Chois Eagle Not Enough

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- K.J. Choi's shot bounced a couple of times, then rolled and rolled and finally dropped straight into the cup.
 
On many Sundays at the Masters, that kind of shot could have been enough to win a green jacket. On this Sunday, it wound up as a footnote.
 
Choi became just the third player in Masters history to make eagle on the taxing 11th hole, a feat that clearly made it one of the best shots of the tournament. He also had a front-side 30 on Friday to tie a course record.
 
But he wound up in third place - a very nice result for the South Korean native, but never good enough to insert himself in the middle of the Phil Mickelson-Ernie Els drama.
 
'It was a very exciting and good tournament,' said Choi, who shot 3-under-par 69 and finished three shots behind Mickelson. 'I was feeling good today.'

The eagle was part of a back-nine charge that saw him go from 1-under to 6-under. Choi, a two-time winner on tour since he earned his card in 2000, shot 31 on the back nine, matching the scores of Mickelson, amateur Casey Wittenberg and Sergio Garcia, whose final-round 66 was the best round of the tournament and good for a fourth-place finish.
 
But Choi started the day three shots off the lead, and when he struggled on the front nine - just like the rest of the leaders - he essentially blew his chances at the green jacket.
 
He will long remember those two front-nine bogeys, the first on No. 7 where he hit his approach into a bunker at the back of the green and failed to save par, then another on No. 9 to push him four strokes behind his playing partner, Els, who was in the lead at the turn.
 
Choi joined Brad Faxon (2002) and Terry Barber (1962) as the only players to make an eagle on No. 11, which traditionally plays as one of the five toughest holes on the course.
 
Choi can take solace in knowing that neither Barber (12th) nor Faxon (fifth) were winners when they holed out from the fairway. Like them, though, Choi will get the traditional pair of crystal goblets the folks at Augusta National give as a prize for every eagle.
 
He won them the hard way.
 
He used a 5-iron to make the shot, and went it went in, he jumped and raised his fists as he bounced down the fairway. He acknowledged the thin margin between greatness and calamity on a hole that many players fear - especially on Sundays - taking their approach shots well right to avoid the water left of the green.
 
'If it didn't hit the hole, it's in the water,' which extends to the back of the green, he said.
 
It did go in, though, and wound up as the highlight of his week. Before this, Choi's best finish in a major was 15th in last year's Masters.
 
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