On a windy day when 25 m.p.h. gusts made Grand Cypress GC a formidable test, Choi made a big-time blunder on the opening hole, a meager 339-yard par 4.
Her tee shot and approach were fine, giving Choi a 10-foot birdie attempt. But instead of getting off to a fast start, she four-putted to make a double bogey. "My head," Choi said later, asked how she felt walking to the second tee, "was kind of blank."
Far from letting the lousy beginning rattle her, Choi stayed in the game after listening to her caddie's advice. "My caddie kept encouraging me," she said, "[saying] maybe it was better than making a double bogey on No. 10 or somewhere else on the back nine. We had 17 holes to play, so you have to forget that hole and then re-start on the second hole. Actually, I think I controlled my emotions good today. I was calm."
Gal, a 26-year-old German who now lives in the same Orlando community as Choi, also persevered in the breeze, believing that the conditions improved her concentration. "I think the wind kind of of creates that focus because everything is a little more difficult so you've got to pick smaller targets, and really have to commit to your shots. There's no bailouts. You really have to go for every single one of your shots. I think that's what I did well as the round went on."
For Choi and Gal, who each have one victory in 2011, the weekend will be a case of trying to make a good year better. For American Paula Creamer, who was T-3 at four-under 140 after 36 holes with Hee Young Park, it will be about trying to win for the first time this season. The 25-year-old nine-time LPGA winner, for whom the Titleholders is also a home game, has endured injury, illness and swing changes and hasn't won since the 2010 U.S. Women's Open at Oakmont.
"I ask myself that question all the time, 'Why haven't I won?' " Creamer said after her second-round 71. "I feel that I'm a good enough player to win multiple times out here. That was one of my goals at the beginning of the year. At the same time, when you do have to do swing changes, it's very difficult to take it from the driving range to the golf course under pressure. That's something that I have had a very hard time with, and I think I am getting to the point where I can trust what we're doing."
Creamer has been working diligently with instructor David Whelan to make her driver swing less steep so she can pick up some distance off the tee. (She currently is ranked 110th on the LPGA with a 241.7-yard average, nearly 30 yards behind distance leader Yani Tseng.)
"I'm 5-9. I should hit it a lot farther than what I do," Creamer said. "I'm pretty athletic. I'm not a skinny bean. I should be able to move the ball. It is the way golf is going. But I also feel if I can hit it 20 yards further, and the way I hit my irons, it should be a lot easier from up there. It's not something I'm over-stressing about. I want to keep hitting fairways. You can hit it a lot further with a different shaft or that kind of thing but be missing fairways. That's not my game, so we're trying to do it a little more with the golf swing mechanics and just physically getting more fit and stronger."
Golfers aren't machines, whatever their driving distances. On Friday, Creamer alluded to the emotional part of tour life.
"I'm learning a lot, not necessarily just on the golf course but about myself," Creamer said. "This isn't a 'normal life' for anybody, and you have to grow up very fast out here. I've learned that, and that there are things that happen to everyday people that I have to go through too. As a part of that, balancing everything is such an important factor to be the best player in the world. And that's something I've really had to learn this last year. My expectations are incredibly high for myself. I set the bar very high. And when I don't reach that, I question a lot of things."
At its core, after all, golf is pretty simple.
"You win the most," Creamer said, "when you make the most putts."
And, Choi would add, you don't let a four-putt ruin your day.
-- Bill Fields