South Koreas K.J. Choi, the one everybody likes to refer to as a former power lifter, was the best golfer on the premises all week.
Nobody made more than the 19 birdies he carded over 72 holes en route to his fourth PGA TOUR victory. And the one eagle he made came on Sundays first hole. Can you say jump start? Nobody pressed him the rest of the day.
Choi also finished in the top 10 in both putting stats and tied for fifth in greens in regulation. It was his second victory in this event and the fourth time in four tries he has closed the deal in the final round on the PGA TOUR when sleeping on the lead Saturday night.
The win also jumped Choi from No. 68 to No. 26 on the U.S. money list, earning him a spot in next weeks Tour Championship in Atlanta. This is the same Tour Championship that will be missing Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Dont count out Choi, the man they call Tank, at East Lake.
It was hard to find a weakness in Chois game all week. He followed an opening 68 with a smooth 66, a Saturday 70 and a smashing Sunday 67 to finish 13-under and four shots ahead of the field.
The 36-year-old Choi has now triumphed four times on the PGA TOUR. No Asian player has won more. Afterward, in his broken English, he talked about how proud this made him. He also said he very much looked forward to playing in the Tour Championship. That was refreshing to hear.
The player Choi replaced in the top 30 was Jose Maria Olazabal. Two players'Rich Beem and Bubba Dickerson were knocked out of the top 125 in this season-ending full field event. Moving in were Mark Calcavecchia and Paul Goydos, Goydos coming all the way from 160.
Ernie Els protected his spot'at the beginning of the week he ranked 30 on the money list'and will also be playing at East Lake. He hasnt won in the States since the 2004 Memorial. He was poised to win Sunday morning, one shot off Chois lead, but made too many mistakes early.
Choi, on the other hand, never wavered. His swing is not aesthetic but it is effective. There is nothing artsy about his action. But there is a certain poetic grace to the industriousness of the way he works his way around a golf course.
Let us celebrate, as the season winds down, a victory for a man from a country where the women golfers have arrived on the LPGA in waves. Let us celebrate, for now, with an ode to Choi.
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