St Andrews, July 14: K.J. Choi has long been tagged as the Asian most likely to win a Major and he doesn’t want to be remembered for not pulling it off.
As the decorated Korean star prepares for his 11th appearance at the British Open, he believes he has done the necessary work, including using a new ‘bowling style putting stroke’, to launch a title charge at St Andrews starting on Thursday.
“I’ve practiced the different types of shots that I can think of to fit this golf course – the low shots, high shots, cutting it and drawing the ball. I’ve also especially worked on using the seven or eight iron around the greens. I’ve done my homework,” said Choi.
“To win a Major, you have to bring your ‘A’ game. There’s no question about that. You have to drive it well, hit your irons good, putt well and have a strong mental attitude and show a lot of confidence. Without that, you can’t win a Major and that’s a common fact.”
An Asian Tour honorary member, the 40-year-old has enjoyed a strong season with two runner-up finishes in Asia and the PGA Tour. He was also tied fourth at the Masters Tournament in April and in 17 starts, he has missed only one cut, at last week’s John Deere Classic when he started using a new putting stroke.
“I’m satisfied in a way (with my season) but on the flip side, I’m not satisfied as there is always room for improvement,” said Choi, who is ranked 43rd in the world.
“I’m always trying to get better. This new putting style can be accounted to that as I want to make myself a better putter. It’s a side-saddle type of putting style, like what Sam Snead did before.
“It breaks the conventional paradigm of putting as you’re now facing towards the target. When I heard about the theory and principle behind it, it made sense and I wanted to try it. I have always wanted to improve my putting. After practising over 12 days, I believe this is the right move. I’m going to stick with it,” said Choi, who heads a strong eight-man Korean continent this week.
Choi has played in only one previous Open at St Andrews, the Home of Golf, in 2005 where he finished tied 41st. His best result was tied eighth at Carnoustie in 2007 while he was equal 16th at Royal Birkdale in 2008, the year he took the halfway lead and entered the final round two shots behind the leader.
Each time he steps foot at St Andrews, Choi said he gets a special feeling as he soaks in the atmosphere at the historic venue. While he can no longer become Asia’s first male Major winner after countryman Y.E. Yang pipped him to the honour at last year’s PGA Championship, Choi believes he is good enough to land a big one before his career is up.
“I’ve prepared a lot for this Open, I’m going to try,” he said.
He is expecting a tough time though with the lengthened 17th “Road Hole”. Choi said that bogey would be a good score on this infamous hole at the Old Course.
“Even with a five iron, the ball is not going to stop on 17. If you hit the green, it’s likely going to go over the back. If you have a bogey, you shouldn’t be disappointed. It’s pretty much a given bogey hole and you’ve just go to move on with it,” said Choi.
- Asian Tour News