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Ho-Sung Choi and his crazy swing to make PGA Tour debut at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am


What I’m Hearing: Steve DiMeglio spoke with some of the biggest names in golf about the very unique swing of South Korean golfer Ho-Sung Choi. USA TODAY

The eminent philosopher of all things golf, one Paul Azinger, thought deeply before issuing his observation of a mystifying force that is the talk of the game.

“It’s been said that there is no better time in the life of a golfer than the day he or she learns how to swing free,” said the 1993 PGA champion and NBC’s lead golf analyst. “Choi epitomizes what it looks like.”

Choi is Ho-Sung Choi, the 45-year-old Korean golfer who became an instant internet sensation when videos of his unbound swing and outlandish antics went viral last year. Picture a ballet dancer, a gymnast and Happy Gilmore rolled into one. Choi has twirled after hitting a putt. Even his pre-shot routine is strange.

To watch his unorthodox “fisherman swing” – at times Choi looks like he’s casting a line out to sea after impact – is to eye Edvard Munch’s iconic painting The Scream, for one is full of anxiety and uncertainty watching Choi play.

Choi’s star will explode this week when he makes his PGA Tour debut in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula. Along with the Lone Cypress, Cannery Row, Carmel Bay and Stillwater Cove, as well as some of the most picturesque golf real estate in the world and celebrities and sports stars galore, Choi is one of the main attractions.

“I’m so pumped. I’m interested in watching it, seeing the swing in person,” said Jordan Spieth, the three-time major champion who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2017. “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.

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“The funniest part is the camera work they do on some of those Asian Tour events when he’s hitting putts and he’s spinning around, and then they zoom in and it almost looks like a cartoon. It’s pretty funny.”

But Choi, who took up the game at 25, is no carnival act. He’s won twice on the Japan Golf Tour, most recently in November when he captured the Casio World Open. He is ranked 194th in the official world golf rankings.

Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed, while acknowledging with a hearty laugh that the swing is unorthodox, saluted Choi’s approach.

“If it works, it doesn’t matter,” Reed said. “That’s the awesome thing about golf. There are some really weird golf swings out there. But if you perfect your golf swing, and you get the ball from Point A to Point B the fastest, that’s all that matters.”

Still, as Tiger Woods said, Choi’s action is “quite remarkable.”

“My back hurts just watching it,” Woods added.

On behalf of the entire golf world, we beg of you, Tiger, please stop watching.

But golfers and fans can’t take their eyes off Choi when he steps in to hit a shot.

“The swing technically isn’t that bad,” Billy Horschel said. “He plays sort of a full draw. At least that’s what it looks like. His action is his, it’s unique, and he owns it.

“It was Arnold Palmer who said, ‘Swing your swing.’ And he’s doing just that.”

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy paused for an extended amount of time when asked about Choi.

“I mean, technically his swing is good,” he said. “If you watch it up until impact, he’s technically got a pretty good swing. He’s obviously a pretty good player. But yeah, I’m not sure a golf shot should mean that much to you that you’re doing that after you hit it, like it’s just trying a little too hard. You have to try hard at golf, but that’s taking it to an extreme.”

And Peter Kostis, a superb golf coach of Konica Minolta Swing Vision Camera fame, can’t wait to put Choi’s swing under the camera’s eye. He offered up a little preview.

“Everybody is distracted by what happens after impact,” Kostis said. “If you look at his setup, it’s fairly orthodox. He’s fairly well-balanced. Now, look at his position at the very top of the backswing. It’s also fairly orthodox. He goes a little bit past the line, but not bad, and there are a lot of guys who go a bit across the line.

“If you stop his swing at impact, he looks conventional. His right foot is still on the ground. And he starts to come off it, but so does Justin Thomas and a bunch of other guys. So, if you focus on the actual mechanics – setup, top of the backswing, impact – it’s pretty good.”

And then?

Kostis said there are four kinds of personalities in the swings of golfers – the analytic, amiable, driven and expressive. Bryson DeChambeau is an analytic. Fred Couples amiable. Tiger driven. Bubba Watson expressive.

“You want your swing to be a reflection of your personality, and Choi is obviously a very expressive person by doing all those contortions and moving around and whatever,” Kostis said. “Now, all the contortions afterwards, that is kind of like putting so many sprinkles on the ice cream you don’t even know what flavor ice cream you got. But I can’t wait to do a swing vision with him.

“Stay tuned.”

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