000.
"That's a lot of money on the first hole," said Ames, who won $650,000 of his $675,000 in the 2007 Skins Game on the final hole. "We'll see how well everyone sleeps tonight."
Brendan Jones made a four-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, giving Australia a nine-under 63 and a share of the lead with Spain after the third round of the World Cup of Golf at Shenzhen, China. Both teams were at 22-under 194. . . . Annika Sorenstam chipped in for eagle on the par-five 18th hole to give herself and Suzann Pettersen a one-up victory over Inbee Park and Eun Hee Ji in the opening best-ball match in the Lexus Cup and help the International team tie Asia with six points going into today's 12 singles matches at Singapore Island Country Club.
Fill wins downhill opener
Peter Fill of Italy won the opening men's downhill of the World Cup season, completing the course at Lake Louise, Canada, in 1 minute 47.40 seconds. Hans Olsson of Switzerland was second in 1:47.56 and George Streitberger of Austria was third in 1:47.61. . . . Tessa Worley of France overcame driving snow and poor visibility at Aspen, Colo., to win a giant slalom for her first World Cup victory. Worley completed the second run over the 45-gate course in 1 minute 08:99 seconds, finishing with a combined time of 2:12.86. Tanja Poutiainen of Finland was second in 2:13.14, Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was third in 2:13.57 and Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo., was fourth in 2:13.73. . . . Ola Vigen Hattestad led a Norwegian sweep at Kuusamo, Finland, in the men's cross-country World Cup ski sprint opener. Petra Majdic of Slovenia won the women's event for her third consecutive victory. Simon Ammann of Switzerland had jumps of 131 and 126.5 meters to win the World Cup ski jumping season opener.
Friedel establishes record
Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel made a record 167th consecutive English Premier League appearance, holding Fulham to a 0-0 tie at Birmingham.
Friedel, a 37-year-old American who started the streak in August 2004 with Blackburn, surpassed the record set by Portsmouth goalkeeper David James in April.
Shaun Maloney scored in the 29th minute and Celtic extended its lead over Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League with a 1-0 win over Inverness. Rangers lost to Hearts, 2-1. Celtic has 43 points, seven ahead of second-place Rangers. . . . Vedad Ibisevic scored his 17th goal to help Hoffenheim, the leader in Germany's Bundesliga, defeat Arminia Bielefeld, 3-0, for its eighth win in nine games. . . . Lionel Messi scored twice and Barcelona solidified its lead in the Spanish league with a 3-0 victory at Sevilla. Barcelona has an unbeaten streak of 19 games.