(Photo: Reuters / Hans Deryk)
When K.J. Choi spoke to the media on Sunday after winning The Players Championship at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in a one-hole playoff against David Toms, his comments wove freely between his faith in Christ and his golf game.
“I’m just very thankful to the Lord,” Choi said through an interpreter. “It’s Him that allowed me to win this tournament. The fan support was tremendous out there. I think the key thing for me today because it was such a long day, to maintain my body and rhythm, to get enough rest in between, and stay patient and not give up.
“I prayed really hard all through the day, and I think that’s why God was able to give me this great gift.”
He went on to thank his playing partners, Toms and Graeme McDowell, for helping him stay focused and their great attitudes.
It was Choi’s eighth and biggest career victory – one he secured in the playoff when he two-putted from 42 feet on the fame 17th island hole.
But before he could get there, he had to make a five foot putt on the 18th hole to force the playoff and that wasn’t easy considering the way he had been putting.
“I missed a lot of five footers, probably about three or four, and it’s because I didn’t read the lines very correctly,” Choi said. “So when I had the same five footer to make, I knew that there was a chance that I could miss it. But what I said to myself was let’s just get the rhythm correct, and I prayed to the Lord to help me focus and to find my rhythm.”
He drained it.
On the playoff hole, Toms missed a 3-1/2 foot putt and Choi made his putt from inside three feet to secure the victory, but his thoughts were still with his opponent.
“At that moment, when he missed that putt, as a fellow player I felt very sorry for him, because I know how that feels,” Choi said.
Choi, always the gentleman, not only respects his fellow competitors, but he also connects with fans. On Sunday, he smiled at them and high-fived them as he left greens. He even had his own cheering section – a group of six men who traveled from Nashville, Tenn., who wore t-shirts that said, “Choi’s Bois.”
“For the Choi Bois to come all the way from Tennessee to watch me play – imagine, I have no relationship with them,” Choi said. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen them. For them to fly all the way over, just because they like me as a player, and to support me the way that they did, I’m very appreciative and it’s really spectacular to see something like that ... I didn’t want to let them down.”
The PGA Tour website invited fans to leave messages on their website for Choi so they could relay them to him. Many of the fans spoke about how much they respect Choi for the way he plays the game and treats people.
“As a Christian pastor and an avid fan of golf I am a big K.J. Choi fan,” said one fan named Michael Reynolds. “Your presence on the course is a good example to us all. Congratulations on your excellent play over the past several weeks, and of course your Player’s win.”
“You’ve inspired us all with your fierce determination and humble character,” said another fan named John Ohr. “Love the way you play the game and treat the fans. We couldn’t be more prouder.”