Na Yeon Choi wins U.S. Women's Open

South Korea's Na Yeon Choi kisses the championship South Korea's Na Yeon Choi kisses the championship trophy after winning the U.S. Women's Open. (July 8, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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KOHLER, Wis. -- Na Yeon Choi works hard on things that apparently come easily to her, such as golf, and things that do not, such as English. She has succeeded so well at both that, after having made a world-class par on No. 12 to help her win the U.S. Women's Open by four shots Sunday, she said, "I got double-extra confidence from that."

The 24-year-old from Seoul, South Korea, also was able to speak in her second language about how it felt to win the Open at Blackwolf Run, the birthplace of the boom in Korean golf because it was where Se Ri Pak won this same tournament 14 years ago.

"Special memories gave me confidence," Choi said after she was given a champagne shower near the 18th green by countrywomen including runner-up Amy Yang and Pak herself. Choi told of, "That feeling [that] went through my head, through my heart."

It is becoming a familiar feeling for Korean golfers, who have won America's national championship four times in the past five years. Choi acknowledged that hard work is a big contributor to that. She made the Open look easy when almost everyone else found it just the opposite. Choi shot 1-over-par 73 to finish at 7 under and was one of only two golfers to break par for the week (Yang was 3 under).

"I think I need to keep studying English, but right now, I am really happy I can speak with the American people," said Choi, who has a home in Orlando and decided to hire a full-time traveling English tutor after she won the LPGA Tour money title two years ago. She knows that being a major pro player in America involves showing personality and conversing easily.

Her English calmed her Sunday after a triple-bogey 8 on No. 10 had cut her lead to two strokes. She and American caddie Shane Joel spoke of flight reservations, vacations -- anything but golf. She birdied No. 11, and kept her momentum on 12, when she made what might have been the par of the year.

She hooked her second shot onto a hill into very deep grass. Joel suggested she take a penalty shot for an unplayable lie, but Choi, showing the independent streak that had enabled her to send her parents back to Korea three years ago, insisted on hitting it from where it was. "At that moment, I had a confidence about my shot," she said. Choi chopped it onto the green and made her putt.

So why can't Americans do this as well as Koreans in the U.S. Open? "I would say we're doing our best. They're just outplaying us," said Nicole Castrale, who shot 4 over.

Brittany Lincicome (6 over) said: "Maybe I should spend a week with one of them and kind of figure out what they do. Obviously, they practice unbelievably hard. They're not fishing on their weeks off like I am."

Paula Creamer, the only American to win the Open in the past five years and the low U.S. player this year (3 over, tied for seventh) said it is a matter of concentrating on the junior ranks. "That's the future of golf," she said, "and if we don't put our efforts in that, then who knows?"

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