Choi honed his game on hardscrabble Korean courses.
Monte Isom
Thursday, January 26, 2012

The best part about America is if you dream something, you can achieve it. After [the 1997 World Cup], I went into the press room and said, "I am going to America!" I spoke no English. But I was going to do it.

My hero is Arnold Palmer. Everyone likes him. He lives a clean life. His swing may not be perfect, but he gives pleasure to people. He's a good role model.

I also like Rambo. My favorite movie is Rambo: First Blood, Part II. He goes through a lot of hardship, pain and trouble, and he overcomes it. That's my philosophy.

The best feeling I've ever had in golf is when I made an eagle at the 11th hole at The Masters [in 2004]. I've never jumped that high in my life.

I like beef and steak. I don't like snake. Many Korean people eat snake soup; they say it tastes like chicken soup. You close your eyes, eat it and everybody says, "Yum! Very good!" [Laughs.]

I believe there will be a lot more Korean players on the PGA Tour. They see what I've done. They're getting better.

I'm very fortunate--making a living, helping my family. When I look at my three kids it gives me a sense that every stroke I play is very important.

The thing I longed for when I didn't have money was a nice, new set of clubs--you know, the ones you want but can't afford. I still haven't gotten to buy them. I started playing better, and I got them for free!

The best advice I ever got came from my father's friend: Be humble and respectful.

I worked so hard growing up in Korea. I practiced from 5:30 in the morning to 10 at night. I took the same spot on the range every time. There wasn't much grass left--just mud and brush. I was a rifleman in the military and started practicing again when I was discharged. Hard work like that is typical for Korea.

One driving range was only 70 yards long. You hit into big curtains. To play, we would get up at three in the morning and drive three hours to the course. One day, I played 71 holes.

I drive a white Mercedes ML320. If I had to get a real job, I'd be an engineer. I'd like to build cars.

I never had a teacher. I learned from reading Jack Nicklaus's book [Golf My Way].

In Korea, the heating system is in the floor, so we sleep on the floor to keep our back warm. Here in the States, I sleep on a bed, so my back feels cold.

My definition of success is simple: effort. Effort equals success.

K.J.'s Fitness Keys

David Darbyshire, Choi's strength trainer, on what you can learn from his health-crazed boss.

Avoid Sugar during a round. No Mars bars! A sugar crash can hurt your putting. I give K.J. Atkins protein bars.

Stretch before and after you play--not just your back but your legs and hips. Between rounds, lunges are a great way to help strengthen your hips, which can unlock the door to power.

K.J. used to power lift, but now we focus on flexibility. That's where length comes from--it's not the muscles, but the leverage you get from a big turn.

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