KOREAN DE­LIGHT

Si-Woo is the youngest win­ner of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LOS AN­GE­LES

SOUTH Korean Kim SiWoo be­came the youngest win­ner of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship on Sun­day when he shot a fi­nal round three-un­der-par 69 to clinch a three-stroke vic­tory at the TPC Sta­dium course in Ponte Vedra.

The 21-year-old dis­played com­po­sure beyond his years to fin­ish on 10-un­der 278 and fol­low 2011 cham­pion K.J. Choi as the sec­ond South Korean to win the PGA Tour’s flag­ship event.

English­man Ian Poul­ter (71) was the only player to put pres­sure CARY: Fin­ish­ing sec­ond rarely sits well with Ian Poul­ter but on Sun­day the English­man was in good spir­its af­ter his joint run­ner-up per­for­mance at The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship.

Less than a month ago Poul­ter thought he had lost his full play­ing sta­tus on the PGA Tour af­ter fail­ing to earn enough points in a on Kim over the fi­nal few holes. How­ever, he bo­geyed the last af­ter shank­ing his sec­ond into a bush and fin­ished tied for sec­ond with South African Louis Oosthuizen on seven-un­der.

World No 1 Dustin John­son carded a fi­nal round 68 to fin­ish tied for 12th while No 2 Rory McIl­roy ended with a 75 to drop to equal 35th.

Kim, nearly two years younger than Adam Scott when the Aus­tralian des­ig­nated num­ber of tour­na­ments this sea­son af­ter re­turn­ing from a foot in­jury that cur­tailed his 2016 cam­paign.

How­ever, af­ter fel­low pro Brian Gay dis­cov­ered a dis­crep­ancy in the points al­lo­ca­tion for play­ers com­ing back off med­i­cal ex­emp­tions, the Tour re­cal­cu­lated his points tally and Poul­ter was won in 2004, is also the first player from Asia to win twice on the PGA Tour be­fore the age of 22.

“To­day was a very happy day. I didn’t ex­pect that I could be the cham­pion of this tour­na­ment at this young age,” Kim told a news con­fer­ence.

Kim caught the eye when he clinched his first PGA Tour vic­tory in Greens­boro, North Carolina last Au­gust but had en­dured handed a life­line un­til the end of the sea­son.

The 41-year-old grabbed his chance at the TPC Saw­grass in Florida, fin­ish­ing three shots be­hind win­ner Kim Si-Woo at the PGA Tour’s flag­ship event.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” said the five-time Euro­pean Ry­der Cup mem­ber, who has not a wretched 2017 cam­paign un­til this week, his cause not helped by back and wrist in­juries.

Act­ing on ad­vice from his new in­struc­tor Sean Fo­ley, who coaches Olympic cham­pion Justin Rose and pre­vi­ously worked with Tiger Woods, Kim has started us­ing more hip-turn in his back­swing and ev­ery­thing came to­gether in Florida as he blew away ar­guably the deep­est field of the won since 2012.

“When I look back and I re­flect on this week, it’s been a big week.

“Two, three weeks ago to have been in a po­si­tion where I wasn’t play­ing The Play­ers and was look­ing to write nice let­ters to Jack (Nick­laus) for Me­mo­rial (tour­na­ment) and all of those great tour­na­ments that I’d like to play in, things change pretty quick with good golf, and that’s what I’ve done this week.”

Poul­ter was even able to have a laugh at his sec­ond shot from the rough at the last, a shank that squirted right and fin­ished in a pal­metto bush.

He was forced to take a penalty stroke but then al­most holed out with a wedge from 115 yards to leave him­self with a tap-in bo­gey.

“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,” he said.

Poul­ter was clearly in the mood to cel­e­brate.

“I can’t be­lieve I’m drink­ing wa­ter right now,” he added. “It needs to be some­thing a lit­tle stronger than that. That’s all they’ve got in that lit­tle box down there.” Reuters year to win the event.

Kim also thanked com­pa­triot Choi for help­ing him close out the vic­tory.

“He taught me about the course and so when I was in po­si­tion the last round, his ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing in the lead­ing po­si­tion, that kind of ad­vice ac­tu­ally helped me a lot,” Kim said.

“I felt re­ally good since last night, and when I started the fi­nal round, I was ac­tu­ally very ag­gres­sive in or­der to get more score and beat them.

“And then the mo­ment that I was lead­ing, I was very con­fi­dent. There are some strong winds, and I’m ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing that mo­ment, so I think I was very con­fi­dent that I could win.”

On a course that muz­zles the long hit­ters and makes them think twice about tak­ing the cover off the driver, most of the big names were nowhere to be seen on the leader­board.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Ja­son Day had a quadru­ple-bo­gey nine at the par-five 16th and a dou­ble­bo­gey at the par three 17th to shoot 80 and plunge to equal 60th.

Masters cham­pion Ser­gio Gar­cia, who started the day three shots from the lead, did not fare much bet­ter with a 78 and fin­ished tied for 30th place. Reuters

AFP PIC

Ian Poul­ter fin­ished joint run­ner-up at The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship on Sun­day.

AFP PIC

Kim Si-Woo cel­e­brates with the win­ner's tro­phy af­ter the fi­nal round of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship at TPC Saw­grass on Sun­day.

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