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January 13, 2008

K.J. Choi


DOUG MILNE: K.J. Choi, welcome back. I think you've been in the media center as much as the rest of us this week. Congratulations on your victory at the Sony Open in Hawai'i. With the win you pick up 4500 FedExCup points. Tough day, but you got the job done. Just a couple general opening comments.
K.J. CHOI: I can't remember having such a difficult round as far as I can remember as today. It was very difficult conditions out there. I told myself, try not to lose focus. I really think the Lord helped me, making me feel comfortable.

Q. At what point were you nervous out there?
K.J. CHOI: With strong winds ow there today, it was very hard to make decisions, and actually every shot out there was difficult, was risky, because you never knew where the ball would go. But I think after when I made that three-putt that really woke me up. It was kind of like a medicine.

Q. What do you mean by that?
K.J. CHOI: It woke me up and said, you know what, I have to hang in there, not fall apart. It motivated me.
And I believe you could maybe find this out for sure, but I believe today marks the 105th anniversary of the Korean immigration. Today was the day that we first came over to Hawai'i 105 years ago. For me to win this tournament on this special day really means a lot. I think that's why with all the support, all the fan support out there, it made it that much more special.

Q. Did you know that before the round started?
K.J. CHOI: No. I heard it right after my round. A lot of people came up to me and told me that.

Q. After you won?
K.J. CHOI: Yeah, after I won.

Q. Thank God they didn't tell you on the first tee.
K.J. CHOI: They didn't want to give me the pressure and tell me beforehand.

Q. Did you have any kind of sense of what was going on behind you or in front of you, how all the challengers were doing?
K.J. CHOI: You know, I really didn't know what was going on with the other players. You can tell, the conditions out there just didn't keep me in the right mind. I mean, I was fighting hard to stay in focus myself. No, I really couldn't spare to think about what they were doing out there.
Every shot was tough, and I was just trying to make every shot -- just keep it safe. So that was pretty much what was going on today.

Q. If somebody told you that you would have only one birdie today, would you still thought you would have won?
K.J. CHOI: You know, honestly I would have thought I would have probably had to shoot 2-under to win, but with the conditions being so difficult out there, I just tried to stay focused with every shot and just keep it close until the end. I think even on the last hole, just keeping my concentration, getting that birdie secured everything.

Q. Have you any special plans to celebrate tonight, and particularly to thank your 11 friends from Wando?
K.J. CHOI: I have an evening flight tonight so I'm going to try to just enjoy as much of it in the short time that I have tonight, just get a little short party going on. But today is a very happy day, and I just owe everything to the Lord up there, and just without Him I don't think I could have done it.

Q. What made him laugh a minute ago? What are you holding back from us?
MICHAEL YIM: I'm not holding anything back (laughter). He's happy.

Q. How does this set you up for the rest of the year?
K.J. CHOI: It has a lot of implications for this year. I think the biggest thing I learned this week is no matter what the conditions are out there, you have to stay patient with yourself, and I think this experience here in Hawai'i is going to help me prepare for the major tournaments that are coming up because in those tournaments you have to be patient. You can't just get too greedy. You have to accept the conditions as they are, and I think it's going to help me prepare mentally for the major tournaments.

Q. Does it feel different winning on Hawai'i as opposed to winning on the mainland?
K.J. CHOI: You know, Hawai'i is a special place to me because it's so much like my hometown, Wando Island. Wando you have water all around just like Hawai'i. There's a lot of similarities. There's mountains in the middle of the island. Just the whole atmosphere here just makes me feel real comfortable. I feel real at peace being here, and of course all the fan support, it feels like I'm right at home. The Hawaiian people are so nice to me.
Every shot that I take out there, I feel the support, so I think this win makes it that much more special.

Q. You've talked this week about how much support you've gotten maybe from the Asian community after Memorial and AT&T National last year. How much do you think people in general, golf fans, look as you as one of the top players? And if they don't, what would it take?
K.J. CHOI: You know, I think my fan base is growing every year, 15, 20 percent every year, I think. Just wherever I go, whether it's Europe, whether it's Asia or mainland U.S., I feel that support. I think what's special about my fan base is that it's not just limited to one nationality or one community; it encompasses the Asian community, the Americans, the Europeans. It's very diverse. I feel like wherever I go I play a lot of the international tournaments. When it goes to South Africa and you see people over there just welcome me. So the fan base is really diverse.
And I try to be very humble. I don't try to get too ahead of myself. I feel like if I'm one of the top players, then there's no room for improvement. I always think that you have to respect the other players, as well, because when you have someone that you feel like you have to surpass, that sets a new motivation, a new goal. You can't just be thinking that, hey, I'm good, I'm one of the Top 30, and not try anymore. You have to be aware of the other players involved.

Q. Do you feel you have to win a major to be fully recognized as one of the top players?
K.J. CHOI: I'm not really too concerned about that because I'm not trying to win a major just to gain respect or just to gain more fan support or increase my fan base. You know, I want to win a major because I want to win a major, and that's my goal. I'm a professional golfer, and winning a major is the highest achievement a professional golfer can achieve. I think if I work hard and win that major, all the rest will just follow that. I don't have to worry about anything like that.

Q. Which major do you think gives you the best chance?
K.J. CHOI: I mean, all the major championships are difficult to win. I would love to win any one of them, but for some reason, maybe it's because I came to close to winning The Masters, my heart is really with the Masters. Just the fact that such a beautiful course as Augusta National was designed way back then at that time, it's just amazing. I have tremendous respect for that golf course and the tournament. Just the fact that I've been playing in the Masters the past few years, I feel so proud about that, you know. Just for some reason, I don't know why, but it just makes me feel very comfortable being there at The Masters.

Q. It's said that people from Cholla province are conservative and strong focused. If so, do you think you fall in that category?
K.J. CHOI: I think, yeah, the people, the province where I'm from, Wando is part of the Cholla province, it's their lifestyle. People down there, their jobs, they work very hard. There's a lot of manual labor jobs where you have to actually physically use your body. So in the old days there were a lot of farmers out there before the machines came in. It's just the lifestyle. I think that's what makes people down there very tough, and I think I learned a lot from that just coming from that part of Korea.

Q. Four years in a row winning, I think only Tiger, Vijay and Phil have done that. Do you feel like you're kind of in that class? Do you feel comfortable being affiliated with them?
K.J. CHOI: That's a very interesting fact that I didn't know. But again, I'm not really concerned about things like that because I just found out, but I achieved it because I didn't think about it. It was all through hard work. And all I can do right now is just try my best and just try to fill this empty cup that's out there, keep on filling it up.
There's a lot of improvements that I need to make, and all I can say is I'll just keep on trying my best.

Q. How full is the cup? It's not bone dry, is it?
K.J. CHOI: It never gets full. When it's half full then you just empty it out again and just keep on trying to find improvement.

Q. You mentioned patience was importance for winning the big tournaments to come. Do you think you've always been a patient man?
K.J. CHOI: I try to be a very patient man. I'm not perfect, but that's why I try; I pray every day, I read the Bible. Through that I'm able to learn about patience. I think that's important. Without patience, you can't really accomplish anything in life. I think especially the sport of golf, you really need to be patient out there. I have my own way is through my peace with the Lord, and that's what really helps me try to be a patient man.
DOUG MILNE: K.J., congratulations.

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