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Choi outlasts Toms

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Associated Press
May 16, 2011
— K.J. Choi did everything demanded of the winner at The Players Championship.

Not only did he hit the island green on the 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass, he did it three times in one day. With the tournament on the line, he got up-and-down for par from 80 feet on the final hole Sunday.


Despite everything Choi did to win, this Players Championship might be remembered as much for how it was lost.


David Toms, who hit 6-iron out of a divot and made an 18-foot birdie putt on the hardest hole to force a playoff, missed a 3˝-foot par putt on the 17th to hand Choi the biggest win of his career.


“No excuses, no spike marks, no ball marks, no nothing,” Toms said of his three-putt bogey on the first sudden-death playoff hole. “Maybe a lot of pressure. But other than that, there was no excuse.”


On a hole designed to provide great theater—the island-green 17th—the finish fell flat.


Both players hit the green in the playoff, and the advantage went to Toms with a shot that settled about 18 feet away. Choi lagged his long birdie putt about 3 feet by the hole, and Toms thought he had a winner with his 18-foot putt until it slid by the cup and rolled 3˝ feet by the cup. Into the grain, slightly uphill, he didn’t strike it solidly and missed.


Choi tapped in his putt and pumped his fist, yet his heart felt for the 44-year-old Toms.


“As a fellow player, I felt very sorry for him,” Choi said. “Because I know how that feels. And I felt bad for him.”


Choi had reason to celebrate for his own feats. Winless on the PGA Tour for three years, he took the outright lead with a 10-foot birdie on the 17th in regulation, saved par on the 18th with a putt from just in side 5 feet to close with a 2-under 70 and kept his nerves steady.


The South Korean lived in Jacksonville briefly when he first came to America and once practiced at the TPC Sawgrass, although he said his game


wasn’t good enough then to break par.


Now, Choi is The Players champion, a winner of the biggest event on the PGA Tour.


“For me to shoot under par every day on this course this week, it’s like a miracle, to be honest with you,” Choi said.


Choi won for the eighth time in his PGA Tour career and picked up $1.71 million from the biggest purse in tournament golf. He moved to No. 15 in the world and all but assured himself a spot on the Presidents Cup team.


Toms, winless in five years, was the 36-hole leader, finished the rain-delayed third round Sunday morning only one shot behind and spent some five hours with his name atop the leaderboard in the final round.


His birdie from 18 feet on the 18th forced a playoff.


Paul Goydos closed with a 69 to finish alone in third.


Edgerton native Steve Stricker was among the contenders early Sunday, then faded with a final-round 73 to finish at 8-under 280.



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