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