Date: May 15, 2017
Author: US PGA Tour

Kim breaks Scott’s record at Players

South Korean Si Woo Kim became the youngest winner of The Players Championship today with a game and nerves well beyond his 21 years.

On a TPC Sawgrass course where anything can go wrong without notice, Kim was the only player to go bogey-free in the final round, closing with a three-under 69 to finish 10 under for a three-shot victory in golf's biggest event outside the majors.

He also managed to take all the suspense from the TPC Sawgrass.

All that could stop him was the final two holes, when Kim had a two-shot lead and faced a tee shot to an island green, and then a closing hole with water all the way down the left side. Kim hit the 17th green and two-putted from 45 feet, and then smashed another drive right down the middle.

The only drama at the end came from Ian Poulter, who was happy just to be here.

Poulter, who only two weeks ago was spared his full PGA Tour status because of a clerical oversight, was the only player to seriously challenge Kim until he ran out of holes. He pushed his approach to the 18th so far to the right that it caromed off hospitality tents and bounced off a cart path into a palmetto bush. He took a penalty drop, then hit wedge over the trees and nearly holed it, tapping in for par.

Poulter, who had gone 39 holes without a bogey until a crucial one at No. 12, closed with a 71. He tied for second with Louis Oosthuizen (73).

Adam Scott finished strongly to top the Aussie contingent, his five birdies on the back nine leaving him five under and tied for sixth overall.

Defending champion Jason Day closed with an 80, keeping in tact the streak of no winner ever repeating in The Players.

Rafa Cabrera Bello made history, hitting an 8-iron that bounded off the side of a bunker and into the cup for the first tournament albatross two on the par-5 16th.

The Spaniard followed that with a birdie on the 17th, then holed a long par putt from just off the 18th green. That gave him a 70 and a tie for fourth with Kyle Stanley, a co-leader after 54 holes who shot 75.

The other co-leader was J.B. Holmes, who endured a nightmare.

Holmes shot 40 on the front nine but was still in the mix until bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes before it turned ugly. He hit two shots into the water on the 17th and make a quintuple-bogey 8, then finished with a double-bogey to close with an 84 and tied for 41st.

It was the worst finish by a 54-hole leader in tournament history, a record that previously belonged to Graeme McDowell (2011) and Alex Cejka (2009), who both shot 79.

But Kim had no such dramas. Even though he only hit eight greens in regulation, he went six straight holes on the back without facing a par putt over two feet.

"I still can't believe I'm the champion – and I'm the youngest champion," Kim said. "I'm looking forward to working hard from now on."

Kim said he wasn't nervous because of his victory last year in the Wyndham Championship, which gave him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. This victory comes with perks beyond the $1.89 million first prize. He now gets a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a three-year exemption to the Masters.

The previous youngest champion was Adam Scott, who was 23 when he won in 2005.

Kim becomes the second player from South Korea to win The Players Championship, joining K.J. Choi in 2011.

"From that moment, I was dreaming that I really want to be in this tournament," Kim said through a translator. "And I'm very glad I could practise with him. He gave me a lot of advice. That's why I could do well."

Just over four years ago, Kim came to the US to play the final version of the PGA Tour's qualifying school. He earned a card at age 17, but he could not become a member until he turned 18 the following June. That card effectively went to waste, and Kim spent the next two years on the developmental tour until earning his card back to the big leagues.

Now he's here to stay for at least the next five years, and based on his game, probably much longer.


The Australians' leaderboard:

1       S.Kim           -10
T6     A.Scott         -5
T41   A.Baddeley  +3
T48   R.Pampling  +4
T60   J.Day           +7

CUT  C.Smith
CUT  M.Leishman
CUT  G.Chalmers