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Early Nicklaus lessons pay off for Choi

K.J. Choi
Kiichiro Sato/AP
Choi had six birdies on the front nine Sunday.

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Twenty years separated two images of Jack Nicklaus, both meaningful in their own way to K.J. Choi.

Nicklaus was the champion who filled every page of a pictorial instruction book that Choi studied religiously as a teenager in South Korea, a gift from his physical education teacher who encouraged him to pursue a career in golf.

"As I started reading it, I could understand why he was such a great golfer, because all the things that were written really started to make sense,'' Choi said. "That's how I really got into golf, by reading the book.''

Nicklaus was the tournament host at the Memorial who stood behind the 18th green Sunday afternoon with a proud smile and hearty handshake for Choi, who closed with a 7-under 65 for a one-shot victory over Ryan Moore.

"Thank you, Jack,'' Choi said to him.

Indeed, it was a textbook performance.

Choi finished off his string of four birdies on the front nine with a 7-iron he carved around the trees lining the right side of the ninth fairway into 8 feet.

"A cut shot, Jack-style,'' Choi said with a laugh.

Then came a series of pars that were equally significant, all made with clutch putts. Choi took only 12 putts on the back nine, finishing with a 7-foot par save from the bunker on the 16th, a 15-foot par save from the gallery behind the 17th green, and a tricky 5-foot save from the bunker on the 18th hole that ultimately gave him his fifth career victory on the PGA Tour.

Considering the host and the history, it was by far his biggest.

"I just feel very honored and very happy to be living in the same time as Jack is living, and to win his tournament is so meaningful to me,'' Choi said. "I can only think that this was meant to be.''

It certainly wasn't for those trying to catch him.

Rod Pampling had a three-shot lead going into the final round, which was delayed an hour in the morning when rain pounded Muirfield Village. He made a late bid with a 30-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole to get within one shot, then promptly fired his approach on the 17th over the green and into the gallery, taking bogey.

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