CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — K.J. Choi, known as the Tank because he’s built like one, is four under heading into the weekend and has a chance to fulfill his dream of becoming the first Asian player to win a major tournament.
Choi, 37, has six career wins on the PGA Tour, including this year’s Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National. Choi also has a seasoned caddie, the Englishman Andy Prodger, who looped for Nick Faldo when he won the 1987 British Open at Muirfield and the 1989 Masters.
So Choi’s got a man by his side who knows his way around the links and can help him through the weekend as the pressure builds.
“I never thought at the start of the week that I would be in such a high place after two rounds,” Choi said. “But I do feel comfortable on this course because you have to play a lot of fades, and that suits my game.”
Choi said that he used to watch the Open on television when he was growing up in South Korea, and he realized then that Open winners had to be able to handle wind and bunkers. Choi was paired with Paul Lawrie, the eventual champion, at Carnoustie in 1999, and he said that experience provided a close-up lesson in the art of links golf.
“I didn’t have the shots I needed back then, but I saw how Paul used the wind to help his shots, and I learned a lot,” Choi said. “Of all the majors, the British Open has the history and tradition and, if I keep my pace going, I may get my dream to come true after all.”
And the answer to golf’s best kept secret? What does K.J. stand for?
“It’s Kyoung-Ju. The first time I played in the British Open, in 1998, I was announced onto the first tee as ‘Kung Choi,'” he said, laughing. “It’s very difficult to pronounce. The next day, the announcer said K.J., and it has stayed that way. It’s very simple.”