South Korean star K.J. Choi claimed a convincing two-stroke victory in his own tournament, the inaugural CJ Invitational, after closing with a five-under-par 67 yesterday.
Choi overcame an overnight three-shot deficit with an outward 34 before taking a firm grip of the US$750,000 tournament, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Korean Golf Tour, in Yeoju.
He wowed the crowd with three birdies on the homeward nine in front of large galleries at the Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club.
Asian Tour No. 1 Noh Seung-yul, also of South Korea, put up a strong fight before settling for second place following a final-round 66, while US star Anthony Kim and overnight leader Lee Ki-sang settled for a share of third place following rounds of 73 and 74 respectively.
It was Choi’s second victory of the season following his triumph in the Players Championship in the US and his fifth career title on the Asian Tour, where he is an honorary member.
“This week, I had so many things going on. I didn’t really think about the win. I was busy looking after the players and taking care of the sponsors,” Choi said.
“Probably the fact that I wasn’t thinking about the tournament helped me feel at ease. The way it turned out, I’m happy to be the inaugural champion and even though I am hosting this event, it gives a special meaning,” said Choi, who totaled 17-under-par 271 and pocketed US$118,875.
Choi surged into the lead with a four-foot birdie on 10, but had to make two crucial par saves on 11 and 15 to preserve his advantage. He then opened up a two-shot cushion with a superb 20-foot curling putt on 16.
The 20-year-old Noh was near flawless as he charged up the leaderboard with six birdies, but he failed to get the crucial putts to drop down the stretch as he settled for his best finish of the season.
“I played very nice, but I missed a couple of good chances. I was one behind after my birdie on 14. I had good chances on the last four holes, but just missed the putts,” he said.
Three-time PGA Tour winner Kim never got his game firing on a day when the final round was delayed by two hours because of morning fog. After missing chances on the front nine, a double bogey on the ninth hole when he drove into the hazard terminated his hopes of ending his two-year winless run.
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