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January 13, 2009

K.J. Choi


JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome to the defending champion of the Sony Open in Hawaii into the interview room. K.J., welcome back. If you would look back on last year for us and get some comments if we can.
K.J. CHOI: Okay, first thing, happy new year.
Last year was a very memorable year. I started out winning this tournament, and then I had a few months where it wasn't as good. I had gone through a diet program and lost a few pounds, so my balance was a little off. But then I was able to recover. I had some good finishes towards the end of the season and capped it off by winning the LG Skins Game, which was a good finish for me.
Coming into this year, you know, especially coming into this tournament, I feel really good, because I have very good memories about it last year. I expect a lot of good things to happen. This year is going to be very exciting for me, and I'm looking very forward to it.

Q. So do you attribute what happened with the diet to the reason why you had that fall-off at that start of the year, and if so, what was the diet?
K.J. CHOI: Well, you know, part of the diet program was really trying to lose -- I had a lot of excess fat stored in my body. The trainer that I had hired at that time, you know, it was more of we looked at a long-term program where within a span of, let's say, three to five years, you would gradually lose the fat.
But I think we tried to do it in such a short time that I lost more than what I needed to, and that threw my body off a little bit. I lost a lot of energy. Just compared to the reduction of the weight, the specs for my clubs, they didn't feel right.
So everything was kind of thrown off-balance. You know, your body is so sensitive, you've got to really look at more of a longer-term program, and I realize that. And as a professional athlete, I had never gone through a diet program before. It was something that was new for me, and not being able to eat what you're used to daily.
I think this year, I've hired a new trainer, and we are just going to take things slowly and do it the right way instead of trying to do everything in a short period of time.

Q. Good memories here with this golf course?
K.J. CHOI: Yes (big smile).
Yeah, this place is very special for me. Yesterday I played in the Monday Pro-Am. I sort of took it as my early practice round. Just going through the course again, I had a lot of good memories about it from last year. You know, I believe this is my ninth year coming to the Sony Open in Hawaii and I have a lot of passion about this tournament and this course. For some reason, I come here and I feel very at home and very relaxed and comfortable.
It's just something about this place; not only the affinity to my culture, but also just the people and just the whole environment makes me very relaxed.

Q. Can you talk a little about the way the community embraced you and your friends in the yellow shirts came last year, and what that support meant to you?
K.J. CHOI: When you have people around you, people that you know and that you're close to come all the way over from Korea to root for you and support you, you know, you can't help but just be motivated.
That's the type of guy I am is when I have people around me that have the same passion about the game as I do, that are on the same page as me, it doesn't pressure me. It just gives me more motivation to play well for them.
I have a lot of fans over in Korea who are supporting me right now, and you know, without their support, I don't think I would be able to play that well.

Q. Are the people coming this year?
K.J. CHOI: Not this year, no.

Q. The Korean community is celebrating the 106th anniversary of immigration in January, and we are planning as a community a lot of events and I was wondering if Mr. Choi is willing to attend these events if they are really happening here?
K.J. CHOI: This week or next week?

Q. When there is a chance.
K.J. CHOI: Yeah, I would be more than happy to consider participating in any events, if it's this week. But throughout the whole year, you know, I've got a busy tournament schedule and it really has to fit with my schedule. Houston and Honolulu are not the closest places (to each other) in the world.
I believe that without the efforts of our ancestors, I would not be here without them, so I feel like I need to give back to them, and I respect them. So, yeah, if there's an opportunity, I would be more than happy this week, yeah.

Q. In regards to the diet that you were talking about, what was it that prompted you to get a trainer and do that in the first place? Were you feeling sluggish or did you feel your weight had gotten to a point where it was, you know ...
K.J. CHOI: Yeah, up to that point last year, I really had never gone through a diet. The way I played, my body, I just played golf just naturally in the shape that I was in.
But I wanted to change my game to a more compact, more to a game with speed and energy. I felt like even with cars, machinery, every ten years, you have to make changes, and I felt like since -- I'm always looking for ways to improve myself. I felt like I had never done that with my body, and I believe it was time to do it, because in order for me to survive out here on the TOUR, your body has to be able to support you.
So I looked at it as a six-, seven-year project, because at my age right now, I felt like that's probably the peak of my career. You know, being the first time ever going through such a diet program, you learn from them. You go through mistakes. But I think I got that out of the way, so I feel good about it. So from this point on, I can learn from the mistakes and build on it for the future.

Q. What is the state of your game right now? You seemed to flirt with the leaderboard last week; how do you feel about your game?
K.J. CHOI: I believe right now, the state of my game, I believe I have been able to maintain the level of play that I am used to. I've maintained it well enough where I'm really starting to improve.
I believe my body is a lot better than where it was last year. I'm pretty confident that I'm going to have a better year, and especially the technical side of my golf game has been improving. This is my 10th year on the TOUR, but every year, I feel like I've been upgrading myself to another level.
This year, my main goal is to try to improve on my short game, and that's going to be my long-term -- from this point on, I think I really have to concentrate on my short game, and I am actually starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Q. Can you talk about your schedule for the next month?
K.J. CHOI: After the Sony Open, I have three weeks off, and then I play the AT&T at Pebble Beach, and then Northern Trust and the Match Play.
JOHN BUSH: K.J. Choi, thank you for coming by and play well this week.

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