October 12, 2006 – Three-time US PGA Tour winner KJ Choi has joined the stellar line-up for next month’s UBS Hong Kong Open.
The Korean ace will be aiming to go one better in the US$2 million showpiece after finishing joint second a year ago behind winner Colin Montgomerie.
“My game is in pretty good shape at the moment,” said Choi. “I’ve had three top-10 finishes in the US this year, including finishing tied seventh in the PGA Championship, so I’m reasonably content, although you always feel there’s room for improvement.”
Choi will start as one of the favourites in a talent-packed field for the UBS Hong Kong Open, to be played at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on November 16-19.
His rivals will include Scottish star Montgomerie, who is returning to defend his title, and Major winners Retief Goosen of South Africa and Michael Campbell of New Zealand.
Choi will be bidding to become the first Asian since compatriot Kang Wook Soon in 1998 to win the UBS Hong Kong Open crown. Europeans have monopolised the trophy in recent years with seven straight victories.
Choi came close to ending that European streak last year when he swept into contention with a six-under-par 64 in the third round.
A closing 69 saw him finish in a group of five players on eight-under 272, one shot behind Montgomerie.
“I really enjoyed last year’s UBS Hong Kong Open and was pretty happy with the way I played,” said Choi. “I had a great third round but didn’t quite make enough birdies on the final day to catch Monty. Overall, it was a good week.
“Fanling is a challenging course – you only have to look at last year’s final round, when no one was able to go low despite the perfect weather conditions, to appreciate that. It has its fair share of birdie opportunities but, at the same time, it offers little room for error. It’s a course I like playing.
“I always enjoy visiting Hong Kong. It’s a wonderful city and the people are so welcoming. I’m looking forward to it.”
This year’s UBS Hong Kong Open – promoted by Parallel Media Group – is once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours. More star players will be announced in the coming weeks.
Kathryn Shih, chief executive of UBS Hong Kong Branch, hailed Choi’s return to Fanling as another boost for the tournament.
“We are delighted to welcome one of the region’s biggest golfing names back to Hong Kong to participate in the UBS Hong Kong Open, the flagship property in UBS’s golf sponsorship programme in the region,” she said.
“KJ is one of the real success stories of Asian golf with victories in Asia and Japan followed by multiple victories across the United States and Europe. He was also a great favourite with the fans last year and I am sure that they will be thrilled he is returning.
“KJ is a great role model for the next generation of Asian stars and, I am sure that, along with the Asian Tour UBS Order of Merit leader, Jeev Milkha Singh, and China’s No.1, Liang Wenchong, he will be determined to secure a victory for Asia at this year’s UBS Hong Kong Open.”
Choi, who began his golfing education as a teenager by watching videos of Jack Nicklaus, is viewed as one of Asia’s greatest ever players and has set several landmarks in recent years.
His victory in the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro last year gave him his third US success, matching the mark of Japan’s Shigeki Maruyama. The duo are the only two Asians to have won more than one PGA Tour event.
Choi’s maiden US victory in 2002, at the Compaq Classic of New Orleans, made him the first Korean golfer to win on the PGA Tour. He followed up that same season with a runaway triumph in the Tampa Bay Classic, his seven-shot victory being the largest winning margin on the Tour that year.
In 2003, on his first visit to continental Europe, he captured the Linde German Masters, becoming the first Korean golfer to win a European Tour event. It also made him only the second Asian, after Japanese legend Isao Aoki, to win events in both the US and Europe.
While Choi has been one of the trailblazers of Asian golf, he believes many more players are ready to follow in his footsteps.
“The game in Asia is in very good shape,” he said. “There’s some fantastic talent coming through and more Asian players are making their mark on the world stage. It’s great to see.”