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At trophy time, Choi is the man



Published: Mon, July 9, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

Although a player, too,

galleries thanked Tiger Woods for bringing the tour back to the Washington area.

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Tiger Woods stood on the 18th green and again followed a path blazed by Jack Nicklaus.

No, it wasn’t a spectacular bunker shot or a tournament-winning putt. It was a championship presentation to K.J. Choi.

“Here’s your trophy, big guy,” said Woods, who watched as Choi kissed the silver-colored replica of the Capitol.

For the second time in five weeks, the biggest South Korean star of the PGA Tour soaked up the cheers as the prized guest at a golf party thrown by one of golf’s greats. Having accepted the crystal trophy from host Nicklaus at the Memorial in late May, Choi persevered in an adventurous back nine for a three-stroke victory Sunday at Woods’ inaugural event, the AT&T National.

Overwhelmed

“This tournament is just too big for me to really absorb right now,” Choi said. “But it’s a very big win for me, and definitely the biggest win of my career.”

But even Choi’s victory — with the accompanying $1.08 million first-place check that equaled the one he got at the Memorial — couldn’t overshadow Woods, who turned his first tournament into a red, white and blue spectacle of military tributes and Fourth of July patriotism. In return, the huge galleries all but worshipped Woods’ every move, thanking him endlessly for bringing the tour back to the Washington area after the long-running Booz Allen Classic was dropped last year.

“It’s been a perfect week,” Woods said.

Perfect, with one obvious exception: He was never really in contention at his own event. His putter let him down Thursday (73) and Saturday (69), and his 66 Friday wasn’t enough to compensate. Seven strokes behind as Sunday dawned, Woods played a final round of even-par 70 that was more celebratory than competitive.

Still, the crowd of 37,211 didn’t seem to mind.

“I didn’t get a ‘W,’ so that was frustrating in that sense,” said Woods, who finished tied for sixth at 2 under. “But this tournament in general has been a bigger success than anyone could have imagined.”

Wears several hats

Woods wore several hats during the week, juggling daily organizational meetings in between rounds while also dealing with the joys of becoming a father, but no one had any qualms when he proclaimed the event a success. Servicemen from all branches of the military served as announcers at the first tee and 18th green. A huge American flag welcomed the leaders Sunday as they headed down the 18th.

Choi added to the international flair, attracting a substantial gallery of Korean-Americans that cheered him in his native language. One fan held a sign with a Korean flag with the words “Go Tank,” a reference to his nickname.

Choi shot a final-round 68 for a 9-under 271 total to win for the sixth time on the PGA Tour, the most victories by an Asian-born player.


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