Burling­ton coach helps Kim win the Play­ers

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE DIMEGLIO USA To­day

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA.— As a 15-year-old dream­ing of play­ing pro­fes­sional golf, South Korean Si Woo Kim was in­spired as he watched coun­try­man K.J. Choi win the 2011 Play­ers Cham­pi­onship.

On Sun­day, Kim joined Choi as win­ners of the PGA Tour’s crown jewel.

Kim, the youngest player on Tour at 21, be­came the youngest to win in the 44 edi­tions of The Play­ers with a ster­ling, bo­gey-free, 3-un­der-par 69 on the pun­ish­ing Sta­dium Course at TPC Saw­grass on Sun­day. He fin­ished at 10-un­der 278, three shots clear of Ian Poul­ter (71) and Louis Oosthuizen (73).

In beat­ing the best field in golf, Kim was un­flap­pable and called on a lethal short game — he suc­cess­fully got up-and-down each of the 10 times he missed a green in reg­u­la­tion.

0He took the lead for good with a birdie on the sev­enth and held off all chal­lengers as he held up against one of the tough­est golf cour­ses on the PGA Tour that was windswept most of the week.

Kim made one bo­gey on the week­end, shoot­ing 68-69.

“Usu­ally I’m very ner­vous, but last year I won one of the tour­na­ments and I (got) the two years of ex­emp­tion. Be­cause of that I can play ag­gres­sively and I wasn’t that ner­vous this year,” said Kim, who won his first ti­tle last year in the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship; Choi won the Wyn­d­ham in 2005.

“K.J. has be­come a re­ally good model, so be­cause he had won be­fore I am kind of con­fi­dent that a Korean can win one of these tour­na­ments and that ac­tu­ally helps me when I’m play­ing,” Kim said through an in­ter­preter. “I never ex­pected that I’m go­ing to win this tour­na­ment.”

Kim, who won $1.89 mil­lion, will move in­side the top 30 in the of­fi­cial world rank­ings. He joined reign­ing Masters cham­pion Ser­gio Gar­cia as the only two play­ers born out­side of the USA to win two Tour ti­tles be­fore turn­ing 22.

Both­ered by a bad back, Kim was forced to with­draw from four tour­na­ments and missed the cut in six of his last 15 world­wide starts. His best fin­ish, how­ever, a tie for 22nd in the Valero Texas Open, came in his last start be­fore The Play­ers. And he gained con­fi­dence af­ter he started work­ing in Fe­bru­ary with swing coach, Burling­ton-na­tive Sean Fo­ley, who for­merly was Tiger Woods’ coach.

“The last four weeks I started think­ing, wow. This kid is spe­cial,” Fo­ley told USA To­day in a phone call. “Hats off to him. He has this kind of quiet con­fi­dence about him­self. He’s a lovely kid. He’s grate­ful. “I’m thrilled for him.” Oosthuizen, who had a front-row seat to see Kim’s hero­ics, said he didn’t wit­ness Kim hav­ing any prob­lems with his back or the course or the pres­sure.

“He played like some­one that was do­ing it for five or six years, like it was just another round of golf,” said Oosthuizen, the 2010 Bri­tish Open cham­pion who was try­ing to win on U.S. soil for the first time. “Never once did he look flus­tered at all. I mean, in this big of a tour­na­ment ... good cham­pi­ons are like that. Great golfers are like that. When they’re un­der the gun, they don’t get flus­tered. That’s what makes him a great cham­pion.”

MIKE EHRMANN, GETTY IMAGES

Si Wood Kim, the youngest ever cham­pion of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship at 21, is coached by Burling­ton-na­tive Sean Fo­ley.

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