Si Woo Kim wins Players Championship as Ian Poulter settles for second
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 15/05/17 9:52am
Si Woo Kim displayed composure beyond his years to clinch a three-shot victory at The Players Championship as Ian Poulter's challenge came up just short at TPC Sawgrass.
Kim became the first Asian player to win two PGA Tour titles before the age of 22 after he fired a flawless three-under 69 to post a winning score of 10 under par, while Poulter's battling 71 secured a share of second with Louis Oosthuizen which could be enough to retain his card for next season.
Overnight leaders JB Holmes and Kyle Stanley crashed out of contention as both littered their cards with too many mistakes, while Rafa Cabrera Bello made a historic albatross at the 16th and enjoyed his best finish in the United States.
Kim put early pressure on the leaders when he rolled in a 15-foot putt for birdie on the opening green, and he did well to scramble pars at the third, fourth and fifth holes as he suddenly found himself in a tie at the top.
The South Korean, who won the Wyndham Championship by five strokes last August, then holed from 25 feet for birdie at the seventh before he followed another clutch par putt at eight with another long-range birdie at nine to turn in 33.
Kim again had to dig deep to salvage pars at 10 and 11, and he his short-game remained sharp as he got up and down after missing three straight greens from the 13th to maintain a two-shot advantage over Poulter.
But the 21-year-old was a model of consistency over the dangerous closing three holes, finding the heart of each green in regulation and two-putting for rock-solid pars to land the biggest victory of his fledgling career, making him the youngest-ever winner of golf's "fifth major".
Poulter, who thought he had lost his card just three weeks ago until fellow pro Brian Gay spotted a mistake in the calculations of his major medical extension, trailed by two overnight but got off to an encouraging start with birdies at the second and sixth.
The Englishman followed a steady run of pars with another gain at the long 11th after splashing out of a greenside bunker to five feet, but his decision to lay-up at the driveable par-four ninth backfired as his wedge approach came up short.
Poulter pitched to six feet but misread the putt for par, and he was unable to convert chances at 14 and 15 and a blocked drive at the long 16th forced him to lay up, from where he hit a poor wedge and two-putted for par.
The 41-year-old safely negotiated the feared 17th, but he had to take an unplayable lie after carving his second way right at the closing hole, although he played one of the shots of the championship as he smashed his fourth through the trees to within inches of the cup to limit the damage to a bogey.
Oosthuizen's challenge took a big hit when he found water at the fourth and double-bogeyed, and he dropped another shot at the ninth before hauling himself back into the hunt with a 35-foot putt for eagle at the 11th.
But the former Open champion gave both shots back as he bogeyed 13 and 14, and a birdie at the 16th followed by two pars ensured a share of second with Poulter on seven under par.
Cabrera Bello produced the most sensational finish of the final round when he became the first player in the tournament's history to make an albatross at the 16th, and he also birdied the 17th to post a 70 which got him to six under alongside Stanley (75).
World No 1 Dustin Johnson enjoyed his best round at Sawgrass, closing with a four-under 68 to jump into a tie for 12th place on two under, but Masters champion Sergio Garcia was unable to reproduce the magic of Augusta and he crashed to one-over with a 78 after beginning the day just three off the lead.
Rory McIlroy had hoped to lift his spirits with a big finish ahead of Monday's MRI scan on his back injury, but he double-bogeyed the final hole to post a disappointing 75 and finish outside the top 35 on two over par.
As for Holmes, he endured a nightmare final day after stumbling to the turn in 40 and then putting two balls in the water at 17 and three-putting for an eight, and a six at the last added up to an 84 which saw him plummet to three over.