South Korean Kim Si-Woo became the youngest winner in Players Championship history, firing a three-under par 69 on Sunday for a three-stroke US PGA Tour victory.
The 75th-ranked prodigy, who has played 120 professional tournaments worldwide, became only the second Asian winner of the event after South Korea’s K.J. Choi in 2011.
The 21-year-old Kim eclipsed the Players age mark set by Adam Scott when the Australian won at age 23 in 2004 at the famed TPC Sawgrass layout in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
“I still can’t believe I’m the champion and I’m the youngest champion for this major tournament,” Kim said through a translator. I’m looking forward to working hard from now on.”
Resolute and cool under pressure, Kim used a bogey-free final round to collect his biggest victory by finishing 72 holes on 10-under 278.
Kim, ranked 75th in the world, became only the second non-US player to win twice on the US PGA Tour before age 22, joining last month’s Masters winner, Spaniard Sergio Garcia.
Britain’s Ian Poulter and South African Louis Oosthuizen shared second on 281, Poulter after a closing 71 with “Oosty” firing a 73. American Kyle Stanley and Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain shared fourth on 282.
Kim, the US PGA’s youngest player, won his first tour title last August at Greensboro, but hadn’t managed a top-20 US PGA finish since last October and was in only his second Players, having shared 23rd in 2016.
“Usually I’m very nervous but last year I won one and I got a two-year extension,” Kim said. “So I can hit aggressively and I wasn’t as nervous.”
Now Kim has a five-year spot on the tour and assured spots into many of golf’s top events.
Stanley and countryman J.B. Holmes, who closed with an 84, were 54-hole co-leaders, but Holmes had bogeys on three of the first five holes and Stanley on two of the first four to stumble back.
Oosthuizen sank a four-foot birdie putt at the par-5 second to reach nine-under but found water at the fourth and made double bogey to fall back.
That left Poulter and Kim atop the leaderboard at eight-under, Poulter after a tap-in birdie at the second and five-foot birdie putt at the sixth and Kim after a 17-foot birdie on the opening hole.
Kim sank a 24-foot birdie putt at the par-4 seventh to seize the lead and sank an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-5 ninth to reach 10-under for a two-stroke advantage.
Then Kim parred his way through the back nine, his last putts no longer than four feet on any hole as he calmly ignored winds and tension to prevail.
The jury is out on the inaugural GolfSixes, the two-day, two-man team event introduced last week by the European Tour.
The tournament, won by Denmark, had its fair share of critics, but also received rave reviews as a fantastic effort to introduce a new format to the sport – one that will hopefully catch the fancy of millennials and increase the fan base of the Royal & Ancient game.
Obviously, there were several good things happening at the Centurion Club. I personally loved the way players energised the fans – it created a Ryder Cup-like atmosphere that is difficult to replicate in most other tournaments – and I have become a fan of the shot clock, which was actually reduced from 40 seconds on the first day to 30 for the rest of the tournament.
The entrance made by the players on the first tee, accompanied with loud music, pyrotechnics and waving flags, was amazing to watch on TV, and I am sure it would have been the same for fans on ground.
As for the shot clock, the logistics of using it in a full-field event from tee to green will be difficult to execute, but it is an innovative way of making sure that pace of play is fast. It is one way to answer what seems to be the biggest grudge of most Tour players and serious fans across the globe. However, as with every new thing we experience, there are shortcomings that needs to be addressed.
The first concern would be to find a time and place for such events, because as good as the inaugural GolfSixes was, it cannot become an integral part of a regular Tour.
The first problem I see is how you distribute world ranking points to such events? That is something that concerns more players than how much money is on offer that week.
Another important decision that the Tour needs to make is how much TV coverage to give to such events?
Would major sponsors like DP World and BMW be happy to see an event, worth a couple of million dollars, getting almost half the TV time that they get for putting in excess of $10m? I guess not, unless the Tour can somehow make them stakeholders in the event.
Events like GolfSixes cannot replace the mainstream tournaments, but they definitely can play an important role in popularising the sport going forward.
SOCIAL MEDIA EXEMPTION
So, a much talked about Twitter poll to determine a final sponsor’s exemption spot at the ShopRite Classic on the LPGA Tour has come to an end, with India’s Sharmila Nicollet winning it by a mile.
In the end, 27,652 votes were polled, with Nicollet landing 39 per cent to beat American Blair O’Neal (30 per cent), Scotland’s Carly Booth (25 per cent) and Bolivia’s Susana Benavides (6 per cent).
Not everyone was happy with how the spot was granted, and the biggest complaint was that someone who was more deserving was denied a place in the tournament.
I’d disagree with that. If someone deserves to play in a tournament, he or she would make it through the various categories. The sponsor’s exemption is at the sole discretion of the company putting up the dollars to make the tournament a possibility. A player ranked 150th in the world – surely more ‘deserving’ than the four ladies in question – would never have generated such publicity, if she was given the spot.
The sponsor has the full right to give that spot to anyone they think can add some value to their event. It could be a leading amateur, or a semi-retired major winner, or some big name who not only gets the spot, but also top dollars as appearance fee.
More often than not, the sponsors are arm-twisted by player management companies to give a spot to one of their lesser-known players in return of one of their big stars playing the tournament.
Just the fact that so many people chimed in their opinion, shows the gimmick delivered. There were fans in Europe and India talking about a tournament they perhaps did not even know about.
For a tournament that had only 2,700 followers on Twitter before they started the poll, they got more than 10 times the votes. That is great publicity.
One of the finest golf administrators in recent times, Peter Dawson hailed the role of Dubai in the development of the sport at a global level.
The chairman of Falcon Golf, who used to be the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient and is the current president of the International Golf Federation, also believes the city is now perfectly poised to become one of the most looked forward to golf destinations in the world with its quality facilities and exceptional bouquet of professional tournaments.
Speaking at a function to launch www.golfindubai.com, an all-encompassing website which will showcase what the Emirates has to offer to the global golfers, Dawson said: “Dubai has been a significant catalyst for the global growth of the professional game in the modern era.”
“Running since 1989, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic was the first European Tour event to be staged outside European borders and paved the way for the Tour’s transformation into a year-round global competition, while The Race to Dubai provided the European Tour a springboard to connect its profile internationally, culminating in Dubai for the season-ending finale.”
“Without the vision of those behind creating new ways for the professional game to flourish, I don’t think we would have quite the wealth of playing opportunities and great golf events we see week-in, week-out on the European Tour.”
“Golf unquestionably has played a role in putting Dubai on the world map, attracting international visitors and long-term residents, while also spurring real estate development and investment.”
“The task at hand now is to realise the full potential for growth that golf can unlock.”
The newly formed Falcon Golf, which will now manage the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, as well as activate the Race to Dubai property, was set up to optimise the sport of golf in Dubai.
And Dawson was happy with the initial steps taken by his company.
“We are making good progress. The introduction of our new brand and website will give trade and consumers a focal point and ignite renewed interest in Dubai,” he added.
“We are looking at the best ways with which we can refine aspects of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, which have both been hugely successful and paved the way for Dubai in the world of golf.
“Falcon Golf manages Dubai’s involvement with the Race to Dubai and we will also be looking at ways to tell the city’s story via the worldwide marketing activation of the European Tour’s season-long competition to crown the No1 player.
“There are also new developments that will strengthen the city’s golf offering. New courses in the pipeline, including a Tiger Woods design, will increase capacity and also encourage more golfers to visit Dubai.”