Choi Going for Two in a Row


K.J. Choi is returning to the PGA Tour after taking last week off to return to his native South Korea. Two weeks ago, the 41-year-old won arguably the biggest of his eight career titles when he edged David Toms in the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

But Texas is his home now and Choi is back in action this week in the $6.5 million HP Byron Nelson Classic. The event tees off Thursday at TPC Four Seasons in Irving.

On Tuesday, Choi sat down with reporters and discussed his promising season and chances to another victory this week.

MODERATOR: We would like to welcome K.J. Choi to the media room. He is currently ranked 7th in the FedEx Cup standings, and is just coming off that thrilling victory at The Players Championship. Just talk about being back in Dallas.

K.J. CHOI: Yeah. We just got back from Korea last night. It's good to be back home. I feel good right now, and a little bit tired this morning, but you know, knowing that there's a lot of fans, local fans waiting for me to see me play this week, you know, it kind of gives me something to -- motivates me to play. You know, the Byron Nelson tournament being a hometown tournament for me since I live here now, it's going to be very exciting, more so because it's the first time I think I'm playing it in four years, and I just hope to play well this week.

MODERATOR: And K.J., talk a little bit about your win at The Players Championship, and also we'd like to add that K. J. donated $200,000 of his earnings through the K.J. Choi Foundation to assist with the tornado victims in the southeastern United States. If you could comment about that.

K.J. CHOI: Yeah. Jacksonville is a special meaning for me because it's the first place that I moved to from Korea when I earned my pro card back in 2000. So to win a tournament in a place where I lived before has a special meaning. You know, it was a very exciting tournament to the very last hole. You know, and playing with David Toms, you know, I felt very bad for him, but you know, I guess God just chose me on that day; and it was very special. I mean I've always wanted to do something special in Jacksonville area. And regarding the donation, there's a lot of things that have happened in the past few weeks, not only in the U. S., but all around the world. But I just -- you know, despite all the excitement that was going on in the past week personally for me, once the tournament was over, you know, when I had a little bit of time to grab a moment and think, you know, I remembered that the tornado had hit the southeastern region, and I just came up with the thought of, you know, helping them because so many good things have happened to me, and I wanted to do something in return for those states that suffered because they do need a lot of help over there.

MODERATOR: And before we open it up for questions with K.J., talk a little about the K.J. Choi Invitational that will be held in October.

K.J. CHOI: Yeah. We made the announcement in Korea yesterday. This is something -- this is a big thing that I've always wanted to do for -- ever since I started out on the PGA Tour. I remember my first tournament ever playing here was Jack's tournament at Memorial when he invited me back in 1999. And what I remember is that I was just blown away with not only how the tournament was set up, but more so actually witnessing how -- it was not just the tournament people, but how the local people, the local citizens, the volunteers were part of the tournament, the local people for the tournament, the charities, and that really -- I was very impressed with that. And ever since then I thought to myself that if I ever had the opportunity to have a tournament on my own, this is what I want to emulate, you know, something to this caliber, depth of tournament where you have not only the players participating, the sponsors, but also the local community being part of it. And I want to give back to the community by holding the tournament. I just want it to be a special event for the people that -- where the tournament is being held. And I was fortunate enough timing wise. You know, this was actually in the plan about three years ago. It was just a talk between me and some of the people I know. But it got to the point after the third championship win that we felt that it was the right time to really make this -- to push with this idea.

And we spoke to the Korean tour, also the Asian tour, and it would help us, IMG agents for media. We finally came up with a date and that's how it came about. So I'm really proud of it. And I want it to be a tournament where all the players are able to participate and feel proud that they're being -- they're playing in a tournament that not only is special for them, but also for the community where it's being held.

Q. K.J., you mentioned the Players Champion a minute ago and how it was a tough loss for David Toms. What did you think about seeing David rebound the way he did and coming back at Colonial and winning that event?

K.J. CHOI: Yeah. I first want to congratulate David for his performance last week after what he went through. You know, I feel like that, you know, I'm not surprised at all that David pulled it off because in golf, you know, it's really -- you know, players -- as players we tend to lose rhythm, focus by one shot, because of that one shot. And we can also gain all the confidence in the world because of that one shot. Unfortunately, at the week of The Players Championship, David, it was just one bad putt that he had, I mean that cost him the tournament. But overall he played a superb tournament the whole week. God just happened to choose me on that day. He could've chosen David, but He ended up choosing me. And I'm grateful for that. And it was that one shot, that one putt that David missed.

Otherwise, I mean his shots all through the week, his course management, his mindset, his distance control, everything was perfect. And I don't think he won last week by chance. I mean it was definitely due. I think for him losing the tournament, The Players Championship wasn't the end of the world. I think he gained a lot of confidence during that week, and I think he said that as well. And I think that's what enabled him to win last week because he had -- all the factors to win was there for him to win.

Q. What does this tournament mean to you and what does Mr. Nelson mean to you?

K.J. CHOI: Yeah. Mr. Nelson was someone -- there's obviously a lot of player legends that have made big names for themselves in Korea as well. But I'm just thankful to be able to play in a tournament like this. Mr. Nelson was a true gentleman that represented the game of golf very well. He gets a lot of respect, and I respect him very much. This is the first time I've played since I moved to Dallas from Houston. So it also has special meaning in that sense. Just playing the course today, I noticed the course is in superb condition. And it would mean a lot to me. This is the first PGA tournament I've played since the win in Jacksonville. And you know, I'm physically, honestly, very tired right now, but if I have a shot to win this tournament, it would be very special, not only because it's Mr. Nelson's tournament, but also it's a tournament where I've wanted to play well. And since I announced my own tournament in Korea, to win a tournament with Mr. Nelson's name in it would be very special to me.

Q. (Indiscernible).

K.J. CHOI: Yeah. To even think about what he did back then, you know, just with the equipment that they had back then versus the equipment that we play with right now, I mean you could correct me on this right now, but was it two-day tournament back then versus four-day tournaments? Was it four days back then, too? Well, regardless, the fact that he was competing with his fellow -- the top players in his era, for him to win as many tournaments as he did, it's just, you know, it's unthinkable to even try to repeat that in this day and age right now. And I think it's really virtually impossible to do what he did.

And you know, I'm just thankful -- I feel very happy to be playing a tournament that, you know, that's named after him. I still remember him when he was alive, you know, after the tournament, you know, he would shake players' hands. He'd look at me and he was -- he's very dear to me and he treated me with very -- treated me very kindly, said very nice things to me. So I still remember those special moments. Although I've never spent a long time with him, just the short moments that we shared was very special for me. And you know, I'm a grown man, but he's still a role model for me. He's someone that I want to be like, and to be able to have this press conference here at his tournament feels very special to me, too. So I feel very proud of myself for having done what I did to be able to hold this press conference.

MODERATOR: K.J., we appreciate your time, and good luck this week.

K.J. CHOI: I'll try.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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