Si Woo Kim became the youngest-ever winner of The Players Championship on Sunday when the 21-year-old South Korean capped off a three-stroke win at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The victor earned the title with three birdies in the first eight holes, and then he hung on for the final 10 holes with only pars on the card. Pars were valuable scores as he nursed a small lead throughout the back nine. With the forecast Saturday rain never manifesting itself, the Stadium Course continued to play firm on its renovated greens and fast from tee to green. The conditions made it near impossible for one of Kim’s challengers to reach him with the eventual winner meeting them in the middle with some dropped shots.
Kim negotiated the back nine without much stress despite only hitting eight greens on Sunday. His misses were reasonable and the resulting up-and-downs were not particularly challenging. When he found the green on the par-3 17th, Kim’s caddie breathed a visible sigh of relief. When Kim found the fairway on the 18th hole, the results were assured.
A group ahead, Ian Poulter locked up his best PGA Tour finish since being solo runner-up in the 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions. However, it didn’t come without some controversy over his approach.
Poulter laid up on the par-5 16th despite trailing Kim by two shots and needing to make a charge in an effort to win. He made par there. On the par-3 17th, Poulter went against taking on the far right-side hole location, playing safe to the middle of the green for another par. Then on the 18th hole, Poulter shanked his second shot so poorly it wound up under a bush. After declaring an unplayable lie and taking a penalty stroke with a drop, the Englishman pulled off a miracle fourth shot which ended up inside a foot to secure a share of second place.
“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, but the fourth shot was pretty special, from one of the worst shots I’ve ever hit to one of the very best,” Poulter said. “It’s nice to close out.”
However, Kim was the player who truly closed it out, picking up a five-year PGA Tour exemption with the win.
“I feel like I’m still dreaming,” he said. “I never expected that I’m going to win this tournament and I wasn’t doing that well at the beginning of this year but I’m just so excited that I could be the champion for this tournament.”