Si Woo Kim is your 2017 PLAYERS Championship winner, fighting off the charge of Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen to win by three strokes. Here are nine thoughts on the event from the site of Kim's second PGA Tour win.
As with most wins on the PGA Tour, Kim went out and didn't really have any glaring weaknesses in his game at TPC Sawgrass. He led the field in strokes gained: total, and finished no worse than 37th in the field in any one strokes gained category. What was perhaps most impressive about Kim was how he handled the lead down the stretch. The final three holes at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most difficult stretches in golf, and with all of the pressure of holding a lead in a huge tournament like this one, Kim went out and made par on all three holes and managed to extend his lead.
Over the years at this event, we have seen countless tournaments lost because of that final stretch, and Kim handled it like he was a 20-time winner on the PGA Tour. He played safe on the island green 17th to the left of the pin, but on 18, he smashed a 3-wood down the middle of the fairway without any hesitation. It was a very impressive way to finish off a solid week for Kim.
Coming into this week, it's likely that only the most ardent of golf fans really had any idea who Si Woo Kim was, but just because he isn't a household name doesn't mean this isn't a big deal. At just 21 years of age, Kim is now the youngest ever winner of THE PLAYERS Championship (besting the record held by Adam Scott, who won it at 23 years old back in 2004) and with the win, he joined even more elite company:
His first win came back in August at the Wyndham Championship, and with the field that comes to this event each year, it's even more impressive that this was where Kim managed to get win No. 2. For all of the talk that young players like Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, and Justin Thomas rightly receive, this is the kind of win that begins to elevate Kim into that discussion.
On top of that, a host of benefits come along with this kind of win, including a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and for THE PLAYERS Championship, as well as entry into the next three U.S. Opens and Masters Tournaments. He's also in the 2017 PGA Championship and the 2018 Tournament of Champions, along with earning $1,890,000.
To say Poulter had a whirlwind couple of weeks would be an understatement. After thinking his PGA Tour card was lost thanks to not earning enough money or FedEx Cup points in his allotted starts, Poulter received a reprieve after fellow PGA Tour player Brian Gay noticed an issue with how points were being distributed. As a result, Poulter was able to enter this tournament, and even though he didn't close it out, his performance has to be encouraging.
He hasn't won on any tour since the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions, and this is only his fifth top-10 finish since the start of 2015, but two important things happened this week. His performance will move him from 197th to 80th in the Official World Golf Rankings when the new version is released on Monday, and from 136th to 58th in the FedEx Cup. If he can play decent enough golf the rest of the way in 2017, he'll be able to earn back his PGA Tour card, and he'll climb even higher in the OWGR, which will get him back into the majors and other big events.
Poulter's always been a polarizing figure in the game, but there's no doubt that he makes things more interesting when he's in contention. Performances like this are proof he still has more gas in the tank.
The redesigned par-4 12th hole was a big talking point this week because it was supposed to encourage players to attempt to drive the green. The problem is that the design of other elements on the hole, namely the bunker short of the green and the hard runoff to the water left of the green, stopped many players from even attempting it. It's fair to expect some changes again to this hole going forward in another attempt to increase excitement on a relatively mundane hole.
There's always a lot of pain for the players on the final two holes at TPC Sawgrass, and this week was no different. Players posted scores of 7, 8, 9, and 10 on those two holes this week, contributing to an average score of 3.225 on the par-3 17th and 4.486 on the par-4 18th. Kim was able to handle the holes pretty well, playing them in 1-under par for the week.
Coming into the week, the five favorites to win THE PLAYERS Championship were Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, and Jason Day, and all of them struggled mightily at points during the tournament. Johnson required a 68 on Sunday to get into a tie for 12th place, McIlroy ended up 12 shots back of Kim and appears to have re-aggravated his back injury, Spieth missed the cut, Garcia was great on Saturday to get into contention but shot 78 on Sunday, which was two shots better than what Day shot on the final day.
More than anything, it's a good reminder that this game is super difficult even for the best players in the world.
The final group on Sunday of J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley didn't play a factor at all in the conversation during the final round. Stanley's 75 was somehow nine shots better than Holmes, who ballooned to an 84 and went from a tie for first into a tie for 41st.
Aside from Kim's win, the big news coming out of THE PLAYERS Championship may be that McIlroy re-injured his back and will be having an MRI on Monday to determine the severity.
"Yeah, I've been struggling with it a bit this week, sort of felt it for the first time on Sunday." McIlroy said to the media on Friday. "Then I've just sort of been managing it since. So it's okay, it's manageable, it's not, obviously not 100 percent, but it's good enough to get myself around here for the next couple of days. I'm going for a MRI scan on Monday just to make sure it's not serious and then I'll see what we do from there."
This is a big story to watch going forward, especially with the U.S. Open on the horizon in about a month from now.