TEEBOX

• Ris­ing Star Kim Wins Players Ti­tle

Golf Asia - - CONTENTS -

South Korean Kim Si-woo be­came the youngest win­ner in Players Cham­pi­onship his­tory, fir­ing a three­un­der 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. Ranked 75th in the world, he 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.

Prior win keeps Kim calm

Kim, the US PGA'S youngest player, won his first tour ti­tle last Au­gust at Greens­boro, but hadn't man­aged a top20 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 fiveyear 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 17foot 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.

Late bo­geys foil Poul­ter

Poul­ter could never catch him, reach­ing nine-un­der with a five-foot birdie putt at the par-5 11th but mak­ing bo­gey at 12, miss­ing a five-foot par putt, and tak­ing an­other bo­gey at 18 af­ter shank­ing his ap­proach 40 yards right into a bush but then smack­ing his fourth inches from the cup. "It was one of the worst shots you will ever see to a pretty good one," Poul­ter said. "I was ner­vous out there all day, be­ing in a sit­u­a­tion I hadn't been in for a while. I felt good com­ing down the last few holes. I'm pleased I played well. It has been a good week."

It was the sec­ond Players run­ner-up fin­ish for Poul­ter af­ter 2009. It came af­ter he had thought his play­ing rights were lost be­fore a re­cal­cu­la­tion of points showed he had done enough with a med­i­cal ex­emp­tion to keep his tour spot.

Stan­ley made his fourth birdie of the week at the par-3 17th is­land green, match­ing Amer­i­can Paul Azinger from 1987 as the only players to birdie the hole four times in one week.

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