Choi hopes to relive Masters magic at Augusta
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2005 US Masters | General | 06 Apr 2005
Asian strongman Choi Kyung-ju can’t wait for the US Masters to tee off on Thursday. Such was his keenness that he was the first player to tee off in Monday morning’s practice session.
The Korean star is looking to emulate last year’s magical finish where he played his way into Masters folklore en route to third place behind champion Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.
“I’m looking forward to the Masters, especially after a great finish last year. Augusta National Golf Club is definitely my favourite course to play on and I am expecting another good performance at the Masters this week,” said Choi in an email interview with asiantour.com.
Choi was in inspirational form 12 months ago. In the second round, he shot an outward 30, joining the legendary Greg Norman and Johnny Miller as a group of elite players who have achieved this feat.
Then in the final round, he sank an eagle two on the 11th, holing out from 219 yards with a five iron that sparked roars of approval from the crowds and a title charge. It was also only the third eagle on that hole in Masters history. Choi eventually closed with a 69 for a six-under-par 282 total, three behind the winner.
Choi recalled his glorious eagle. "I had 219 yards to the flag. Normally, I would hit with a 4 iron, but my caddy Andy Prodger thought it might be too much club and suggested that I hit a solid 5 iron instead. The green always runs from right to left for some reason. However, I clearly remember once my ball landed on the green, it started rolling straight towards the cup.
“I bogeyed that hole on the first three days, so in my mind I was thinking par would be good. I think that was probably why the ball went in because I wasn’t greedy. If I was thinking birdie all the way, I might have pressured myself too much, but instead I emptied my mind and was able to come up with a good shot,” Choi said.
His sensational run at the Masters and on the US PGA Tour where he is a two time winner has been a source of inspiration for Asian Tour players, with the likes of Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant having won co-sanctioned events with Europe this year. Choi plied his trade in the region in the 1990s before hitting the big league.
Choi, ranked 29th in the world, is looking forward to another title run at Augusta National. A recent equipment change where he switched to Nike Golf has given Choi a new drive.
“Last year, I had a few missed shots, especially from off the tee. This year, my driving accuracy has gone up, and my irons are feeling solid. I am adjusting well to the equipment switch and feel like the ball/club combination is working very well.
“My game hasn’t really been that bad this year, but I don’t think it really has been going the way I would have like to see it go. Once this is taken care of, I think I’ll be able to show a much more solid performance,” said Choi, who makes it a point to play in Asian Tour events at least once a year.
A rice farmer’s son, Choi is undoubtedly an inspiration to budding Asian Tour players. He grew up on the island of Wando, south of Korea and did not touch a golf club until the age of 16. But once he got hooked on the game, his dedication and talent earned him numerous victories around the region and he eventually broke through and earned a US PGA Tour card at the end of 1999.
In 2002, Choi won twice on the US PGA Tour, becoming only the fourth Asian to taste victory in America. Now, his goal is to win a Major.
“Before I played in the Masters, the event has always been a picture on the wall so to speak. It was always a golf event that I could only watch. Now that I’ve played in it for the past three years, it feels as if that fantasy has become a reality.
“I feel very proud to be playing at the Masters for the third year in a row, which is the first time for a Korean to do so. I feel a sense of nationalistic pride as well and I am determined to show it to the world.
“I feel like I will have a good performance. I have worked hard and I want to match my performance of last year,” said Choi, who will play the first two rounds with former Masters winner Mark O’Meara and Zach Johnson.
Source – Asian Tour