With the lowest round of the week in the 2017 Players a 66, and the best in the final round a 68, the thought that, “You don’t have to do much around here” to be in contention was as clear as ever. The changes in the golf course, the firmness of the greens and exacting nature of every hole kept anybody from going very low.
Over the weekend, Si Woo Kim made one bogey and none in the final round enroute to a 69 and a -10 winning score. Kim is the youngest player to ever win The Players and the second South Korean, joining his mentor K.J. Choi as a champion.
“K.J. has become a really good model, so because he had won before I have 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. “While I was practicing with him, he taught me about the course at the Stadium, and so when I was in position the last round, before he actually explained about his experience of being in the leading position, so that kind of advice actually helped me a lot.”
Most of his competitors at The Players were impressed with Kim’s calm demeanor. They knew he could play, but being able to play bogey-free on Sunday at The Players is something special.
“I just focused on myself and I didn’t try to think about others scores. I think that really helped me to be stable.”
And it wasn’t by accident. Kim learned the “focus on winning” mindset early in his golf career. “While I was a junior player, I’ve learned that when you focus on the second place, you don’t do your play well,” he explained. “So I learned that experience, so I was just trying to focus on my play, so I was kind of feeling better just focusing on myself, and I played very aggressive today to get more points ahead of him, so I think that really helped me.”
It was almost as if Kim was ignoring the situation and what was going on around him in order to focus on his own game. He wouldn’t get rattled.
“He’s gone clean out there today, which is extremely impressive under that pressure,” runner-up Ian Poulter said. “I kind of got close there on 11 once I made birdie, and obviously I wanted to try and put a little bit more pressure on, but it was tough to get it close. You have to take your hat off. You have to respect some good golf, and that’s exactly what he’s done.”
A first-hand look of Kim’s final round is just what Louis Oosthuizen got on Sunday. And he wasn’t surprised that Kim held onto the lead down the stretch.
“Well it’s just the way this golf course is,” he said after posted 73 in the final round. “He didn’t really have to do a lot at the end there, just needed to stay in play and make pars. You can get ahead a few shots and the way the weather was today, the way it was so windy, it’s tough to make bogeys at the end there. If it’s perfect weather like yesterday afternoon, yes, you can go, 2, 3-under the last three, four holes, but it was tough today.”
Not only did Kim not make a bogey in the final round, he also lead the field in scrambling, getting it up and down from everywhere. Oosthuizen said that’s the key on the Stadium Course but what Kim did on Sunday was nonetheless impressive.
“If you can do that around this golf course, I mean you can out score everyone,” he explained. “And he played like someone that was doing it for five or six years like it was just another round of golf. It just shows you how good a player he is and how cool and calm he is and never once did he look flustered at all.”