Na Yeon Choi excels on the course and in English

Na Yeon Choi won her first major at the U.S. Women’s Open, and

she closed the season by winning the LPGA Titleholders.

But her most remarkable performance came when the season was


Players for whom English is their second (or third) language can

get by in an interview with print reporters. They tend be a lot

more uncomfortable when cameras are involved. Choi showed how much

progress she has made the day after winning the Titleholders. She

went into the studio for a live segment on Golf Channel’s ”Morning


The LPGA staff helped her prepare for questions that might be

asked, and when it didn’t go according to script, Choi still

handled it beautifully.

That wasn’t an accident.

As hard as Choi has worked on her game, she might have worked

even harder on her English. Last year, she hired a personal tutor –

Greg Morrison, a Canadian based in South Korea – and brought him

with her on the road. She had a one-hour lesson every day, and

practiced her English with him in casual conversation.

Se Ri Pak would have been proud. The pioneer for South Koreans

on the LPGA Tour, Pak preached years ago about the importance of

learning English. Along with fitting in, Pak said it would make

them feel more comfortable in public and ultimately improve their


”First year when I was here, I couldn’t speak English well and

then very hard to tell my feelings to people, even media or fans or

even swing coach,” Choi said. ”When I learned English and when I

tell my feelings to people, I feel way more comfortable than

before. I think that made it good golfer, too. And on the golf

course, I can relax and I can talk with the other players.”

Morrison couldn’t travel with her this year, though they still

practiced through Skype. She had another one-hour lesson during the

Titleholders and planned to meet with him again while she was home

during the offseason.

”We talk about not only golf, we talk about anything,” Choi

said. ”Like, I said I’m going to look for a new house and he tried

to help me with which house is better for me. He’s more like, not

just English tutor, he’s more like manager or assistant to


Do they ever talk baseball?

”Not really,” she said. ”I think he’s a hockey fan.”

RANKING TOURS: Most of the world’s best players are going to the

Middle East in the winter and the Far East in the fall, both part

of the European Tour.

But over the course of the year, the PGA Tour is where biggest

offering of world ranking points can be found.

Throw out the four majors and the four World Golf Championships,

and the PGA Tour averaged 46.7 points for the winner of its

tournaments, compared with 34.9 points for the winner of regular

European Tour events.

Add the majors and the WGCs, and the winner received an average

of 54.3 points on the PGA Tour and 44.6 points on the European


The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is guaranteed 64 points as

the flagship even on the European Tour. After that, the strongest

fields on the European Tour (based on points awarded the winner)

were Abu Dhabi and the season-ending event in Dubai (58 points),

and the BMW Masters in Shanghai (56).

The Players Championship gets 80 points as the PGA Tour’s

flagship event. That was followed by The Barclays and Deutsche Bank

Championship (74), the BMW Championship (70), Memorial (68), and

the Northern Trust Open and Tour Championship (62).

Along with attracting the best from all over the world – the top

28 players in the world are PGA Tour members – it is helped

immensely in the ranking by the FedEx Cup playoffs. Those events

are nearly as strong as WGCs.

An argument could be made that The Barclays features the

strongest field of any PGA Tour event, including The Players

Championship. It might not have as many players from the top 50 or

top 100 in the world ranking, but it has the top 125 players based

on current form.

Take a bow, Nick Watney.

TIME TO RECHARGE: Before winning his final event of the year at

Sherwood, Graeme McDowell talked all week about how badly he was in

need of a 10-week break.

He feels he made a mistake by playing the first FedEx Cup

playoff event, and that he was out of gas even in the high-charged

atmosphere of the Ryder Cup. And that concerned him. He says he

played so much this year that he lost an estimated 10 percent of

what he calls his ”buzziness.”

”I love the sport. I love to play,” he said. ”But too much a

good thing … you start going through the motions. I don’t want to

be like that. I want to get my excitement level up for the


McDowell wants to cut back on his schedule, aiming for about 26

tournaments a year on two tours. But where to cut back is going to

difficult, for there are too many good tournaments, especially at

the end of the year.

”The end of the year has become a joke,” he said. ”It’s

almost too much golf.”

Being among the top 50 in the world and having Europe as his

home tour (meaning he doesn’t need releases from the PGA Tour),

McDowell said he gets to cherry-pick the tournaments he plays. But

there are so many important events to him that he can’t get to some

places he would like to play.

That includes the Memorial at Muirfield Village.

”I’m dying to go there,” McDowell said. ”But I looked at the

schedule and, nope, I can’t go.”

To play Muirfield Village would mean four straight weeks in

three countries, and no doubt would cost him plenty of


BIGGEST TROPHY: The iGATE CEO Cup thinks so much of its new

tournament – executives of Global 2000 companies in North America

on Jan. 12-13 on the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass – that it

wanted a trophy to mark the occasion.

So it commissioned the largest gold sports trophy in the world,

even bigger than the FIFA World Cup trophy.

Designed by India-based sculptor Amit Pabuwal, the iGATE CEO Cup

trophy will be 21 inches tall, weigh 18 pounds of gold and be

adorned with diamonds and rubies. The World Cup trophy is more than

14 inches tall and weighs 11 pounds.

”The iGATE CEO Cup is a premier event and we should have a

trophy that a CEO will be proud to life,” iGATE chief executive

Phaneesh Murthy said.

Gary Player is the co-host of the $100,000 event, with the CEOs

donating all the prize money to their chosen charities.

DIVOTS: Tom Lehman was voted Champions Tour player of the year,

even though Roger Chapman won two majors this year – the Senior PGA

Championship and the Senior U.S. Open, the two most prestigious

events in senior golf. … The fledgling OneAsia Tour is holding

one of its two Q-schools in the United States. The tour cites

”unprecedented demand” for staging two Q-schools, one of them at

Industry Hills east of Los Angeles on Jan. 29, the other a week

later in Malaysia. OneAsia chairman Sang Y. Chun said more

Asia-Pacific players were based in California, and the additional

Q-school would create more awareness of the tour in the U.S. …

Kia Motors America has signed a multiyear contract extension with

the LPGA Tour to sponsor the Kia Classic, which will move next year

from La Costa to Aviara Golf Club. It will be played March


STAT OF THE WEEK: Robert Karlsson started the year at No. 24 in

the world. He ended it by going to Q-school to earn back his PGA

Tour card.

FINAL WORD: ”It’s a game of mistakes, it’s a game of misses.

And if you dwell on all those misses and mistakes, you’re not going

anywhere.” – Steve Stricker.