K.J. Choi Interview - AT&T National
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2007 AT&T National | Round Four | 09 Jul 2007
Q: We welcome K.J. Choi, the 2007 AT&T National Hosted by Tiger Woods Champion. K.J., you’re fourth in the FedExCup standings right now and pretty much assured yourself a spot on this year’s Presidents Cup team. First of all, congratulations and why don’t you give some general comments on today.
K.J. Choi: I just want to thank the Lord for just bringing me this win and all of the success I’ve had in my career. Just, you know, going up to the fourth in the FedExCup rankings and securing my spot in the Presidents Cup team is just unbelievable. I feel great right now. It just gives me more confidence.
Q: You said earlier this week when someone asked you about winning Tiger’s event it was too early to talk about it; can you now talk about you have now won in the span of a month events hosted by two of the best players in the game?
K.J. Choi: I’m just shocked at myself being able to win Jack and Tiger’s tournament. You know, I can’t really express in words what this means to me. All I can say is I just did my best. I just believed in the Lord, felt like He was with me all this time. I just tried to make myself as comfortable as I could, just pray hard, and just give it my best shot and approach it like a professional. And I think all of those factored in to my win this week. This is—you know, this tournament is just too big for me to really absorb right now.
But it’s a very big win for me and definitely the biggest win of my career.
Q: When you won Jack’s tournament, you talked about how you learned to play the game by watching tapes of Jack Nicklaus. The fist-pump you gave when you made the birdie on 17, was that from watching Tiger?
K.J. Choi: Natural. Came out naturally. (Laughter).
It’s just a gesture that just came out naturally, given the circumstances, the atmosphere, all of the fans being there, just cheering me on, it just came out naturally.
Q: Which was the bigger thrill from you, getting a trophy from Jack or getting a trophy from Tiger?
K.J. Choi: You know, both wins are just very special to me. I mean, I can’t really say which one is more—which one makes me feel better.
They are both valuable. One thing I can say is Tiger, this week’s trophy is a lot heavier than Jack’s trophy, if that means anything. (Laughter).
But just winning both events, it just tells me that – all I can say is that I have very – a lot of respect for both players and to be able to win in their tournament is just—I can’t even express in words. I just feel very honored to be able to win their events.
Q: Did you feel a little sympathy for your playing partner, Stuart Appleby, considering how he struggled so early?
K.J. Choi: You know, it would have been good to see him play better because, you know, it just—we can feed off of each other if both of us play better, play well.
It was, you know, unfortunate to see him struggling in the beginning. I think those 3-putts, a lot of 3-putts that he made, made it difficult for him.
But I know exactly how it feels because I’ve gone through that process, and I’ve been in that position, too. I don’t feel sympathy, I just feel that he wasn’t in the best condition today.
Q: Can you tell us the impact that you think this will have on your countrymen, North and South?
K.J. Choi: It’s definitely something that brings happiness to Koreans, whether it’s north Koreans or South Koreans and Koreans in general, I think it’s something that can be embraced with happiness. It’s a big, meaningful win.
Q: What were you thinking about on your bunker shot on 17?
K.J. Choi: You know, all this week, I had a good feel for my bunker shots. I wasn’t trying to put it in the hole. All I was trying to do was save par.
But I dropped the ball, I put the ball exactly where I wanted to. And I guess the speed was right, the undulation, the speed, everything was right and it just went in. It was something that I didn’t even expect. It surprised me.
Q: One of your fans had a sign that said, “Go Tank.” Can you talk about that nickname and how you got it?
K.J. Choi: I think I like—I mean, I like it. I think the meaning that’s in it, it’s similar to what I think, how I’ve lived my life. It’s never looking back, don’t look back, just move forward just like a tank. Just progress. It’s how I felt when I first came over to the U.S. starting out, you know, it was a new culture, new language, everything was new. There were a lot of hurdles for me to overcome, but I just took it day-by-day, just believed in myself, trusted in the Lord and just moved forward with it and tried my best.
I think that’s symbolic of what Tank is.
Q: Who give you the game?
K.J. Choi: I think Ian Baker-Finch, four years ago.
During one of the telecasts, I think he mentioned something about, you know, K.J., he’s moving on like a tank or something like that. You could confirm it with him. But that’s what we know of.
Q: Talk about the shot that you put into the bunker, and what went through your mind after the ball went in the bunker?
K.J. Choi: I cut a five-yard shot and after the wind blew it, it went into seven yards and bounced in the deep rough and went into the bunker and it a sidehill lie. My iron shot was very, very powerful this week and I missed a seven-yard. It was just one bad miss.
Q: What iron?
