Choi just keeps plugging along at the Masters
Amid all the prominent names on the Masters leaderboard, there’s
one player who just doesn’t seem to fit.
Still right in the title mix after his third straight sub-par
round – even if no one seemed to notice – South Korea’s K.J. Choi
heads into Sunday’s finale at Augusta National just four strokes
off the lead. He’s right in the middle of a star-studded board that
includes three of the top four in the world golf rankings, No. 1
Tiger Woods, No. 3 Phil Mickelson and No. 4 Lee Westwood, plus
sentimental favorite Fred Couples.
“I’m really having a good time this week,” said Choi, who shot
a 2-under 70 that left him four strokes off Westwood’s pace, three
behind Mickelson and tied for third with Woods. “I feel good right
now, and I’m just going to keep to my routine and just keep on
praying. You never know how this tournament is going to
Choi has been paired all three rounds with Woods, and they’ve
matched each other virtually stroke for stroke. They’re both at
8-under 208, so they’ll get to play together one more time – in the
most important round of all.
“Unbelievable, absolutely fantastic,” said Choi, ranked 43rd
in the world. “I’m used to him after three rounds, so having the
same pairing is fantastic.”
The South Korean made only five bogeys over the first three
rounds. He’s not doing anything all that spectacular, but he’s not
made any major mistakes, either.
That’s how he had hoped it would go, especially when he learned
he’d play with Woods the first two rounds. The world’s best player
was coming off a five-month layoff and a humiliating sex scandal,
so no one would be paying much attention to Choi.
That was again the case Saturday, when Augusta National was in
an uproar as spectacular shots kept falling all over the back nine.
Mickelson made back-to-back eagles. Woods ripped off three straight
birdies to get back in contention. The 50-year-old Couples and
Ricky Barnes both holed out chips.
Choi was quietly doing some good work, too.
“He’s great,” Woods said. “I’ve played with him a lot over
the years. K.J. is just a great guy, and on top of that he’s
learned a lot of English. Our conversations are getting a little
bit longer now.”
Over the first three rounds Choi is even on the front side, but
has played the back at a combined 8 under. Does he need to be more
aggressive on the opening holes Sunday?
“I don’t know,” Choi replied. “Hopefully I can hit the tee
shots and get going a couple of holes and made birdies early, get
off to a good start.”
When Augusta National announced the pairings for Thursday and
Friday, Choi welcomed the idea of playing with Woods, saying he
enjoyed big crowds and didn’t mind if fans were mostly focused on
his playing partner.
But Choi has won over the crowds with his relaxed demeanor, and
he keeps himself calm by praying and singing religious hymns.
“The fans are really showing their love equally to everybody,
especially to me,” he said. “Every hole, I feel like the crowds,
they are supporting me as well. It’s just been a very comfortable
If he can again put together something along the lines of his
opening 67, he might just steal away that green jacket from all
this big-name rivals.
“Everybody is playing so well right now. It’s really hard to
determine at this stage what the winning score is going to be and
who’s going to come out on top.
“I’m just going to get some good rest and get prepared.”