A new star was born this week as 21-year-old South Korean Si Woo Kim fired a pressure-packed, bogey-free 69 on Sunday to win The Players Championship. Kim had his short game to thank, as he hit only eight greens in regulation. He cleaned up his misfired irons effortlessly and kept himself at an arm’s length from his nearest competitors, Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen, who finished three shots back at seven-under.
The win makes Kim the youngest Players Champion ever and just the fourth player to record two PGA Tour wins before the age of 22. Many detractors will point to Kim’s slow start to the season which ranked him last in the all-around ranking. He had plentiful missed cuts and a handful of withdrawals, but many of those were due to a lingering back injury and swing change. Last year, Kim finished 17th in the FedExCup race. He has one of the more beautiful golf swings on Tour and showed the nerves and short game chops of an experienced veteran on Sunday. This all signals that he is one of the ten best players in golf under the age of 25.
To truly comprehend how great his win was put yourself in his position. Kim is 21 years old, living in a foreign country and speaks very little English. On the biggest day of his life, he played a bogey-free final round to win the biggest purse in golf with thousands of boisterous fans yelling a foreign language at him. It’s impossible not to be impressed.
Shank you very much
Kim’s closest pursuer for most of the day was Ian Poulter, who earned his way into the event by retaining his card on a technicality. Poulter was two back heading into Sawgrass’ scorable closing stretch and played ultra conservative on both the 16th and 17th before shanking his second and taking a questionable drop en route to a bogey on the 18th. Times have been a bit tough for Poulter recently. his play has been poor, he lives a lavish lifestyle and recently shuttered failing clothing business IJP Design. His T2 pays him a nice $924,000 which should help replenish the accounts.
With the Stadium course playing firm and fast and winds gusting over the weekend fans were treated to more than a few uncharacteristically poor rounds. No one topped J.B. Holmes, who entered Sunday in a tie for the lead and fired a final-round 84 to slip to T41. Holmes wasn’t alone – on Saturday Jon Rahm fired his worst professional round (82), Matt Kuchar made a quintuple bogey 9 en route to an 81 and overall the Stadium Course played to a scoring average of 74.04 on Saturday and 73.61 on Sunday. This type of setup, combined with the treacherous course, exposes any and all weaknesses in a player’s game and crowns the clear best player.
Devoid of action and stars
Heading into Sunday the only star player on the leaderboard was Sergio Garcia. After he quickly excused himself on the front nine viewers were left with the hardly fan-pleasing group of Kim, Poulter, Oosthuizen, Kyle Stanley and J.B. Holmes. Kim pulled away and nothing too exciting happened for the rest of the day except for carnage. Among the many post-round critics was Brandel Chamblee’s blasting of the course, saying it doesn’t allow the stars of the game to play their game. Chamblee couldn’t be more wrong. All you have to do is look at the past champions – the five previous winners of the event were Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, all of whom have spent considerable time in the top 10 of the rankings and three of whom were World No. 1. Chamblee’s disdain was based on how the course limited a player’s distance advantage. He must have fallen asleep on Sunday afternoon – Kim regularly was blasting drivers upwards of 350 yards and making his playing competitor Louis Oosthuizen look short.
Si Woo Kim (-10)
Ian Poulter (-7)
Louis Oosthuizen (-7)
Rafa Cabrera Bello (-6)
Kyle Stanley (-6)
Brendan Steele (-5)
Lucas Glover (-5)
Adam Scott (-5)
Francesco Molinari (-5)
Alex Noren (-4)
The albatross has landed - Rafa Cabrera Bello records the first ever two on 16.
Brandel and Poulter get in a pissing match, leading to Poulter being blocked...the irony.
The first annual Sawgrass Shootout was a big success - entries for next year’s will open at a later date.
Regionals are underway - follow your favorite college teams here.