Notebook: KJ Choi offers advice to Kim in practice round

Kevin Raftery/Daily
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By Kevin Raftery, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 5, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. — It was a disturbing thought for KJ Choi.

When the 40-year old met with Michigan senior Lion Kim to play a practice round with him on Tuesday, he was reminded of a story from 2002, when Kim was a spectator at the Bay Hill Invitational.

“It’s very scary,” Choi said after the round.

While at the Invitational, the then-13-year-old Kim took a picture with Choi and hung it on the wall in his room.

Nine years later, Kim was walking down the pure fairways of Augusta, chatting with and learning from Choi throughout the round Tuesday morning.

“There (are) so many kids in the commons who are like, ‘KJ, you met me (years ago),’ " Choi said. “But it’s a good sign of good teachers. It’s very exciting.”

Regardless of the age difference, Choi has been a valuable source for Kim as he continues to master the fairways and greens at Augusta.

The pair played a practice round together on Sunday too.

“He’s been great,” Kim said. “I went over to him in the morning and said hello, and he said, ‘Join me for today’s practice round,’ so I said, ‘I’d love to.’ ”

On the course today, with winds hollowing and the fairways wet after a fierce storm blew through the area last night, Choi made sure Kim realized this wasn’t how the course would be on Thursday. The temperature this morning was in the low 50s, but by the weekend, it is forecasted to be in the upper 80s.

“He told me a lot of things,” Kim said. “He told me not to get used to these wind conditions (today). It’s pretty wet out there too. So he told me to just focus on hitting my chip shots and hitting a lot of putts.”

Choi, who is making his ninth career appearance at the Masters (he tied for fourth last year), spent time with Kim on the range, too.

And while there, Choi noticed something that might help Kim’s game.

“I looked at his grip,” Choi said. “In the grip there was something wrong. Grip is very important, so I asked him, ‘Do you, sometimes when you hit it, (realize) there is a wrong grip?’ And he said ‘Yes.’ "

And Choi is convinced the grip change could make a big difference come Thursday.

“There will be a big change,” Choi said. “I guarantee (it).”

PAIRINGS POSTED: The pairings for the first and second rounds on Thursday and Friday have been posted.

Kim will tee-off with Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal at 12:31 p.m. Thursday and at 9:02 a.m. Friday.

Olazabal is a two-time Masters winner (1994 and 1999), and is one of just 16 players to win the tournament more than once.

Ironically, Olazabal defeated Love III by two strokes in 1999 to take the title. Love III’s second place finish was his best-career finish at the Masters.

Love III has also won a major championship before, as he took home the PGA Championship crown in 1997.

Combined, the two have won 26 PGA tour titles and 24 international event titles.

PAR THREE CONTEST WEDNESDAY: Kim will be playing with Bubba Watson and Aaron Baddeley in Wednesday’s annual par three contest.

Kim was the first golfer to sign his name for the one 1:00 pm. timeslot, and hours later he was told by the 32-year-old Watson they’d be playing together.

“I saw Bubba on the range and he said, ‘Oh, are you Lion Kim? I’m playing with you (Wednesday),’ “ Kim said. “So I think that’s pretty amazing. We’re going to have a blast.

“He’s obviously a great young stud out here, and I’m going to learn a lot from him as well.”

NOTES: In an article posted on Monday by Golf Digest, Kim was ranked sixth in the “Top Ten Rookies to Watch in Augusta” list.

There are 20 total first-time players in this year’s field.