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.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.