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Wi Goes up in Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic
Charlie Wi fired an 8-under 64 to take the first-round lead in the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. The $4.7 million event, the final full-field tournament of the year on the PGA Tour, started Thursday on the Magnolia and Palm courses in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Wi, a native of Seoul, South Korea, who now makes his home in California, carded eight birdies, an eagle on the par-5 seventh and two bogeys on the Palm. The 40-year-old, who's yet to log a victory on the PGA Tour, has a one-stroke lead over Tommy Gainey and Camilo Villagas, who shot their 65s on Palm.
Wi told reporters he took advantage of Palm's four par-5s, which he rolled through in 5-under par. "Palm Course is a course where you need to score and all the par 5s are reachable, so I felt like I took advantage of them really well, and what really got me going today was no. 7 when I made that eagle putt from about 15 feet and I felt like I had something special going today," he said. "But other than that, I know the scores are low out there, and I'm very pleased with 8 under today."
In 24 starts this year, Wi has earned $1,680,309, good for 45th on the 2012 money list. Since this is the last event of the year, many players are seeking high finishes this week to get within the top-125 money earners, a position that will guarantee their Tour card for next year.
In addition to Wi, Gainey has already secured his card for 2013. The player known as "Two Gloves" for his penchant of wearing a golf glove on each hand notched his first Tour win in the McGladrey Classic in mid-October and ranks 56th in earnings with $1,524,703.
Despite not having to worry about next year, Gainey wants more out of the season. "It's all about winning again for me," said the 37-year-old South Carolinian, who needed just 24 putts Thursday. "You know, my goal has not been achieved yet. And that is to get to Augusta."
Even if he wins, Gainey won't qualify for Augusta National as only the top-30 earners at the end of this week qualify are guaranteed a spot in the 2013 Masters. But two victories in a year look better on a resume than one.
Villegas, however, is on the other end of the spectrum. The Colombian entered the tournament known as the "Disney" ranked 150th on the money list and needs a high finish this week to get into the top-125.
"You know, this game is a tough one," said the three-time Tour winner, who's only had four top-25 finishes in 24 events this season. "It plays with you a little bit, and it's time to just play with the process and get going and have fun with it, because again, even though it gets tough out here sometimes, we're very fortunate to do what we do. And it was a nice start and we'll keep working on it."
Added the 30-year-old, who carded eight birdies and a bogey Thursday: "Sometimes we take certain things for granted, and that's what happens. The game comes and kind of bites us and the last year and a half hasn't been pretty, hasn't been too much fun, I can tell you that, even though I kept putting the hours and the hours.
"You know what, sometimes it doesn't matter, you put those hours and you're not having fun, you're not going to get much out of it. So I've definitely changed a little bit the attitude, and yes, I've been playing a lot better and now only having more fun."
Sharing fourth after posting 66s on Palm are Brian Harman, Scott Stallings and Russell Knox. Ken Duke, Matt Every, Kevin Chappell, Colt Knost, Matt Bettencourt and Brendan Steel all shot 67s on Palm.
Tied for 13th after carding 68s at Palm are Marco Dawson, Dicky Pride, Robert Garrigus, Harris English and Mark Anderson. Henrik Stenson, Charlie Beljan, Chez Reavie, Kevin Streelman and Charles Howell III posted their 68s at Magnolia.
For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/r/leaderboard.
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