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Choi in upbeat mood

The U.S. Masters golf championship offers a spectacular trophy and a grand prize for the winner, but there is one more thing -- the green jacket -- that makes the tournament special. It has been coveted by the world’s top golfers for more than 70 years and no Asian golfer has ever won it.

Korea’s top golfer Choi Kyung-ju, better known as K.J. Choi, attempted to become the first Asian to don the green jacket, but failed to do so after finishing at the shared eighth for the 75th Masters at Augusta National in Georgia.

The 40-year-old Korean was tied for second place until the third round. But he shot an even-par 72 at the final round Monday while winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa fired a six-under-par 66.

“I tried my best and have no regret,” Choi said after the final round. 
Choi Kyoung-ju (AP-Yonhap News)
Choi Kyoung-ju (AP-Yonhap News)

Choi played superbly on the first day, carding a 67 with six birdies to finish among the top three. Then, he shot a 70 and 71 in the second and third round to pull within just two strokes behind the leader. In the third round, in particular, he went the last six holes without a bogey.

On Monday, he started the final round with a birdie on the seventh and also in the ninth. He was in the lead with his playing partner and eventual champion Schwartzel on the 10th, coming inches from the winning the title.

But he dropped back with a bogey at the 12th, and saw his chances vanish after dropping two shots on the 17th and 18th.

Despite the disappointing round, Choi said he showed improvement at the season opening PGA Masters tournament.

“I felt under pressure during the tournament, but I feel that I have gained more confidence,” Choi said.

The veteran golfer is still hungry for a first major title after picking up seven titles on the PGA Tour since 2002. His best finish at the Masters was in 2004 where he finished alone for the third spot. He peaked at No. 5 in the world rankings in early 2008 after earning his seventh career PGA Tour victory, but struggled throughout the past two seasons.

Choi, however, claimed that he feels more at ease now. “My problem is putting, but it’s getting better and better. I came very close this time. It was a good experience, and I’m looking forward to next year,” he said.

By Oh Kyu-wook (
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Korea Herald daum