Choi Fires Record-Tying 64; We Get Picture of the Tank, Other Patriotic Scenes

Choi Fires Record-Tying 64; We Get Picture of the Tank, Other Patriotic Scenes

2011 Players Champion K.J. Choi tied the Aronimink Golf Club course record with a -6, 64 Friday morning. The 41-year-old South Korean matched the mark set by defending champion Justin Rose in second round of last year's tournament. Choi, winner of the 2007 AT&T National at Congressional, was unaware that he had tied the record until he reached the press room and was so notified. Speaking through a translator, Choi said that although he's "not really a records kind of guy," he is nonetheless "very pleased" with his accomplishment. He currently leads at a total -7, two shots clear of Justin Leonard, Chris Riley, Bo Van Pelt and Charlie Wi, the last of whom finished in fourth place at last year's AT&T.

Oh, and as Matt P. demanded last evening, we got some pretty sweet shots of that tank parked behind the ninth tee. All sorts of other patriotic pictures and goings on after the jump…
As the event is held over the July 4th weekend, AT&T National tournament reps have gone to great lengths to honor members of our military. Throughout the week, on-course volunteers have encouraged fans entering through the main gate to sign the tournament's "Salute to the Troops" wall. The idea was such a hit that the entire wall was covered after only three days. Wall number one has since been moved inside the media center to make way for wall number two, which is once again filling up with all kinds of drawings and well-wishes. My favorite section on the first wall is a intricately drawn re-creation of the famous "Flag Raising on Iwo Jima." Pictures of the wall and the drawing may be found below.

Amongst other tributes, Lockheed Martin is encouraging fans to send complimentary care packages to the troops. The packages are fully paid for by Lockheed and sent along with a personalized note from you, the sender.

And, for those members of the military actually in attendance, we have the 215-yard, par-3 17th. Behind the 17th tee sits the Lockheed Martin Military Pavilion (yes, Lockheed is everywhere), an exclusive chalet accessible only to members of the military. Admission is free with a military ID, granting our veterans, those still actively enlisted and their families the opportunity to watch the action from one the most gorgeous locales on the course.

It is next to this tent, by the way, that you will find the "massive freaking tank" we discussed yesterday. After realizing we came up short in not having pictures for our  post, we brought a camera along and snapped multiple shots of the metal monster.  They, like the pictures of the Salute the Troops wall and a full shot of the 17th hole, appear at the bottom of the post.

For one more pinch of red, white and blue given the patriotic aesthetic at 17, the tournament's traditionally yellow flagstick has been replaced by something a bit more obviously American. As was the case last year, the pros are taking aim at a single American flag, handled only by two members of the military who spend the day green side. After taking a look at the picture below, you'll understand why we included the 17th on our list of the best vantage points on the course.

You may also remember that we promised details on the tournament merchandise tent. So now that we've covered our tribute to the military, we can move on to something just as wonderfully American—capitalism!

Looking for an AT&T National polo shirt? Well you've come to the right place; so long, of course, as you have $73 on you.

Yes, the prices are absolutely absurd. Still, though the tent itself may be a legal exercise in highway robbery, the goods found within remain pretty cool. Cool enough, in fact, that the prices haven't stopped fans from flooding the tent and selling out its contents by the end of each day. By Sunday of last year's tournament, there was little to be had that wasn't already out of stock. Much of the same appears to the be the case in 2011. If you're looking for something on the more reasonable side, they've got a few faded Aronimink t-shirts that caught my eye at $25 each. Here's the bottom line on the tent—bring money and get there early. Otherwise, you may be out of luck.

Finishing up with a bit more on the golf, three notable names missed the cut Friday afternoon following a difficult Thursday and Friday. Jim Furyk (+8), Sean O'Hair (+7) and Camilo Villegas (+5) all failed to qualify for weekend play. Furyk and O'Hair are obviously disappointing cuts due to their local roots, while we wish Villegas would have hung around so we could see more of this.

Defending champion Justin Rose followed up an even-par start with a +2, 72 on Friday. He sits nine-shots behind the leader Choi and made the +4 cut line by just two.

We'll be back tomorrow with Round 3 coverage from the AT&T National. In the meantime, here's another clip from Caddyshack and pictures from the course as promised. Enjoy your weekends, guys.

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

It may be time for Sixers fans to start setting money aside for some Big Baller Brand gear.

