Choi Out to Make History at TPC Sawgrass

No player has successfully defended Players Championship title

by Lance Hanlin,

When professional golfer K.J. Choi moved from his homeland of Korea to Jacksonville back in 2000, he selected TPC Sawgrass in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach as his new practice facility. “Back then, I didn’t even realize,” Choi said. “I couldn’t even dream that I could win this tournament.” Choi did exactly that last year, beating out David Toms in sudden death to win the 2011 Players Championship, pocketing $1.71 million.

Despite it being Choi’s eighth PGA Tour victory, life hasn’t been the same since. He started getting noticed more at the grocery store. More people started coming up to him at the gas station. He hired two bodyguards. He was even introduced to his unlikely fan club, “Choi’s Bois.” “Ever since the win here last year, I’ve felt I’ve been getting more and more support from the fans, not only here but all around the world,” Choi said. “Everywhere that I go, they’re noticing me even more. It’s been a good experience.”

Choi will look for an even better experience this weekend as he tries to become the tournament’s first repeat champion. The Players Championship gets under way on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass. The best players in the world stand in his way, including 23-year-old phenom Rickie Fowler, who earned his first tour victory last week in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

“It’s nice to come off a win,” Fowler said. “That’s something I’ve been working on for a couple years now, and obviously there has been a lot of expectations, both from the media side and my side. It’s nice to finally get that first one out of the way.”

Fowler has played the Stadium Course twice before, missing the cut both times. He’s hoping his third time at TPC Sawgrass leads to a charm. “I like that it’s tough,” Fowler said. “The greens are fairly small and you have to drive it very well here. My first year I didn’t come in playing all that great and ended up missing the cut. Last year I had the flu and missed the cut by one after I rallied. I think I shot 5-under or something on my last nine holes to give myself a chance (to make the cut) and I finally started to feel better. So this year it’s nice to come in off a win playing well. I know my game is ready to play here.” Luke Donald feels his game is ready, too. He is making his 10th Players Championship start this week. He tied for fourth last year and tied for second in 2005. “I feel my game is improving every week,” Donald said. “I’m always excited to play this event. I think it’s a good golf course for me and one that I have a good chance of winning. Obviously it’s a tremendous tournament with a tremendous field. That makes for an exciting week.”

See also: 2012 Players Championship Tee Times



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