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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2007 > PGA Tour > AT&T National > Round 4
 

AT&T NATIONAL RELATED STORIES





KJ Choi hold off Steve Stricker to claim win

Five weeks ago K.J. Choi received a trophy from Jack Nicklaus. On Sunday, he got one from Tiger Woods.

The biggest name in South Korean golf was again the prized guest at a golf party thrown by an American star, punctuating an adventurous back nine with a great bunker shot on his way to a three-stroke victory over Steve Stricker at the inaugural AT&T National.

Choi shot a final-round 68 for a 9-under 271 total to win for the sixth time on the PGA Tour, the most victories by an Asian-born player, and his $1.08 million first-place check matched the one he got for winning Nicklaus' Memorial last month.

This week, Woods joined Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as players to host a tour event. The event was a red, white and blue spectacle surrounding the Fourth of July, but Choi added to the international flair, attracting a substantial gallery of local Korean-Americans that cheered him in his native language.

One fan held a sign with a Korean flag with the words "Go Tank," a reference to the nickname Choi earned after powerlifting 350 pounds as a 95-pound boy at age 13. He's also known for learning the game from a golf instructional book in Korean that featured pictures of Nicklaus, a present from a physical education teacher who thought the teenage Choi might have a gift for the game.

There's now no question that Choi, 37, has that gift. He wavered with three bogeys early on the back nine, jostling with Stricker atop the leaderboard, but Choi steadied himself with a 12-foot birdie putt at the 15th to take a two-shot lead.

That shot was worth two fist pumps from Choi's usually even-keeled demeanor, but the celebration was bigger at the 17th, where Choi holed from the greenside trap for a birdie. Choi took off his visor, retrieved the ball and threw it into the crowd, assured that he would be the one to win the trophy that was a replica of the Capitol building, with flags of all 50 states engraved in the sides.

Stricker was among several possible contenders who struggled with the bumpy greens on a sweltering day at Congressional Country Club. Stricker had three bogeys on the back nine to finish with a 70. Mike Weir (74) also got close before three consecutive back-nine bogeys. Jim Furyk (69) was in the hunt before going 2 over after the turn.

The third-round leader was Stuart Appleby at 9 under -- two shots ahead of Choi -- but he collapsed by dropping six strokes in his first seven holes. The free fall began when the Aussie put his tee shot beyond a cart path at the par-3 No. 2, where he carded a double bogey after missing a 4-foot putt for bogey. Appleby shot a 40 on the front nine and a 76 for the day, finishing in a tie for third at 3 under.

Woods was never really in contention in his own tournament. His putter let him down on Thursday (73) and Saturday (69), and his 66 on Friday wasn't enough to compensate. Seven strokes behind as Sunday dawned, Woods played a final round of even-par 70 that was more celebratory than competitive, as many in the crowd of 37,211 thanked him for bringing the PGA Tour back to the Washington area after the long-running Booz Allen Classic was pulled from the calendar last year.

"I didn't get a 'W,' so that was frustrating in that sense," said Woods, who finished tied for sixth at 2 under. "But this tournament in general has been a bigger success than anyone could have imagined."

The tournament became a weeklong celebration of Woods and patriotism. Servicemen from all branches of the military served as announcers at the first tee and 18th green. A huge American flag welcomed the leaders on Sunday as they headed down the 18th. Woods had daily organizational meetings, juggling duties both as a player and host while also dealing with the joys of becoming a father, but no one had any qualms when he proclaimed the event a success.

"It's been a perfect week," Woods said.

Stricker and Choi were tied for the lead at 9 under, four shots clear of the field, as they neared the turn. They then started taking turns making bogeys -- Choi at the 10th to give Stricker the lead, Stricker at the 11th to restore the tie, Choi at the 11th to put Stricker back in front.

Choi regained his stride with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 12th, tying Stricker at 8 under. Stricker's bogey at the 14th gave Choi the solo lead, but Choi gave it back by missing from 8 feet for par at the 13th.

But Choi's two birdies down the stretch made the difference.

 

 




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