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Korean Golfer Shakes Off Expectations of Victory, Hopes to Regain Honor

Korean Golfer Shakes Off Expectations of Victory, Hopes to Regain Honor

Posted May. 03, 2005 23:10,   


“Just give it some time. I’ll show you some results soon enough.”

Despite a shaky start to the season, his distinctive, relaxed smile was the same as always.

“Tank” KJ Choi (Nike Golf) usually roams the green on the U.S. PGA Tour, but on May 5 he will be competing in the SK Telecom Open (total purse: 500 million won) at the Ildong Lakes Golf Club (par 72) in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province. Choi held a pre-game press conference at the SK T-Tower on May 3, and expressed his unflagging confidence.

“My swing has become stable and satisfactory in terms of both direction and distance. Unfortunately, the results were less than satisfactory, but I expect to see good results within two or three months.”

KJ Choi, who will play before Korean fans for the first time in seven months since winning the SBS Championship in October 2004, made the top 10 in only one of the nine U.S. tournaments he participated in this year. He has dropped to 71st place ($413,670) in total winnings, and even suffered the indignity of not making it past the preliminary round in the BMW Asian Open (PGA European Tour), which he competed in just prior to his return to Korea.

Although hard pressed to “regain his honor,” Choi explained, “The psychological pressure that came from feeling like I had to do better seems to have been the problem,” and noted, “My drives and iron shots have gained more precision since last year.” In fact, the accuracy of Choi’s drives has jumped from 61.2 percent (146th place) to 71.9 percent (16th place), and his GIR (greens in regulation) shots have improved from 65.9 percent (76th place) to 67.7 percent (45th place).

Generally famed for his good deeds, Choi also said, “I want to do whatever I can to give hopes and dreams to children in need.”

He offered advice for weekend golfers as well. Stressing the importance of one’s “grip and tempo,” he said, “When holding the club, relax your hands and eliminate any space between the grip and your palms. That’s when you get real power.” He quipped, “You have to adjust your tempo, just like how your arms and legs strike a natural rhythm when you’re going up a flight of stairs.”

“King of Skins” Fred Couples (U.S.), who accompanied KJ Choi at the conference, stated, “I respect Choi for advancing to the U.S. unaided and on his own, and achieving outstanding results.”

The SK Telecom Open, which will continue through May 8, brings together top players from home and abroad, including last year’s champion Simon Yates (Scotland) and Sky Hill Open champion Kim Jong-duck (Nanosoul). Various gallery prizes, such as mobile phones, hotel stays, and golf goods, are up for grabs, and SBS TV and the SBS Golf channel will provide live coverage of the entire tournament.

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com