South Korea’s Kang ruins good recovery in Players

Kang Sunghoon was distraught after opening the Players

Championship with a 75 – not because of the score, but how he got

it.

He opened with a quadruple-bogey 8, going long of the green into

an area of bushes and taking a couple of hacks to try to free his

ball. Ten holes later, Kang was 1-under par. But he finished with

four 5s on his card, including a ball in the water on the

island-green 17th hole for a double bogey.

”I’m right back to where I was after the first hole,” he said

to his caddie, Steve Hulka, as he walked in the tunnel of the

clubhouse.

Not quite, but point taken.

It was an amazing comeback from an 8, and it was helped by an

unusual confidence boost from Hulka.

”We walked off the green and Steve said, `There’s a big

elephant, and we’re going to eat it one bit at a time,”’ Kang

said.

On the par-5 second hole, Kang hit a 4-iron to 15 feet.

”I told him, `You just bit off the toe,”’ Hulka said. ”And

when he made the putt for eagle, I told him, `There goes the

leg.”’

Alas, the elephant returned by the end of the round, which

concluded with a three-putt bogey. Kang headed for the range,

trying to remember that there was some pretty good golf in the

middle of his round.

FALDO TALKS BACK: Tiger Woods was sarcastically dismissive of

comments from six-time major champion Nick Faldo that Woods has

lost his self-belief.

Faldo, an analyst for CBS Sports and Golf Channel, made the

remark in a conference call on Tuesday for The Players

Championship. Woods looked bemused and said he finds it interesting

to hear such comments because ”they’re not in my head.”

”They must have some kind of superpower I don’t know about,”

he said.

During the telecast on Thursday, Faldo defended his opinion

because of his experience.

”I hated it when analysts and commentators were saying, `He’s

thinking this. He’s thinking that,”’ Faldo said. ”But this

analyst here, I’ve walked the walk. I’ve been there and the bit I’m

trying to describe is self-belief. I’ve had self-belief when I was

playing my best and I also lost self-belief, and that’s obviously

when you get to the end of your career. I can generally recognize

when a player is on the range, striping it, which Tiger’s been

doing basically all season.

”But for a player, if you cannot walk from the practice ground

to the first tee … for me, he doesn’t have the self-belief he

really needs.”

SCHWARTZEL IN SOUTH AFRICA: Masters champion Bubba Watson

skipped The Players Championship to bond with his newly adopted

son. Dustin Johnson is recovering from a back injury. As for former

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel? His agent said he simply didn’t

want to come all the way from South Africa.

Chubby Chandler said Schwartzel faced a trip halfway around the

world to Florida, and then would have to go to Spain next week for

the World Match Play Championship. After that Schwartzel is playing

the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, then Memorial. After a week

off, he has the U.S. Open and then the Travelers Championship.

To be at Sawgrass would mean six tournaments in seven weeks and

an itinerary that went South Africa-U.S.-Spain-England-U.S.

SHRINKING FIELD: The 144-man field at The Players Championship

is shrinking even before the cut is made on Friday.

Five players withdrew from the opening round Thursday, and only

one of them (D.A. Points) did not start and was replaced in the

field.

Angel Cabrera, who made a 9 on the par-3 17th, withdrew for

”personal reasons” after a 78. Simon Dyson withdrew with a bad

back after a 76. Hunter Haas only made it through three holes (he

already was 4-over par) when he stopped with a bad back. Paul Casey

withdrew with a shoulder injury after a 42 on the front nine. Casey

injured his shoulder snowboarding over the holidays and missed the

first two months of the season.

It was the second year in a row that a player withdrew after a

42 on the front nine. A year ago, that was Tiger Woods with a left

Achilles tendon. Odds are Casey will play again before August.

DIVOTS: No one has ever won back-to-back at The Players

Championship, a streak that looks to be intact after K.J. Choi

opened with a 75 and was 10 shots behind. … Gary Woodland,

playing for the first time since he withdrew after the third round

at the Masters with a wrist injury, opened with a 77. … Ryder Cup

captain Davis Love III shot 72.