SOUTH KOREAN K.J. Choi had an early birthday present today when he became the first Asian golfer to win the prestigious The Players Championship.
Choi, who will turn 41 on Thursday, claimed golf’s unofficial “fifth major” and the $US1.7 million winners cheque when he beat America’s David Toms in a play off on the always entertaining TPC Sawgrass 17th island hole.
It was Choi’s eighth and biggest win on the US PGA Tour, and played on a course where he had found little previous success.
Choi used to practice on the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, course when he previously lived in the area but in nine previous starts it had never been kind to him.
This week things turned around though and he shot four sub par rounds to finish on 13 under with Toms.
Choi finished the rain delayed third round this morning with a five under 67 and completed the final round in 70.
“For me to shoot under par on this course every day, it’s like a miracle, to be honest with you,” Choi said.
The first playoff hole at the infamous 17th today was their 32 hole in a marathon final day.
Toms had previously seemed in control in regulation but fluffed his par putt in the play off to hand the title to Choi.
“I just wasn’t there on the putt,” said Toms, who was seeking his first Tour win in five years. “I was probably thinking ahead and thinking about the next hole and I just got up there and missed it.”
The pair provided plenty of theatre over the closing holes as did others who threatened to challenge at various stages.
This included Australians Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley who eventually finished four strokes behind the leaders in a group of players tied for sixth.
Third place went to American Paul Goydos on 11 under with fellow countryman and first round leader Nick Watney and the ever consistent Englishman Luke Donald tied one stroke further back.
Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell had a one shot lead going into the final round but disintegrated somewhat to finish with a 7-over 79.