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Tank Becomes ‘Star of Stars’

Posted June. 05, 2007 04:57,   


“Tank” Choi Kyung-ju (37, Nike Golf) got his first win of the season in the U.S. Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour. This was a victory that came seven months after his last win at the Chrysler Championship last October and is the fifth win of his career. The win was all the more rewarding because it was considered a ‘major-class competition’ where the stars among the world’s top 50 golf players such as the ‘emperor of golf,’ Tiger Woods (U.S.A), Ernie Els (South Africa), Vijay Singh (Fiji) and Adam Scott (Australia) all turned out.

It happened at the final fourth round of the Memorial Tournament held at Muirfield Village Golf Club (Par 72) in Dublin, Ohio on June 4. Choi hit 8 birdies and a bogie, hitting a 7-under 65 during the final round, and with a total of 17-under 271, he claimed the winning trophy in his hands.

4R 24 Putts…A Dramatic Reversal -

At the time he finished the third round tied at seventh place, trailing the lead by five shots, no one imagined that Choi Kyung-ju would be the winner. But in the fourth round, after managing to make birdies in the 1st (Par 4) and 3rd holes (Par4), from the 6th hole onwards, Choi recorded a string of birdies for four straight holes; in an instant, his name was atop the leader board.

Choi then showed off his ‘tank power’ in the last three holes. Although his tee shot on the 16th (Par 3) and second shot on the 18th (Par 4) fell into the bunker, and although he hit his second shot on the 17th (Par 4) into the gallery, with a prompt approach and precise putting, he saved par and defended his victory. Choi made 24 putts, which is an average of only 1.45 putts per hole, and the average range of his driver shot was 292 yards, which was much higher than his average of 278.3 yards the day before.

Won in a Match Against the ‘Emperor of Golf’ -

Choi Kyung-ju recorded his first PGA Tour victory when he came out on top of the Compaq Classic in 2002, and up until the Chrysler Championship last year, he has claimed the title of champion four times. But they were all competitions that the ‘emperor of golf’ Tiger Woods had not participated in. This was because the competitions were not up to the standards of Woods, who is well-known to pick and choose the ones that he takes part in. But this tournament was different. Woods has taken part in this competition every year since his debut, with the exception of last year, when it was held right after the death of his father, Earl Woods.

The Memorial Tournament was founded by ‘living legend’ Jack Nicklaus in 1976. Every year, only 105 top players are invited. In 1977 and 1984, Nicklaus himself won the tournaments, while Woods claimed the trophy for three consecutive years starting from 1999. As it is a tournament in which most of the top rankers participate, the fierce competition among the players comes close to the four major tournaments: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship. Choi took part in this tournament seven times up until last year, during which he twice joined the top 10, ranking fifth in 2004, and tied at eighth in 2005.

Joining The Top Tier -

One of the requirements to be inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame is 10 PGA Tour wins. Choi has now passed the turning point with five tour wins, but if he keeps up the ability that he showed in this tournament, it does not seem like it will be too difficult to win another five. From this tournament, Choi Kyung-ju received 1.08 million dollars in prize money, his largest sum of prize money since his debut in the United States in 1999. Choi, who surpassed one million dollars in this season’s prize money rankings after the Players Championship last month, suddenly jumped from a prize ranking of 38th up to 8th ($2,162,629) place. If Choi is able to follow up this victory with good results in the U.S. Open, which begins on June 14, it is likely that his invitational fee will also reach that of the world’s top players.

Meanwhile, the ‘Big 3,’ Woods, Els and Singh finished the tournament tied at 15th place with 9-under 279.