South Korea’s K.J. Choi became the first Asian winner of golf’s Players Championship after David Toms missed a 3 1/2-foot putt in a playoff at the par-3 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass.
“I was probably thinking ahead and thinking about the next hole,” Toms said during a news conference yesterday in Ponte Vedra, Florida. “I just got up there and missed it.”
Choi, who turns 41 in three days, receives $1.71 million for his eighth U.S. PGA Tour title and first since the 2008 Sony Open. The Players Championship is the sport’s richest event, with a total purse of $9.5 million.
Choi is the fourth straight non-U.S. player to win at Sawgrass, following Spain’s Sergio Garcia, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Tim Clark of South Africa.
“This course, the back nine is really difficult and puts a lot of pressure on me,” Choi said through an interpreter. “But for some reason I felt very comfortable out there.”
Choi and Toms went to the PGA Tour’s fourth straight playoff after several swings over the final three holes left them tied at 13-under par, two better than Paul Goydos.
Toms, the 2001 PGA Championship winner, lost a one-shot lead at the par-5 16th hole after he hit his second shot into a water hazard and made bogey.
Choi then took the lead by making a 10-foot birdie putt at Sawgrass’s signature island green 17th hole. Toms answered with a 17-foot birdie putt on No. 18 -- the fourth birdie at the closing hole in the final round -- to force a playoff.
Return to 17th
The players returned to the 17th hole, where Toms missed an 18-foot birdie putt for the win and then pulled his comeback attempt wide of the hole. Choi, appearing in his first career playoff, tapped in a three-foot par putt to seal the victory and deny Toms his first win since 2006.
“I actually kind of hit it on the toe and didn’t get it rolling,” Toms, 44, said of his short miss. “No excuses, no spike marks, no ball marks, nothing. Maybe a lot of pressure, but other than that there was no excuse.”
Luke Donald and Nick Watney tied for fourth place at 10-under. Graeme McDowell, who had a one-shot lead after the completion of the rain-delayed third round yesterday, tied for 33rd after closing with a 7-over 79.