Charlie Wi is the first to admit he has always had a penchant for folding under pressure.
The 40-year-old South Korean is in his seventh year and still looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour.
“I am sure I will be fighting my demons all day tomorrow,” Wi said. “It is how I handle myself that is going to be the outcome of this tournament.”
Wi, who shot a tournament course record nine-under 61 on Thursday last week, fired a three-under 69 on Saturday to maintain his slim lead heading into yesterday’s final round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Wi has a three-stroke margin over American Ken Duke after a bogey-free round that featured three birdies under rainy conditions on the more difficult Spyglass Hill course.
He has had four runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour and was in contention as recently as three months ago at the Frys.com Open.
The last time Wi had the lead heading the final round was last year when he had a one-shot cushion, but lost to Davis Love at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
Wi said he has been working on preparing himself mentally for tournaments with a sports psychologist and he is just now seeing the results.
“By demons, I mean I tend to get ahead of myself a lot,” he said. “Meaning self-doubt — can I really hit that shot or am I going to be nervous.”
“Something turned over the last couple of months, where I really started to feel comfortable with myself out there on the course,” Wi said.
Wi said he found his game slipping a few times on Saturday, but was able to reel in his emotions.
However, it wouldn’t help yesterday that Wi had some heavy hitters breathing down his neck, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who were to play in the group right behind Wi and Duke.
Wi was born in Seoul, but moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was 10 years old, where his father set up an import-export business.
He attended college on a golf scholarship at the University of California at Berkeley and now lives just outside of Los Angeles in the suburb of Westlake Village.
Wi has 16 top 10 finishes in his PGA Tour career and nine wins internationally so he isn’t a complete stranger to winning.
His first victory came in 1997 at the Kuala Lumpur Open in Malaysia, but his last international triumph was more than five years ago at the Malaysian Open.
“It is just a matter of how I handle myself emotionally tomorrow. That is going to make the difference,” he said.