Homecoming Glory for Choi

Sun 25 Oct 2009

Homecoming Glory for Choi


Johor Bahru, Malaysia, October 25: Asian Tour honorary member K.J. Choi of Korea celebrated his return to Asia with a deserving victory after emerging triumphant at the weather interrupted US$1 million Iskandar Johor Open on Sunday.

Choi posted a third and final round score of eight-under-par 64 for a three-day total of 20-under-par 196 at the full field Asian Tour event that was reduced to a 54-hole tournament due to inclement weather.

Chapchai Nirat of Thailand took second place after delighting the galleries gathered at the Royal Johor Country Club with three amazing chip-ins on the 15th, 17th and 18th holes en route to a 66.

Title holder Retief Goosen of South Africa returned with a superb 62 to take a share of third position alongside overnight leader Himmat Rai of India who closed with a 70 for a three-day total of 201 at the final round that was suspended for two hours due to thunderstorms.

Japan’s Kodai Ichihara and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat signed off their Malaysian campaign on matching 204s to take tied-fifth position.

Choi spun his words into gold when he held true to his word of a career revival in Johor. He did not take long to prove his point when he fired three consecutive birdies in his opening three holes before adding another two on the sixth and seventh holes to make the turn in 31, seizing the initiative from the battling Rai.

The Korean, who has endured a tough spell on the US PGA Tour this season with only one top-10 and slipping down to 85th in the world rankings, went on to post further birdies on  holes 11, 12 and 18 to return with a blemish free scorecard courtesy of an amazing par save on the 15th after his tee-off shot found the water.

Choi recovered remarkably when he managed to hole his chip from 10 yards to save par.

“I was not really concerned about my shot on the 15th hole. Even if I had made a bogey, I knew that the next few holes were difficult holes and I had some space between Himmat so I kept myself calm and it helped with the way I played,” said Choi who bagged US$158,500 for his victory.

Choi’s victory marked a happy homecoming for the Korean as he previously sharpened his skills on the Asian Tour before turning his attention to the US PGA Tour where he has won seven titles.

“It is not easy to win on the Asian Tour. The depth of talent of the players here is very deep. If you do not manage yourself and your game, you cannot win out here. For me to win my first Asian Tour title outside of Korea is a testament of how difficult it is to play here,” said Choi who will be heading to the lucrative Barclays Singapore Open next week.

Chapchai was delighted to finish in second and he credited his tee shots for his second place finish.


“I was very lucky especially with the three chip-ins. I was struggling with my putting the entire year but after this tournament I felt that it has improved. My tee shots also worked well as I was able to find 10 fairways,” said Chapchai who wrote his name into the record books with a 32-under-par winning total at the SAIL Open in India.

Rai, who was aiming for his maiden Asian Tour victory, was pleased with his best finish this season when he ended his campaign with five birdies against three bogeys.

“It feels good and satisfying to know that I played so well. Overall it has been a great tournament for me. Playing with K.J Choi and the things that I learnt from him is unbelievable. His concentration is very good and he hit some really great shots,” said Rai.

“Having played so well this week, I’m beginning to feel much more confident about my game. I’m just looking forward to playing more on the Asian Tour and playing my heart out,” added the Indian.

Defending champion Goosen signaled his intention of staging a remarkable comeback by closing with the week’s lowest score of 62 on the final day.

Goosen blitzed through his front nine by carding three consecutive birdies followed by a magical eagle where his amazing bunker shot from about 10 yards out found the hole.

The South African added another two birdies on the seventh and eighth to make the turn in 29.


Goosen’s title charge was further sweetened with a birdie on the 11th but he dropped one shot on the 12th before answering with further birdies on 14th, 17th and 18th.

“Like I said yesterday, I had no chance of winning so I just came out and shoot a good round to improve my position. On my fourth hole I hit my tee shot with a three-wood right into the bunker and I told my caddie that if it is time to chip one in, it will be now and I holed it!” said Goosen.

The Iskandar Johor Open, celebrating its third edition and offering a record prize fund this year, is sanctioned by the Asian Tour, Johor Golf Association and Malaysian Golf Association.

The main sponsor of the Iskandar Johor Open is the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA). It is also supported by platinum sponsor - UEM Land Berhad, the master developer of Nusajaya which is a key driver of Iskandar Malaysia. Other co-sponsors include Iskandar Waterfront Development and UM Land. Official partners are TaylorMade Adidas Golf, 100 Plus, Srixon, Winston Wine, Dewars, Ricoh and the Puteri Pacific Hotel.

News and updates on the tournament will be available on the official IJO website www.iskandarjohoropen.com.

Leading final round scores

196 - K.J. Choi (KOR) 68-64-64

200 - Chapchai Nirat (THA) 69-65-66

201 - Retief Goosen (RSA) 69-70-62, Himmat Rai (IND) 64-67-70

204 - Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 72-68-64, Kodai Ichihara (JPN) 66-69-69

205 - Juvic Pagunsan (PHI) 70-68-67, Mars Pucay (PHI) 69-65-71

206 - Anirban Lahiri (IND) 69-69-68, Lin Wen-hong (TPE) 69-69-68, Noh Seung-yul (KOR) 69-68-69, Tim Stewart (AUS) 69-73-64, Chang Tse-peng (TPE) 65-68-73

Darren Beck (AUS) 68-64-74

207 - Rahil Gangjee (IND) 69-67-71

208 - Chris Rodgers (ENG) 70-68-70, Jason Norris (AUS) 72-65-71

209 - Antonio Lascuna (PHI) 70-70-69, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 70-70-69

Selected scores

209 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 70-70-69

210 - Lam Chih Bing (SIN) 71-68-71, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 69-69-72, Mardan Mamat (SIN) 70-72-68


About the Asian Tour

As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia.  This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include ESPN Star Sports (Official Regional TV Broadcaster), Pin High (Official Apparel Partner), Ricoh (Official Office Solutions Provider) and Srixon (Official Ball). Sentosa, Singapore’s premier island resort getaway, is the Home of the Asian Tour.