HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- South Korean golfer K.J. Choi had to use a translator to talk to reporters following Thursday's opening round of the Verizon Heritage.
On the course, though, his game spoke for itself.
Choi continued his season of strong play with a 7-under-par 64 to grab the early lead in his first Heritage since 2001.
He said he spent extra time before his round working on his putting and put extra focus on his tee shots, always an important aspect on the tree-lined fairways of Harbour Town Golf Links. The extra work resulted in eight birdies and just one bogey, giving him a two-stroke lead over Mike Weir and Greg Owen.
"The aura, the atmosphere is a little different than last week," said Choi, who played all four rounds with Tiger Woods at last week's Masters, where he finished tied for fourth. "But when you step on the tee box on the first hole, you still get that competitive pressure, so I felt that. I just tried to play focused
today and play my best, and I think I played a great round."
Choi's scoring average this year is 69.25, second-best on tour. He finished second in the Transitions Championship in March, has five other top-25 finishes and hasn't missed a cut. Three of his seven career PGA Tour victories have come when shooting an opening score of 64 or better.
"When I'm on the golf course my confidence is very strong," Choi said. "I feel very confident that wherever I hit the ball I'm going to at least get it up and down. That's how good I think I'm playing these days."
Perfect weather led to great scoring conditions early. Thirteen players in the morning groups had scores of 4 under or better. Among them was Sergio Garcia, who checked in with a 67 and is tied for fourth with 12 others, including Davis Love III, Bill Haas and Jim Furyk.
"I shot a decent round," said Garcia, who is playing in his first Heritage since 2002. "I like the course."
Weir also benefited from an early tee time, finishing with an eagle, four birdies and just one bogey. "When you play in the morning, the greens are great, the wind was down," said Weir, playing here for the first time since tying for 10th in 1999. "You want to take advantage of that, because the golf course as the day goes on only gets tougher."
Defending champion Brian Gay got off to a rocky start in the afternoon and is tied for 77th after finishing with a 72. His four bogeys were double what he had the entire tournament last year.
"The wind is tricky," Gay said. "It swirls around and it's tough to figure out where it's coming from when you're standing out there on the fairway. It's tough to pull a club sometimes. ... I'll come out tomorrow morning and post a good one, I hope."
Beaufort golfer Mark Anderson, a member of the Nationwide Tour playing on an exemption, got off to a solid start, going 3 under through 16 holes. He double-bogeyed 17 but finished with par on 18 and sits six strokes off the lead.
"I'm a little bit disappointed in the way I finished today," Anderson said. "I feel like I let a couple of shots go. But for leaving a lot of shots out there, I'm glad to be at 1 under."
Today's second round starts at 7:20 a.m. The field will be reduced to the low 70 scores, plus ties, after the completion of the round.