And now K.J. Choi finds himself on the dubiously distinctive short list of Best Players Never To Have Won A Major.
Actually, in Chois case, being a member of this exclusive group is a compliment mainly because he just joined. Only very good players are allowed into this club. Colin Montgomerie has belonged way too long. Sergio Garcia is itching to escape.
Choi, still in his 30s and positioned solidly in the top 10 in the world, is nothing if not methodical. Watching him win the years second event, its hard not to think his time will come in major championships.
Very difficult, windy, Choi said after finishing three ahead of runner-up Rory Sabbatini at Waialae Country Club
Going into Sunday, Chois four-shot lead looked downright bankable. Four times previously he had led after 54 holes and all four times he had closed the deal. His final round scores in those victories were 67, 66, 68 and 67, respectively, respectfully and respectably.
This time he struggled. He hit just four of 14 fairways and shot a closing 1-over-par 71. The win was the thing.
K.J. is known to bring it home, said Kevin Na, one of Chois closest pursuers going into the final round. But everyone makes mistakes.
Its just that Chois comfort level was so high. On his bag the words, The New Chairman appeared in bold letters. And Choi doesnt just rhyme with joy. It also rhymes with poi, a onetime staple in local Hawaiians diet. Chois victory especially delighted the many people of Korean descent who live on the Hawaiian Islands. The New Chairman, by the way, is a Korean luxury car.
For his part Steve Marino looks ready to become a staple on TOUR leaderboards. Not long ago he was toiling on the Gateway Tour. But his improvement has been steady. He even bears a slight resemblance to a young Mark Calcavecchia, which is not a bad thing at all. And on a weekend when the NFL was determining its playoff final four, it just seemed right to have a Marino in the thick of things. This Marino wound up tied for fourth.
Another surprise was 29-year-old rookie Tim Wilkinson from New Zealand. Only Choi had fewer strokes than Wilkinson after three rounds thanks to the blazing 8-under 62 posted by Wilkinson (playing in just his third PGA TOUR event) Saturday. It was the best round of the day. But, unfortunately for Wilkinson, he carded the worst round of the day (78) Sunday to drop to T25.
While were at it, whats up with Vijay Singh? Prior to last weeks Mercedes Championship Singh held a press conference during which he waxed on and on about his new trainer and how the swing changes he spent working on were finally starting to pay off.
Singh also talked enthusiastically about how much he loved Hawaii and how much he enjoyed playing golf there. Then the defending champion went out and posted a rather indifferent tie for 12th at Kapalua followed by a disastrous Sunday start at the Sony Open (bogey, double bogey, par, par, bogey) to finish with a final-round 73 and a disappointing tie for 45th place.
Singh turns 45 next month and once again the questions about age catching up with him will begin to resurface.
Anyway, the big difference between Chois ability five years ago and his highly-evolved present skill set is the short game. His bunker play was flawless at Sony. And as Nick Faldo reminded us, relating a comment from Chois current caddie (and Faldos former looper) Andy Prodger: He (Choi) putted like God.
This will have to continue if Choi ever hopes to win a major. See, theres this guy named Woods ... and ... well ... never mind for now ... thats a subject for another day.
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