K.J. Choi on why he hasn’t won a major, a ruined U.S. Open setup, and his Korean roots

K.J. Choi has won eight times on the PGA Tour.
James Cheadle

You've won eight times on Tour. Are you surprised you haven't won a major yet?
I'm not really surprised. I wasn't ready for it. I lacked whatever it is. I acknowledge that. I've always wanted to win a major, but did I really have the confidence to? I feel like my game is really coming around now, so I feel like it's my time now more than ever.

You had won the AT&T National at Congressional in 2007, yet you missed the cut there last year at the U.S. Open. What did you think of the setup?
I was disappointed in the setup of the course because it felt like they tried to do too much to it, artificially changing the tee boxes and stretching them way back there. That course is a natural course and that's the way it's meant to be played; you can't just take the tee box and rearrange it just to make it longer. I felt like they sort of ruined the setup.

You gave away $200,000 after you won The Players Championship last year (defeating David Toms in a playoff) for tornado victims in the South. Is that the largest sum you've ever given away?
In the U.S., yeah, it is. I gave $150,000 to the victims of a warehouse fire in Korea, and $300,000 to the victims of a factory fire. Forty people died. And my foundation donates regularly to children, and for scholarships.

You were the first Asian player to win The Players. Will the PGA Tour eventually have as many Koreans as there are on the LPGA Tour?
It's so competitive out here that I don't think you're going to all of a sudden see 50 Koreans, but there are about 11 on Tour this year, if you include Korean-Americans. You could see up to 20 in the near future.

Do you follow the progress of Korean-Americans like Anthony Kim and Kevin Na? Are you concerned that Anthony was at a high level and has slumped?
I've spoken to Anthony and told him that it's important to stay healthy, because as long as you're healthy there's always going to be a second chance. It's like when a wave hits the shore, you think that's the end, but it's not. There's a second wave, a third wave. There's always a chance to rebound. As long as he stays physically and mentally healthy, he'll have a chance to rebound.

You were in last year's movie Seven Days in Utopia with Robert Duvall. What was that like?
The role that I played was a golfer, which is something that I do on a regular basis, so that wasn't hard. But to be a golfer in front of the camera, it wasn't like it was a competitive setting. You're just looking at the cameras, and there's really nothing out there. That was the hardest part, to look like a competitive golfer outside the setting of an actual tournament.

You have a new man on the bag this year, Steve Underwood.
He's a new-old caddie. I won my first two PGA tournament with Steve [in 2002], so we actually gelled well together in the beginning. But we were still young. We had some differences, but through the time we were apart we sort of knew what was missing from our relationship. We had matured a lot. Last year Steve was available to caddie for me when Andy [Prodger] wanted a few weeks off at Zurich and AT&T National, and I tied for third and finished second, respectively. There had been some misunderstandings, coming from different cultures.

When you talk yardages and clubs, it's in English, right?
Oh, yeah.

Do you speak any English in your house in Dallas?
My kids obviously speak English; they were born here. But I try to refrain from speaking English in the house. I want them to learn Korean. I don't want them to grow up without knowing their roots.