K.J. Choi: 5-iron, 192 yards.
Q: If you continue to win at this rate, we liable to start calling you the best player never to have won a major. Starting to wonder, what is your potential and do you have majors in your sights? And part two of that question, you’ve mentioned the Lord two or three times, is this a recent conversion, or have you been religious for a long time?
K.J. Choi: You know, this is my sixth win starting—being the first player to come from Korea and play on the PGA TOUR and it’s my sixth win. Definitely winning a major is my goal. That’s my life goal, my life dream is to become the first Asian to ever have won a major. And that’s something that I’m going to strive very hard and work at it.
And with regards to religion, I started—I found the Lord back in ‘92 December when I met my wife. Through her, I was able to meet the Lord and He’s helped me very much since then.
Q: Anthony Kim was saying that in Korea, you’re even bigger than Se Ri Pak. Do you agree with that?
K.J. Choi: I think we’re both, Se Ri and I, are walking a similar path right now. You can’t really compare the two of us, who is better, who is more popular; you can’t really say that.
I think what she has done on the LPGA Tour is tremendous. You know, she’s like a big sister. She was a pioneer on the LPGA Tour. There may be another Se Ri Pak that’s following in her footsteps. There may be another K.J. Choi that’s following in my footsteps. So it’s really hard to measure and compare the two of us. I think she’s a tremendous player, too.
Q: Several players said that they had trouble with the bumpy greens, especially on the back nine. Did that bother you? How tough was it to putt as the greens got more worn and the temperature went up?
K.J. Choi: I don’t think the bumpy greens were actually the problem. I think it was more of the speed. It looked fast, but actually when you actually putted it, it wasn’t as fast. So I think that’s what confused—it confused me, but I think that’s what confused everybody else.
And it wasn’t – I mean, there weren’t spike marks, the bumpy greens, that wasn’t a factor. I misread – the putts that I missed, I misread them.
Q: Did you notice the gallery here, this is an international town basically; did you notice that they favored you or have any reaction either way?
K.J. Choi: You know, this is probably the most exciting tournament in terms of gallery, in terms of fan support that I’ve actually felt in my career on the PGA TOUR.
The fans were just tremendous. They were just—they were terrific, very diverse. I mean, even the American fans were very supportive of me. They were cheering me on. But, you know, especially the Korean fans, they were great. I can’t even put into words how they have supported me here. It’s probably the biggest Korean gallery that I’ve seen on the PGA TOUR that I’ve seen.
This definitely was a very exciting one for me, and I felt like seeing this diverse gallery and the fans out there, that it’s not just a win for me; it’s a win for everybody else. We’re here to share the fun, the excitement.
Q: You made a lot of good putts this week, and I saw you use a wide grip, why are you using that?
K.J. Choi: I first saw that grip on TV watching an infomercial last year.
You know, when you watch informercials, half the time you don’t believe it, half the time you believe it and you don’t know what’s right. But I just kept on watching it, and I felt like – I was convinced that it might work for me. So I ordered one. It’s the Super Stroke Grip. When I first got it, it was ugly, it was big. I didn’t want to – but I practiced with it and it actually felt good. So I kept with it, but I was too, you know, I wasn’t sure if I could just bring it out on TOUR. I was very hesitant because it was so big and ugly.
But I kind of gathered the courage to bring it out here and for me, it’s all about business here. If you perform well, there’s a lot of money involved. I felt like that I had to go with my feel and use what I feel confident in. And when I used it, it actually, you know, you don’t use—it reduces the movement of your wrist, and you just use your shoulders and it just makes the ball roll better and it gives me confidence. So that’s why, you know, I used it this week.
Q: How much does it cost?
K.J. Choi: I don’t know. (Laughter) Free!
Q: Would you mind going through your card really quick.
K.J. Choi: No. 4, I hit a driver, 147 yards and 9-iron and three feet, birdie.
No. 8, I hit a driver, and 90 yards and sand wedge and four feet and birdie.
No. 10 is 215, and 4-iron, left side and 3-putt, bogey.
No. 11, I hit a driver and second shot 195 yards and then a 4-iron left side, over the green and chipped up to 25 feet and 2-putt, bogey.
No. 12, I hit a 3-wood 154 yards and an 8-iron, and 20 feet, and I make the birdie.
13,196 yards and 4-iron in the left and almost 30 feet and 3-putt and bogey.
No. 15, my favorite hole this week, I hit a drive and 139 yards and 9-iron, pitching wedge. Had a downhill putt 15 feet and made it for birdie.
17, hit 3-wood and second shot 192 yards, 5-iron into the bunker and then nine yards bunker shot and make the birdie.
Source – AT&T National