K.J. Choi has had success at Congressional Country Club before. He won the first AT&T National in 2007, earning a trophy that is designed like the U.S. Capitol and a purse of just over $1 million.
"It feels like home here," Choi said through his translator.
Choi has eight PGA Tour victories, but his best finish in the U.S. Open was in 2005, when he tied for 15th. His familiarity with the course should help him in a field where as many as 40 players have been projected as having a chance to win.
"On this course, you can't miss your tee shots. If you do, you're going to have a hard time hitting it on the green," Choi said. "The U.S. Open is known for its tough greens. That's where the short game comes in. I've been concentrating on my putting and my short game to compensate."
Although Choi believes he can draw upon his success at Congressional, he also said that the course this year is a little different than the one he played on in 2007.
"You have to attack it a little differently. They pulled the tee boxes back 20 or 30 yards," Choi said. "You have to use a different strategy. Having played the course before, I feel like it puts less pressure on me because I know where I have to hit my shots. It helps that I know both setups for this course."
Choi got in nine holes of practice Saturday and Sunday, using mostly 6- and 7-irons, and thinks the key to success is to make sure that second shots reach the green.
"If you can hit it long and straight, you have an advantage," he said. "If you miss the green, you'll be facing some difficult chip shots."
Choi won this year's Players Championship but admits that it was just four years ago when he began to believe that he was capable of winning a major.
"My mindset has changed since then. That was when I realized that my game was good enough [to win majors]," he said. "I have no regrets because I know that in every tournament I play in, I tried my very best."
A native of South Korea, Choi began his career playing on the Asian tour and earned his PGA Tour card while playing in Japan. Now living in the U.S., Choi has been ranked in the top 10 for 40 weeks.
"To win the U.S. Open would be very special, especially because now I am a resident here in the U.S. A lot of people who have supported me would be very happy," Choi said. "All I can say is that I'm going to try my best. It's not going to be easy."
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