Choi-ce Win KJ Captures Memorial

By Associated PressJune 3, 2007, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Twenty years separated two images of Jack Nicklaus, both meaningful in their own way to K.J. Choi.
 
Nicklaus was the champion who filled every page of a pictorial instruction book that Choi studied religiously as a teenager in South Korea, a gift from his physical education teacher who encouraged him to pursue a career in golf.
 
K.J. Choi
K.J. Choi won for the fifth time in his PGA TOUR career. (WireImage)
'As I started reading it, I could understand why he was such a great golfer, because all the things that were written really started to make sense,' Choi said. 'That's how I really got into golf, by reading the book.'
 
Nicklaus was the tournament host at the Memorial who stood behind the 18th green Sunday afternoon with a proud smile and hearty handshake for Choi, who closed with a 7-under 65 for a one-shot victory over Ryan Moore.
 
'Thank you, Jack,' Choi said to him.
 
Indeed, it was a textbook performance.
 
Choi finished off his string of four birdies on the front nine with a 7-iron he carved around the trees lining the right side of the ninth fairway into 8 feet.
 
'A cut shot, Jack-style,' Choi said with a laugh.
 
Then came a series of pars that were equally significant, all made with clutch putts. Choi took only 12 putts on the back nine, finishing with a 7-foot par save from the bunker on the 16th, a 15-foot par save from the gallery behind the 17th green, and a tricky 5-foot save from the bunker on the 18th hole that ultimately gave him his fifth career victory on the PGA TOUR.
 
Considering the host and the history, it was by far his biggest.
 
'I just feel very honored and very happy to be living in the same time as Jack is living, and to win his tournament is so meaningful to me,' Choi said. 'I can only think that this was meant to be.'
 
It certainly wasn't for those trying to catch him.
 
Rod Pampling had a three-shot lead going into the final round, which was delayed an hour in the morning when rain pounded Muirfield Village. He made a late bid with a 30-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole to get within one shot, then promptly fired his approach on the 17th over the green and into the gallery, taking bogey.
 
'We were trying to guess the wind,' Pampling said. 'That was a really solid shot I hit in there. It was just straight at the stick. Unfortunately, we picked the breeze right-to-left, and when we got down to the green, it was helping us.'
 
He wound up with a 72 and tied for third with Kenny Perry, who shot 63 and was among half-dozen players in a wild chase.
 
Adam Scott overcame a blunder on the 11th when he couldn't clear the creek out of the deep rough. He birdied the 15th and 16th holes to get within one shot, but he three-putted from the fringe on the 17th for bogey. He added a bogey from the edge of the bunker on the 18th that only cost him money, closing with a 70 to tie for fifth.
 
'It would have been nice to have a chance on 18,' Scott said. 'A bad read, a bad putt on 17 ended that.'
 
Moore was mistake-free after opening with a bogey, and he made a torrid charge at the end with five straight birdies. His approach to the 18th came up 40 feet short, and he two-putted for par and a 66.
 
'To play slightly poorly early in the round ... to all of a sudden jump myself back into it those last few holes, I couldn't be happier right now,' Moore said. 'I'll definitely build some confidence from it and keep moving forward.'
 
Choi finished at 17-under 271 and earned $1.08 million.
 
Kenny Perry had the best round, 9 under through 15 holes until finishing with three pars for a 63 to tie for third with Pampling. Sean O'Hair had another solid performance, closed with a 70 and was another shot back with Stewart Cink (69) and Fredrik Jacobson (68).
 
Tiger Woods made progress in his final tournament before the U.S. Open. He finally holed his share of putts and closed with a 67 to tie for 15th, then headed for Oakmont for one final practice round.
 
'It was progressing all week, which was nice,' Woods said.
 
Woods walked to the practice range in the morning studying a weather map on his cell phone, and it looked as though storms would threaten most of the afternoon. All it did was soften the course and turn the final round into a shootout.
 
Even so, Pampling had a chance to set the pace. He led by three shots and had said if he kept making birdies, everyone would have to work hard to catch him. He didn't make his first birdie until the par-5 seventh.
 
Choi didn't have the most sensational stretch of birdies, but perhaps the most timely. Oddly enough, his big run began with a par. He hit into the water trying to reach the par-5 fifth hole in two, but saved par with a 6-foot putt.
 
Then came a 10-foot birdie on the sixth, a two-putt birdie from 30 feet on the seventh, and he took the lead for the first time with a 12-foot birdie on the par-3 eighth. And with trees slightly blocking his angle from the right side of the fairway at No. 9, his approach spun back 8 feet below the cup for his fourth straight birdie to go out in 30.
 
He sprinkled in great par saves from the bunker on No. 10 and from behind the 14th green, one of the most difficult shots. His final birdie came with a two-putt on the 17th, and then came the succession of clutch par putts.
 
Most of those were right-to-left, which Choi calls 'hook putts.' Those are his favorites, because his first victory in Japan came with such a putt from 15 feet on the final hole at the Ube Kosan Open. That victory earned him an invitation to the Memorial in 1999.
 
Just his luck, he was paired with Nicklaus in the third round that year, and the man in the book came to life.
 
The greatest thrill was Sunday afternoon, Nicklaus at his side, the crystal trophy between them.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”