Players Championship 2012: Why K.J. Choi Is a Lock to Defend Title

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2012

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 08:  K.J. Choi of South Korea talks with the media during a press conference prior to the start of THE PLAYERS Championship held at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 8, 2012 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Forget about Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. K.J. Choi will win The Players Championship for the second year in a row.

Choi won the 2011 Players Championship in dramatic fashion as he narrowly defeated David Toms in a playoff to earn the win. Choi has yet to earn a victory since then but has played well enough to still be ranked 28th in the world.

Last season's victory at Sawgrass was surprising to say the least—Choi had never finished better than T-16th in his nine previous appearances in the Players Championship, but he rallied nonetheless to climb the leaderboards and eventually win the whole thing.

Choi now finds himself in a similar situation. Despite taking the title home last year, almost no one is giving him a chance to repeat his success. With all the big names competing on one of the largest stages in all of golf, it's easy to get lost in the crowd.

As usual, Woods will steal all of the headlines—after missing the cut at Wells Fargo, he likely will be a non-factor. McIlroy will have to live up to the pressures of now being ranked No. 1 in the world. With all the bigger names in golf drawing attention to themselves, Choi won't have to deal with the normal pressures of being the defending champion.

Choi has mostly flown under the radar this season but he does have one top-ten finish and two top-25 finishes in 10 starts—showing that he is still capable of playing top-level golf. A trip back to the place where he last claimed victory could be all he needs to play up to his potential.

With little to no pressure to perform and the confidence of already having won at Sawgrass, Choi is set up to become the first man in PGA history to defend his Players Championship title.