Impressive Si Woo Kim Becomes Youngest Ever Champion at Sawgrass
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
At just 21 years of age, Si Woo Kim became the youngest ever winner of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, defying his tender years to win the PGA Tour's flagship event like a veteran.
The South Korean produced a flawless final round of 69 that featured some incredible recovery shots, and never once looked like faltering on this treacherous golf course. He was the only player in the field not to drop a shot, and eventually took the title by three strokes from England's Ian Poulter and former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Kim's story is a remarkable one. He first secured his playing card when he was only 17 years old but was not allowed to join the PGA Tour because he was too young - they have a rule that dictates that you must be 18. And last season he won for the first time.
But this victory is huge, giving him a five-year exemption, as well as a cheque for $1.9m. "I feel like I'm still dreaming that I won this championship," Kim said.
He came to the 17th hole leading by two shots, knowing that two pars would almost certainly get the job done. But a host of players had already found the water at the par-three 17th. Not Kim.
“I wasn't nervous at all because I was leading," he said. "I just focused on the middle of the green.” He landed safely and two-putted from 45 feet, and then he smashed another drive down the middle of the 18th fairway.The drama on the 18th involved Poulter, who was only playing in the tournament as the result of a clerical blunder by the PGA Tour that saw him being told he had lost his Tour card, only to be later reinstated because it turned out that they had got their sums wrong.
Poulter played solid golf all week at Sawgrass and was the only man not to falter - until the last hole. He shanked his second shot from the right rough, and it bounced off hospitality tents, down a cart path and into a palmetto bush. He took a penalty drop, and then hit wedge over the trees and nearly holed it, tapping in for bogey.
He closed with a 71 and tied for second with Louis Oosthuizen, who shot 73.
“It was a big shock to the system to hit one of those nasty shanks when I've hit it as good as I have all week," Poulter said. "But the fourth shot was pretty special - from one of the worst shots I've ever hit to one of the very best.”
The bogey on the 18th was only the second for Poulter over the final 46 holes of the tournament. He was quick to pay tribute to the winner.
“As good as he played yesterday, he's obviously gone out there today and played even better," Poulter said. "He's gone clean out there today, which is extremely impressive under that pressure. You have to respect some good golf, and that's exactly what he's done.”
Oosthuizen, who fell out of the lead for good with a fairway bunker shot into the water for double bogey on No. 4, played alongside Kim, and couldn't really live with him.
But he wasn't alone. JB Holmes began the day tied for the lead. He shot 40 for the front nine, then came dropped shots at the 14th and 15th holes before taking an eight at the 17th and a six at the 18th fort an 84.
Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain hit 8-iron that bounded off the side of a bunker and into the cup for an albatross 2 on the par-5 16th. He followed that with a birdie on the 17th, and then holed a long par putt from just off the 18th green. That gave him a 70 and a tie for fourth with Kyle Stanley, a co-leader after 54 holes who shot 75.Kim finished on 278, 10 under par.
Sawgrass is a cruel course. With water at every turn, greens as hard and fast as billiard tables, luck plays a huge part and golf is the sort of sport that when luck is not on your side, all sorts of hours can result.
Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Gary Woodland, Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Jon Rahm, Russell Knox, Jordan Spieth - no, that is not a list of players who were in contention at Sawgrass. These are guys who did not make it to the final day, which gives you some idea of just how difficult and frustrating this golf course can be. Rahm has been in contention almost every time he has teed up the ball since joining the PGA Tour but a horrific round of 82 ended his interest in this particular tournament.
Matt Wallace hopes that, one day, he may be mixing it with the guys who competed at TPC Sawgrass, and he confirmed his status as a proper contender with a wire-to-wire victory at the Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort.
He held a five shot lead at the halfway stage and went into the final round three clear, but Wallace saw his advantage reduced to a single stroke by German Sebastian Heisele and then American Julian Suri. However, the 27 year old Englishman held his nerve and rolled in birdie putts when it mattered most, signing for a closing 69 and 21 under par total.
After six straight pars, Wallace birdied the seventh and ninth holes. Wiith Suri applying pressure, it was a five iron third to tap-in distance after a poor drive at the par-five 13th that set up a birdie to send him two clear again, and another birdie at the 16th sealed victory in style
Suri recorded nine birdies in his first 15 holes and dropped his only shot of the day at the 17th, eventually finishing three shots back at 18 under par.
France's Matthieu Pavon was third on 16 under, with Heisele and England's Sam Walker a shot further back in fourth.
Wallace won six times on the Alps Tour last season – five of those victories coming in a row – to secure a place on the Challenge Tour.
"It's the best feeling ever. It's always been a dream to win on the European Tour," Wallace said. "Those first two days were really easy, that third day was the hardest day of my life and today was tough but it's so satisfying and I'm really happy.
"The best shot was definitely on the par five 13th, I didn't hit a great tee shot and managed to get away with it and get out on to the fairway. I left myself 200 yards and managed to hit a five iron stiff. That was the turning point where I thought 'right, I've got this'.
“I didn't see it coming, I never envisioned standing here, I just tried to go through my processes and work as hard as I could to be standing here today. Portugal is going to have a place in my heart now.”
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