Sources tell ESPN's Chris Haynes that Lonzo Ball is considering working out for the Sixers, who hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

"A final decision will be made once Ball's agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN," Haynes writes.

Haynes also states that the main concern between Ball and the Sixers would be how the former UCLA point guard would fit in on a team that plans to feature 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons as the primary ball handler.

This news comes after Ball declined to work out for the Boston Celtics, who own the top pick in June's draft.

"We don't deal with [Ball's camp] all that much," Celtics president Danny Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub radio during The Toucher and Rich Show Thursday. "They didn't show up at the combine, which is very common — many of the top 10 or 15 players don't show up for the combine. ... We just tried to get him in for a workout and they politely said no."

Ball's father, LaVar, has previously stated several times that his son would only work out for the Lakers, who will select at No. 2. Plus, Lonzo Ball has said he would rather be drafted by the home state Lakers instead of going at the top of the draft.

"I'm a family dude," Ball said during an interview on ESPN last month. "All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me."

Even with all the pre-draft posturing and the outspoken nature of his father, Ball has proven to be a top-tier talent. The 6-foot-6 Ball averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds as a freshman at UCLA as he was named a consensus first-team All-American.

We previously looked at how Ball would blend with the Sixers, which one analyst called a "perfect" fit.

The Sixers may be having similar thoughts.

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph is making the Phillies' situation at first base quite tricky.

Joseph on Thursday continued building on his red-hot month of May by going 2 for 5 with a game-tying homer in the seventh and a walk-off RBI single in the 11th inning of the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's hit .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

That'll hold off the eye-popping production of Rhys Hoskins for now (see Future Phillies Report).

Extending it further, Joseph has played 148 career games with 499 plate appearances in the majors. That's just a bit less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. He's provided above-average offensive production from first base.

Most Phillies fans know Joseph's story — big-time catching prospect acquired from the Giants in the 2012 Hunter Pence trade, series of concussions, position switch, hot start to 2016 at Triple A, promotion, production.

It was a long, winding road for Joseph, and when he was asked Thursday if he expected to be this solid 500 plate appearances into his major-league career, he brought up health.

"My goals were to be healthy, to be able to play in 162 games and that's all I really want to be able to do," Joseph said. "That's something I haven't been able to do in my career and it's something that I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to the challenge to go through the mental challenge and the physical challenge and I'd say that's my No. 1 goal, that's my only goal. Because if I'm able to stay healthy and stay on the field then I'm able to enjoy this great game and getting to share it with my teammates."

As for the May adjustments, Joseph said the standard things about communicating with hitting coach Matt Stairs, working in the cage and staying consistent with his approach. His timing wasn't there in April but it's certainly been there in May.

"There's no telling what clicks in a guy, it's just a matter of making a minor adjustment sometimes, possibly getting better pitches to hit," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's no telling what it is, but he just looks a lot more comfortable at the plate."

Bullpen bouncing back
It's been completely overshadowed by the Phillies' recent skid but the bullpen has pitched very well of late. The unit that was overworked and criticized in April has combined to allow just two earned runs in its last 22 2/3 innings. On Thursday, six Phillies relievers — Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez — pitched six scoreless innings.

Neshek made the play of the day, diving and landing on his head to snag a pop-up bunt attempt before turning and firing to first base for the double play.

"I said early on that I think it's one of our strengths," Mackanin said of the bullpen. "And after today you can see why I have a lot of confidence in them."

Neshek, who has pitched in the postseason for four different teams, said Thursday that he thinks this is one of the best bullpens he's ever been around. It's not lip service, either. The unit was terrible in April, there's no getting around that. But some of that really did have to do with the overuse. Setup men were entering in the sixth inning. Opportunities for holds and saves were few and far between. Roles were not defined.

Stuff-wise, repertoire-wise, there is a lot to like about the Phillies' bullpen. Neris, Benoit and Neshek all offer vastly different looks and have track records of success.

While Neshek didn't totally endorse Benoit's comments from a few weeks ago that everything would settle down once the relievers knew specifically which inning they'd pitch, he did say that he too feels most comfortable coming in during a hold opportunity.

"I think my numbers show that I'm best in those situations, coming into a hold opportunity when we're ahead," Neshek said. "We haven't had much of those lately."

The horrendous start to the season for the Phillies' relievers will skew their stats all season long, but it's nice to see that at least one aspect of this team is starting to get into a groove.