Si Woo Kim became the youngest player to win The Players as the 21-year old fired a final round 69 (nice) en route to a three-shot win over Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen.
Kim built a two shot lead with birdie on the ninth hole and never saw his lead diminish during the treacherous back nine. Kim maintained his lead through some skillful scrambling and the lack of a significant charge from any of his pursuers.
Poulter was Kim’s biggest threat on the back, but the Englishman laid up on 16 and made a par, his last chance to put a scare into Kim.
Oosthuizen recorded an eagle on 11 to get to -8 and climb within two shots, but the South African bogeyed 13 and 14 to quell his chances.
Despite his age, Kim showed no signs of crumbling under the pressure. He played smart shots and never gave the rest of the field an inch. The win’s marks Kim’s second on the PGA Tour as the South Korean won the Wyndham last August.
– With the win, Kim joined Sergio, Tiger, and Spieth as the only players to win twice on the PGA Tour before the age of 22 since World War II.
– He’s only the second player (Tiger) in Tour history to win his first two tournaments before the age of 22 by at least three shots.
– Kim’s steadiness is what won him the event. The South Korean made just two bogeys in the 46 holes of the week.
– The Players is annually promoted as the most exciting tournament of the year, but rarely does it live up to the expectations. The hype surrounding The Players seems very forced at times, similar to the promotion of the FedEx Cup. The Players has been around for four decades, so it has build up its own cache through time, but the broadcasters treat the tournament as something bigger than it actually is.
– Because it is the biggest even put on the PGA Tour, there is a tendency to overlook the obvious warts on the course and oversell how important the event is to the players – as if it is on the same plain as the four majors.
– The facts are, The Players have had its fair share of unlikely champions – Craig Perks, Tim Clark, Fred Funk but every major has its fair share head-scratching winners, especially in the last 25 years. The Masters has Trevor Immelman, U.S. Open has Steve Jones, the British has Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis, and the PGA has Shaun Micheel.
– The Players, however, seems to have more “boring” champions than any other marquee championship. Names that you simply would not find on top of a major leaderboard come Sunday Afternoon. Funk and Clark fall into that category as well as Matt Kuchar, K.J. Choi, and Stephen Ames.
– The move to May has allowed The Players to etch its place in the PGA Tour schedule, but more often than not, its promised “drama” is severely lacking. Other than Rickie Fowler’s playoff win in 2015 and Tiger’s victory in 2013 which saw Sergio rinse his ball in 17 when he had a chance to win, most of The Players of the last decade have been drama-free down the stretch.
– The Players’ May date has allowed the Stadium Course to play firm and fast, which changes the type of course players faced when the event was in March. In March, the terrain was greener and lush with penalizing rough, but the May date allows the course to have more bounce and the greens are far more treacherous.
– The challenge of the 17th also increases in May. Throughout the week, the firm conditions and swirling winds wreaked havoc as 69 (nice) balls found the water.
Week in review at 17…
Balls in the water: 69
Others: 12 pic.twitter.com/4cRyjkthK3
— Skratch (@Skratch) May 14, 2017
– After an impressive 67 in the toughest of conditions on Saturday, many people had Sergio pegged as the favorite going into the final round. After a birdie on two to get to -6, Sergio then imploded and shot a 78. It’s nice to see after his Masters win, the world is righting itself with his implosion Sunday.
– With Sergio falling off the pace and Adam Scott never mounting a serious charge, the leaderboard lacked star power and Kim’s steady play did not allow for the most compelling watch from a viewers perspective.
Ejection of the Week:
– J.B. Holmes went full ejection on Sunday. After beginning the round tied for the lead, Holmes shot an 84 to pull off the rare T-41 while being in the final group on Sunday. Holmes capped his brutal day with a quintuple bogey eight on 17 and a double bogey six on 18.
– The long hitter was able to scramble his way to the lead through 54 holes, but his crooked driver and poor ball-striking finally caught up with him in the final round.
– Holmes’ playing partner during the final round, Kyle Stanley, birdied 17 every day this week. Stanley’s week-long cumulative score on 17 was eight, the score Holmes made on Sunday alone.
— Rob (@robmillertime) May 14, 2017
– What is most amazing is that Holmes actually made four birdies on the day so his total could have been worse. The 84 is the worst final round score at The Players by anybody since 2009 when Alex Cejka fired the same score after also being the 54-hole leader.
– Holmes is the second 54-hole leader or co-leader in the last five PGA Tour season to post a score of 80 or higher. The other instance came when Scott Brown shot an 87 in brutal conditions during the final round of the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.
Shank and Save of the Week:
– I have never in my life rooted for Ian Poulter and the prospect of a potential Poulter-Garcia duel entering Sunday was a dark place I didn’t allow my psyche to enter. However, his bogey on 18 was remarkable. After wussing out and laying up on 16, removing any chance at the title, Poulter found himself playing for second (the European way) while situated on the 18th fairway.
Poulter shanked his ball 50 yards right of the green and after ricocheting of some hospitality tents, his ball came to rest in a palmetto bush. He then took an unplayable and hit one of the best recovery shots I have ever seen.
From way right to extremely tight.
The ups and downs of golf for @IanJamesPoulter.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 14, 2017
Ballsiest Shot of the Week:
– The 14th hole played brutally on Saturday. The winds were gusting from 25-30 mph and most players struggled in hitting their tee shots longer than 250 yards. Kim sprayed his tee ball right and pulled off this driver out of the rough and put the ball on the green.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 13, 2017
– On the broadcast, Justin Leonard thought he was using his driver as a club length measurement for a drop, but he never handed the big stick back to his caddy.
Shot of the WeeK:
– Sergio’s hole-in-one in the first round was the early favorite, but countryman Rafa Cabrera-Bello topped Garcia with an albatross on the 16th Sunday.
The only albatross at @TPCSawgrass‘ 16th
… ever. pic.twitter.com/oO0TjgXdTF
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 15, 2017
– It was the third albatross all-time at The Players and the first at the 16th hole.
– The double eagle was the beginning of an improbable finish for the Spaniard. Cabrera-Bellow followed his two on 16 with another two on the par-3 17th. He then hooked his tee shot in the water on 18, but holes out from short of the green to salvage his par.
– Cabrera-Bello’s eight shot total on 16-18 tied the all-time record for the final stretch.
Stay tuned to The Otter Room this week for a complete preview of the AT&T Byron Nelson.