South Korea’s K.J. Choi beat American David Toms in a sudden-death playoff to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass on Sunday and become the first Asian to win golf’s unofficial “fifth major.”
Choi sealed the biggest win of his career with a regulation par on the first playoff hole after Toms, a former US PGA champion, three-putted for a bogey.
“For some reason I felt so comfortable out there,” Choi said. “The swing that I have right now just doesn’t break down under pressure situations. I was able to be precise and aggressive and keep my rhythm together and that is what brought this performance.”
The drama came at the end of a marathon final day, with the leaders arriving at 7:45am and playing 13 holes of their rain-affected third round, before heading out again for the fourth round.
The pair had finished the tournament tied at 13-under par after closing with rounds of 70, where they both played consistent and solid golf, while their challengers fell by the wayside.
Choi, 40, snatched the outright lead with a birdie on the par-3 17th, only for Toms to respond by draining a long birdie putt on the final hole, to a huge roar, forcing the playoff, the first Choi has faced on the PGA tour.
However, the 44-year-old Toms, without a win in five years, lost his touch when it mattered most.
He missed a par putt from three-and-a-half feet on the first playoff hole, the par-3 17th, then watched as the Houston-based Choi calmy drained his par to secure his eighth win on the PGA Tour and his first in more than three years.
Toms, who won the US PGA Championship in 2001, but has not won in 124 starts since Hawaii in 2006, was left looking for positives from his near miss.
“It is disappointing, but I hung in there,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position, to be in the lead on a tough golf course, it shows I can still do it. I need to work on putting, if I had putted well I could have put a bit of distance between myself and the others.”
Britain’s Graeme McDowell started the final round with a one stroke lead, but imploded in a horrible round where he found water on four holes.
The reigning US Open champion, who had declared his swing problems behind him, shot a seven over-par round off 79 to finish tied for 33rd place.