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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    Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

    By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

    There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

    Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

    In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

    “It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

    “That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”

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    Woods does everything but win

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:57 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a proud man who spent the majority of his prime scoffing at silver linings and small victories, Tiger Woods needed little cajoling to look at the bright side Sunday at Carnoustie.

    Sure, after taking the solo lead at The Open with nine holes to go, the first words out of Woods’ mouth were that he was “a little ticked off at myself” for squandering an opportunity to capture his 15th major title, and his first in more than a decade. And that immediate reaction was justified: In the stiffest winds of the week, he played his last eight holes in 2 over, missed low on a 6-footer on the final green and wound up in a tie for sixth, three shots behind his playing partner, Francesco Molinari.

    “Today was a day,” Woods said, “that I had a great opportunity.”

    But here’s where we take a deep breath.

    Tiger Woods led the freakin’ Open Championship with nine holes to play.

    Imagine typing those words three months ago. Six months ago. Nine months ago. Twelve months ago.

    The scenario was improbable.

    Inconceivable.

    Impossible.

    At this time last year, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.

    Just last fall, he’d admitted that he didn’t know what the future held. Playing a major, let alone contending in one, seemed like a reasonable goal.

    This year he’s showed signs of softening, of being kinder and gentler. He appeared more eager to engage with his peers. More appreciative of battling the game’s young stars inside the ropes. More likely to express his vulnerabilities. Now 42, he finally seemed at peace with accepting his role as an elder statesman.

    One major, any major, would be the most meaningful title of his career, and he suggested this week that his best chance would come in an Open, where oldies-but-goodies Tom Watson (age 59) and Greg Norman (53) have nearly stolen the claret jug over the past decade.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?

    “Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?” he shrugged.

    Many analysts howled at Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy across the early rounds here at big, brawny and brutish Carnoustie. He led the field in driving accuracy but routinely left himself 200-plus yards for his approach shots, relying heavily on some vintage iron play. Even par through 36 holes, he stepped on the gas Saturday, during the most benign day for scoring, carding a 66 to get within striking distance of the leaders.

    Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. Hearing the roars, watching WOODS rise on the yellow leaderboards, it was as though we’d been transported to the mid-2000s, to a time when he’d play solidly, not spectacularly, and watch as his lesser opponents crumbled. On the same ancient links that Ben Hogan took his lone Open title, in 1953, four years after having his legs crushed in a head-on crash with a Greyhound bus, Woods seemed on the verge of scripting his own incredible comeback.

    Because Jordan Spieth was tumbling down the board, the beginning of a birdie-less 76.

    Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.

    Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue.

    Once Woods hit one of the shots of the championship on 10 – hoisting a 151-yard pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker, over a steep lip, over a burn, to 20 feet – the outcome seemed preordained.

    “For a while,” McIlroy conceded, “I thought Tiger was going to win.”

    So did Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different.”

    But perhaps it’s no coincidence that once Woods took the lead for the first time, he frittered it away almost immediately. That’s what happened Saturday, when he shared the lead on the back nine and promptly made bogey. On Sunday, he drove into thick fescue on 11, then rocketed his second shot into the crowd, ricocheting off a fan’s shoulder, and then another’s iPhone, and settling in more hay. He was too cute with his flop shot, leaving it short of the green, and then missed an 8-footer for bogey. He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. He’d never again pull closer than two shots.

    “It will be interesting to see going forward, because this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while,” McIlroy said. “Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”

    Over the daunting closing stretch, Woods watched helplessly as Molinari, as reliable as the tide coming in off the North Sea, plodded his way to victory. With Woods’ hopes for a playoff already slim, Molinari feathered a wedge to 5 feet on the closing hole. Woods marched grim-faced to the bridge, never turning around to acknowledge his playing partner’s finishing blow. He waved his black cap and raised his mallet-style putter to a roaring crowd – knowledgeable fans who were appreciative not just of Woods making his first Open start since 2015, but actually coming close to winning the damn thing.

    “Oh, it was a blast,” Woods would say afterward. “I need to try to keep it in perspective, because at the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing the Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”

    Last weekend, Woods sat in a box at Wimbledon to watch Serena Williams contend for a 24th major title. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate – an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity. Woods is 15 months removed from a fourth back surgery on an already brittle body; Williams nearly secured the most prestigious championship in tennis less than a year after suffering serious complications during childbirth.

    “She’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Woods said. “I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, I’m blessed.”

    But Woods didn’t need to wait for that phone call to find some solace. Waiting for him afterward were his two kids, Sam, 11, and Charlie, 9, both of whom were either too young or not yet born when Tiger last won a major in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.

    Choking up, Woods said, “I told them I tried, and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.' It’s pretty emotional, because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.

    “To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. It’s such a great feeling.”

    His media obligations done, Woods climbed up the elevated walkway, on his way to the back entrance of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Spa. He was surrounded by his usual entourage, but also two new, younger additions to his clan.

    Sam adhered to the strict Sunday dress code, wearing a black tank top and red shorts. But Charlie’s attire may have been even more appropriate. On the day his dad nearly authored the greatest sports story ever, he chose a red Nike T-shirt with a bold message emblazoned on the front, in big, block letters:

    LOVE THE HATERS.

    After this unbelievable performance, after Tiger Woods nearly won The Open, are there really any left?

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    Molinari hopes to inspire others as Rocca inspired him

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:43 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Francesco Molinari was 12 years old when Costantino Rocca came within a playoff of becoming Italy’s first major champion at the 1995 Open at St. Andrews.

    He remembers being inspired by Rocca’s play and motivated by the notion that he could one day be the player who would bring home his country’s first Grand Slam title. As he reflected on that moment late Sunday at Carnoustie it sunk in what his victory at The Open might mean.

    “To achieve something like this is on another level,” said Molinari, who closed with a final-round 69 for a two-stroke victory. “Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close. Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the claret jug.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Molinari had already made plenty of headlines this year back home in Italy with victories at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and the Quicken Loans National earlier this month on the PGA Tour.

    A major is sure to intensify that attention. How much attention, however, may be contingent on Sunday’s finish at the German Grand Prix.

    “It depends on if Ferrari won today. If they won, they'll probably get the headlines,” Molinari laughed. “But, no, obviously, it would be massive news. It was big news. The last round already was big news in Italy.”

    Molinari won’t have any competition for the front page on Monday; Ferrari didn’t win the German Grand Prix.

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    Schauffele on close call: Nothing but a positive

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Playing in a final group at a major for the first time, Xander Schauffele awkwardly splashed out of three pot bunkers, went out in 40 and still somehow had a chance to win at Carnoustie.

    Playing the 17th hole, tied with Francesco Molinari, Schauffele flared his approach shot into the right rough and couldn’t get up and down for par. He dropped one shot behind Molinari, and then two, after the Italian birdied the final hole.

    Just like that, Schauffele was doomed to a runner-up finish at The Open.

    “A little bit of disappointment,” he said. “Obviously when you don’t win, you’re disappointed. Hats off to Francesco. I looked up on 17 and saw he got to 8 under, which is just incredible golf and an incredible finish.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Schauffele did well to give himself a chance. The 24-year-old was in the final group with Spieth, but both youngsters fell off the pace after rocky starts. The Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year birdied the 14th but couldn’t convert a 15-footer on the treacherous 16th that would have given him a one-shot cushion.

    “It’s going to go in the memory bank as a positive,” he said. “I had a chance to win a major championship. I was in the final group. I had to face a little bit of adversity early in the round, and I still gave myself a chance. Anyone can look at it however they want to, but I’m going to look at is as a positive moving forward and try to learn how to handle the situations a little better next time.”