Choi Celebrates Playoff Win at the Players
K. J. Choi won The Players Championship Sunday at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida by surviving David Toms good putting and his own poor putting. In the end it was Toms who missed a short par putt on the first playoff hole at the infamous par-3 island green 17th and Choi who rolled in a three foot winning par to take home the crystal and $1.7 million.
After a long day where most of the field had to finish the third round in the morning before embarking on the final round, the playoff was a fitting end to the marathon day. Graeme McDowell led by one shot at 12 under par after the finish of the third round but spent the rest of the day fighting his swing and imploding, hitting four balls in the water and shooting 79 to tumble all the way to a tie for 33rd. McDowell’s fall opened the door for the steady Toms to take over the lead early with three birdies in his first six holes and hold it for most of the last round.
Choi put himself in contention with a 67 in round three. He started slowly on the final round with a birdie and a bogey on the front to go out in even par 36. He was one under through 16 holes but should have been at least three shots better after missing several makeable putts. Choi and Toms were tied after the 16th when Toms inexplicably went for the par-5 16th green in two while enjoying a one shot lead. Choi had already laid up after clipping the trees left on his tee shot. Toms’ second shot found the water and he would make bogey. Choi made par after a very clever pitch on his third shot left him a four foot birdie putt and maybe a two shot swing. He missed left and made par and he and Toms went to the dramatic 17th all tied.
Looking back after the round Toms had second thoughts. “I got nervous a few times out there. I got ahead of myself on 16 in regulation. Seeing KJ had to lay up already I probably should have laid up and hit a wedge up there and made par at the worst, but I felt like I could get it on the green and take maybe a two-shot lead there and put a lot of pressure on him. So that was the mindset, and I just hit a bad shot.”
On 17 Choi hit a great 9-iron to eight feet under the hole and dropped the left to right putt into the side of the hole for a two. Toms two putted from the fringe and they went to the par-4 finishing hole with Choi in the lead for the first time all day. Hitting a 3-wood for control Choi found the fairway but left himself over 200 yards. Toms ripped his best drive of the day into the middle of the fairway only to find a sand filled divot. Hitting first, Choi played a hybrid that ended up just off the green short right. Toms chopped a 5-iron out of the divot pin high right leaving 15 feet for the tying birdie.
“We were walking up to the green, and I had already had a small victory by hitting the shot I did out of the divot in the fairway, and KJ had hit his chip and I knew he was going to have to – I don’t know. What was that, five or six feet that he had to make his. So I figured even if I don’t make it I still have a chance that he might miss to get in a playoff. Then but my caddie said let's give them something to cheer about, and it was a right-edge putt, kind of downhill, just one of those kind you’ve got to get rolling. It was the best putt I’ve had in an awful long time. And to see it track the whole way knowing it was in about with five or six feet to go, it was a great feeling. It’s something I can take away from this week to be able to make a putt like that when I have to,” said Toms.
Choi chipped up to four feet and then watched Toms roll the birdie in dead center. Choi’s four-footer got a little longer but he managed to just keep in the hole on the left side to force the playoff.
On the playoff hole Choi hit safely to the middle right of the green and Toms hit it closer to about 12 feet but leaving a downhill left to right putt. Choi rolled his putt three feet past the hole and Toms almost made to win but it slid five feet past leaving an uphill right to lefter. Toms, who is one of the steadiest putters on Tour lipped out the putt, Choi made his and it was over.
Toms made no excuses. “No, no, it was just one of those that, like I said, when you have uphill into the grain putts, anybody that plays golf on Bermuda greens, you know what it’s all about. You’ve got to hit them solid. I actually kind of hit it on the toe and didn’t get it rolling, and when I looked up it was left, and it was just a bad putt. No excuses, no spike marks, no ball marks, nothing. Maybe a lot of pressure, but other than that there was no excuse.”
1) K. J. Choi (KOR) 70-68-67-70 (275, -13) winner in playoff
2) David Toms (USA) 66-68-71-70 (275, -13)
3) Paul Goydos (USA) 69-70-69-69 (277, -11)
4) Luke Donald (ENG) 69-67-71-71 (278 ,-10)
Nick Watney (USA) 64-71-72-71
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