NEWS

Everything to know about Ho-Sung Choi's wild golf swing

By Cam Inman
Published on

PEBBLE BEACH -- Specifically, it's Ho-Sung Choi's crazy, corkscrew follow-through after contact.
 
Novelty acts are nothing new for this storied tournament, but Choi is no amateur with a silly swing. Nor is he taking lightly this maiden visit to America -- quite the pristine land when being introduced through Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
 
"I've had the honor to play all three courses here and, just because of such beautiful scenery, I couldn't even focus on where my ball was going," Choi said Tuesday. "Just looking at the ocean and all the scenery has been amazing, and that's been my favorite part."
 
 
Here is what you need to know about Choi:
 
THE SWING: A right-handed striker, he looks technically sound all the way to impact. Then his left foot pirouettes, his right knee swings across his body and his clubhead stretches skyward like a home-run hitter celebrating in the batter's box.
 
Choi's "fisherman-swing" finish is the contortionist equivalent to Charles Barkley's awkward start that invades Lake Tahoe each summer at the American Century Championship.
 
"I personally love my swing," said Choi, who told PGATour.com he first tried it in 2013 while hitting out of deep rough and eventually making it standard fare last year.
 
 
THE PURPOSE: Theatrics aside, Choi claimed his swing adds 13 yards to his drives, which max out at just over 280 yards. "With the advancement in technology and with how far people these players are hitting it, I needed to find my own unique way to get that extra distance," Choi said.
 
HIS START: Choi was born Sept. 23, 1973 in the seaport of Pohang in South Korea, some 200 miles southeast of Seoul. "I went to a high school that specialized in jobs for the fishing industry. When I was 23, I had my (right) thumb cut off in a chainsaw accident.
 
"You can see my (re-attached) right thumb is shorter than my left. For about two years, I couldn't do anything, then afterward, I got a my part-time job at a golf course, and that's how I started my golfing career."
 
That job included cleaning locker rooms, stocking vending machines, providing ice-soaked towels on hot days. Once Anyang Country Club opened a new practice area, employees were told to learn the game so they could relate better to players' mindsets. He was 27. By 29, he turned pro.
 
RODGERS' GROUP: Aaron Rodgers, an ex-Cal and current Green Bay Packers quarterback, requested to play in the same pro-am group as Choi, and tournament officials acquiesced. While Rodgers again partners with pro Jerry Kelly, Choi will fill out that foresome with actor Chris O'Donnell.
 
Asked if he knew of Rodgers, Choi's drew a chuckle from the media by responding: "I know he's the greatest football player in the U.S. and I'm honored that he said he wanted to play golf with me."
 
Their starting times: Thursday, Monterey Peninsula, 9:17 a.m.; Friday, Spyglass Hill, 8:33 a.m. (off No. 10 tee); Saturday, Pebble Beach, 10:01 a.m.
 
 
CREDENTIALS: Ranked 194th in the world, Choi has won twice on both the Japan and Korean tours. His most-recent win came in November at Japan's Casio World Open, the same tournament he hit a hole-in-one in 2014 (8th hole, 230 yards, 5-wood).
 
Choi didn't single out a role model and instead declared his respect for all touring pros, adding "how incredibly happy and grateful I am to have this opportunity."
 
SKEPTICS: Choi's invitation on a sponsor exemption drew scrutiny from at least one pro, with Rory McIlroy noting last month: "He's obviously a pretty good player. Whether that means he should be taking a spot away from a PGA Tour player at a PGA Tour event, I'm not so sure."
 
Good thing Choi said his strength is his mental toughness, or "just not worrying what other people say or do, and just focusing on my own game."
 
McIlroy, a four-time major winner, is skipping this week's AT&T Pro-Am after missing last year's cut while partnering in the pro-am with his father.
 
ADMIRERS: Tiger Woods, who's not playing in the Pro-Am, told USA Today that Choi's swing is "quite remarkable," adding: "My back hurts just watching it."
 
Count Jordan Spieth, this event's 2017 winner, among this week's potential rubberneckers. "I'm so pumped. I'm interested in watching it, seeing the swing in person," Spieth told USA Today. "I don't really know if he does it and then laughs after he does his follow-throughs or if that's just how it is."
 
VIDEO STAR: OK, so how viral is Choi's swing, at least on YouTube? A highlight video from last year's Shinhan Donghae Open has garnered over 130,000 views since its October posting. It's title: "Ho-Sung Choi -- Craziest Swing In Golf."
 
 
BEING UNIQUE: Choi need not apologize for his unique swing, because, after all, it's what got him here. "Just like how everyone looks different, I feel there are a variety of ways of swinging at a golf ball," Choi said. "Some people are more flexible, some might be stronger, and that's what makes golf so much fun, and that is what leads to a variety of swings on the Tour."
 
LUCKY NUMBER: The No. 8 are sporadically stamped on the back of his Titleist wedges. Among the reasons, according to the PGATour.com's Andrew Tursky: Choi started golfing on the eighth day of a month, and he and his wife are 8 years apart.
 
THE LOGO: Choi's bag and club headcovers are imprinted with a logo of his swing's unique follow-through. Imagine Jerry West escaping from the NBA logo and twirling on a dance floor with a golf club.
 
FIRST-TIMER: Choi isn't the only first-timer entranced by Pebble Beach's beauty. Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, last year's U.S. Open runner-up, came away smiling from Tuesday's practice round even though he played through a brief hail storm.
 
"The views are amazing, and you're in this patch where it's so beautiful, you can't help but smile when you're playing," Fleetwood said. "The feeling it gives you is really, really cool. ... For me it's very similar to St. Andrews in that it's historic and you're walking on, I don't want to say 'sacred,' but special ground when you play." 
 
This article is written by Cam Inman from Mercury News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.