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January 22, 2008

K.J. Choi


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, K.J., for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Buick Invitational. Congratulations on winning the Sony Open in Hawai'i. That was a great start to your year, and you played very well at Mercedes.
Just talk about the start of your year and being back here at the Buick Invitational.
K.J. CHOI: Last year I had to skip this event because I had a lot of things going on at home. Taking care of the family and just scheduling-wise it didn't work out. But I was disappointed because I love this course so much. It's one of my favorite stops on the TOUR. But last year I felt like my shots, my game, wasn't really up to where I wanted it to be, and so I figured it was the right thing to do to skip the event.
But this year having the great start in Hawai'i, you know, I felt like the win just really got me off to a very nice, confident start for the year. And this being my ninth year on the TOUR, it definitely has been the best start ever for me, to start out the season. I'm really looking forward to this year. I feel like it's going to be a great year for me, and my expectations are very high.

Q. Sunday night after you won in Hawai'i, did you get to spend much time with your friends that were wearing the yellow shirts that came to see you?
K.J. CHOI: Yeah, I had a very good evening with my friends. I was disappointed because the next day I had scheduled back home in Houston. I had to fly out that night. So it wasn't a very long party. But we were able to celebrate that night with my hometown friends that flew over from Korea and with the local folks that took care of me. So it was a very fun night.
You know, I just felt like it was a very good week for me. The Sony Open tournament people were very supportive. The local fans were very supportive. So it really sticks in my memory.

Q. What do you like about this golf course specifically, and can you talk about some of the holes that might suit your shot shape the best?
K.J. CHOI: Yeah, from my memory, this is my sixth year playing here. In the past I think I was too over-consumed about thinking that I really had to gain on my distance, that I really had to hit it long here. So that's why -- I tended to draw my shots most of the time, and that kind of led to missing a lot of the fairways.
This is a very long course, so I guess I was concerned about having to hit it long out there. Actually when you miss fairways here, your second shot you've got no chance because it makes your second shot difficult.
But thinking about it at home last week, and coming here and playing a practice round today, I now really think that the fade shots that I have really fit this course very well, and I feel like I'm going to have the best week ever at this tournament than what I've played in the past.

Q. What do you think of the greens, and how high do you think the rough -- how much higher do you think the rough will be at the U.S. Open this year?
K.J. CHOI: You know, I think they're really preparing well. The course is being prepared well for the U.S. Open. I never really putted well on the poa annua greens, never really adjusted well. I've always had trouble putting. But just playing today, playing the South Course today, I felt like the greens were in the best condition ever, and I think they're really preparing this course very well for the U.S. Open.
In terms of the rough, it's not as long as I thought it would be, but I think they're growing it preparing for the U.S. Open. By the time we get to June, I think it's going to be a lot longer, and I noticed that they moved the tee boxes around a little bit, and I think that really makes it more challenging.

Q. Has your game reached the point where you're confident enough to believe you can compete and maybe win a major championship?
K.J. CHOI: Yeah, you know, I never really want to say I'm really that close to winning a major, but I feel like I am improving more than ever. I think it's really a fight within yourself as opposed to worrying about the other players or what they're doing. You know, I still feel that I need to improve a lot. Like I always say, you always have to fill the cup; it's never full.
I feel like physically I need to be -- I need to improve my physical condition, the short game. There's a lot of things to prepare in order to win a major. I would like to believe that the Lord is helping me get closer to that objective.
I feel confident more than ever because I feel like over the past few years I've really prepared myself, and that has led for me to win more tournaments, and that's really boosting up my confidence. Yeah, I mean, I can say I'm a little bit closer to achieving my goal and winning a major.

Q. How often do you get a chance to go back home to Korea, and what has been the reaction to your success over there? Has golf become even more popular than before?
K.J. CHOI: Yeah, I go back to Korea about twice a year on the average, mainly to play in the golf tournaments that I get invited to. I think it's good for me to go back there at least once or twice a year just to pay back the support that I get from my fans. You know, it's always fun going back there, seeing all the support that I get from my fans back home. Every time I go back, I feel that, and that really gives me the strength and energy to come back out here on the PGA TOUR and play over here.
I think it's good, and I feel like every time I go back the passion for the game of golf in Korea is growing more than ever. It's definitely come a long way since I started playing golf back in Korea, and I feel like the future is really bright.

Q. You seem to be very calm on the golf course to fans that watch you on TV. Are you indeed calm on the inside? And is part of that from your spiritual background? Does that maybe help keep you calm in what might otherwise be a very nervous situation?
K.J. CHOI: You know, whenever I'm in the final group on Sunday, I'm also a human being, so I can't say that I'm always calm all the time, but I try to maintain my patience. For me I always think you just take it shot by shot. You never get ahead of yourself, and that's what I think has kept me going.
I pray a lot on the -- I feel like the Lord is with me every time I play, and that makes me feel very comfortable. I try to maintain my focus and my patience throughout the entire round. Of course there are probably instances where I feel that my heart is beating, but I'm able to overcome that because I always think about the positive things, that the Lord is with me. I think that's what people see on TV. I don't show it on the outside, and a lot of that has to do with me being comfortable and believing that I have the support from the Lord. So I think that's what's really keeping me going.

Q. With the U.S. Open being here this summer, are you surprised more international players aren't playing in the Buick, and what do you think the reason is for that?
K.J. CHOI: You know, I can't speak for the others, but my feeling is it probably didn't fit into their schedule because for whatever reason they had, they probably felt comfortable enough where they -- even if they skipped this week, they knew the course well enough to not have to play it.
But for me I felt like I needed to be out here this week, not only because it's one of my favorite stops, but also because I wanted to upgrade myself. My results haven't really been great at the U.S. Opens, so I wanted to come here and get a good experience out here this week and get a feel for what it's going to be like at the U.S. Open.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, K.J., for joining us. Appreciate your time.

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