Let the Game Do the Talking - Chois For Real


PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- K.J. Choi speaks in broken English. But he's learning. And with the way things are going in 2002, he'll have to become fluent pretty quickly!
Not to worry, though. This 32-year old from Korea is content for now to let his clubs handle most of the talking for him. I can't tell you how impressed Mark Lye and I were in watching him run away with the Tampa Bay Classic Presented by Buick.
Shooting 17-under at the Copperhead Course at the Westin Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., is something special. Especially when the heat index was hovering over 100 degrees each day, and also considering the course wasn't really there for the taking in the first place.
To win by seven shots required Choi to be on his best behavior. And he was. Everything went right! He led the field in putting after coming into the week ranked 32nd on the PGA Tour for the year. He was tied for eighth in greens in regulation after arriving no better than 129th on the year, and he drove the ball better than he had in weeks. He ranked 42nd in the field after ranking 151st on the year. He made 24 birdies, which is miraculous considering no other player managed more than 18 for the week. Guess that's how you win by seven shots!
K.J. Choi is a breath of fresh air in the most polite way possible. Always with a smile it seems, he acknowledges the cameras and plays to the crowd in almost a 'shucks' sort of way that forces you to take an interest.
And while the win moves him into the Tour Championship qualifying position he probably only dreamed of, his stature back home is no doubt far greater than we could even imagine.
'Back in Korea, I have the spotlight, the main attraction,' Choi said. 'The media over here is starting to recognize my talent and I appreciate all the media attention and it is increasing by tournament.'
Choi went on to talk about how a second win in the United States will have a big impact in Korea because it will prove Koreans can make it on the PGA Tour. I'd say he's made it all right.
K.J. Choi earned a PGA Tour card at Doral at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament finals nearly three years ago. Steadily he's making the most of the opportunity and climbing the ladder in one of the toughest professions out there. As I see it, it's great for the game, great for Korea and great for the PGA Tour.
Commissioner Tim Finchem's World Golf Championship events are being staged each year now, but maybe we don't need them. Look at the events without the $5 million purse, and lo and behold, we get a 'worldly' winner who's glad for the opportunity he has, not just the chance to play for the biggest prize.
K.J. Choi is a multiple winner now in 2002, just like Tiger and Ernie and Phil. And he'll tee it up at the Mercedes Championships just like them as well. And with what we saw in Palm Harbor over the weekend, he might just be side by side with them at the next President's Cup!
He might need to brush up even further on his English, however. Because if the former weightlifter keeps up his pace, he, and not Tiger, may just be the fresh new story everybody's after.