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Choi completes Nicklaus-Woods double

Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

K.J. Choi shot 33 on his front nine Sunday.

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — K.J. Choi is the first golfer to complete the Jack Nicklaus-Tiger Woods double.

That makes his next goal seem quite realistic.

``My life dream is to become the first Asian to ever have won a major,'' Choi said. ``And that's something that I'm going to strive for very hard.''

Five weeks after walking away with the crystal trophy at Nicklaus' Memorial tournament, Choi on Sunday lifted the silver-colored replica of the Capitol at the 18th green of the inaugural AT&T National, with first-time host Woods looking on.

``This week's trophy is a lot heavier than Jack's trophy, if that means anything,'' Choi, laughing, said through an interpreter. ``But just winning both events, all I can say is that I have a lot of respect for both players, and to be able to win in their tournaments is just - I can't even express in words.''

Choi won the sixth time on the PGA Tour, the most victories by an Asian-born player. The 37-year-old South Korean did his best to share the spotlight with Woods with a final-round 68 for a 9-under 271 total, three strokes better than second-place Steve Stricker.

Choi's highlight came when he holed his shot from the greenside trap at No. 17 for a birdie. The usually even-keeled player - whose nickname is ``Tank'' - celebrated by throwing the ball into the crowd.

``It's never looking back, don't look back, just move forward just like a tank,'' Choi said. ``Just progress. It's how I felt when I first came over to the U.S. starting out. You know, it was a new culture, new language, everything was new. There were a lot of hurdles for me to overcome, but I just took it day by day, just believed in myself, trusted in the Lord and just moved forward with it and tried my best.''

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.

For Woods, the primary hiccup was that he was never really in contention at his own event. His putter let him down Thursday (73) and Saturday (69), and his 66 on Friday wasn't enough to compensate. Seven strokes behind as Sunday dawned, he 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.''

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 few golfers had any qualms about an event that was put together in less than five months.

The biggest complaint might be hard to address. The greens at Congressional Country Club have a tendency to get bumpy in the July heat and humidity after many rounds of play. Several possible contenders struggled on the back nine, including Stricker, who watched his putts bobble away from the hole.

``You end up just tapping it down there,'' he said, ``and it goes any which way it wants.''

Divots: Under various qualifying rules, Woody Austin, Hunter Mahan and Pat Perez all earned spots in this month's British Open, although Austin said he will not play. ``I don't know how to play that type of golf,'' Austin said. ``And I would probably go over there and shoot two high numbers and make a fool of myself.'' ... Mahan's 65 was the best round of the day.

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