The Players Championship at Sawgrass was won yesterday by Kim Si-Woo of South Korea (no connection to the bonkers Kim in the north) with a closing 69 which gave him a total of 278 and a three-shot triumph over Ian Poulter of England and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa. Formerly the world No. 75 and presently aged 21, Kim thus became the youngest winner of the event, this also being his second victory on the PGA Tour. Not only were there no bogeys in his round, his back nine consisted of nine straight pars. Thirty years on from that Open at Muirfield, it was positively Faldo-esque. In passing, it might be noted that Rafa Cabrera-Bello yesterday recorded the first ever albatross on the par-five 16th, the very same hole that cost the former world No. 1, Jason Day, a nine.
Although there was inevitably a tinge of disappointment in the outcome for Poulter, there wasn’t much of it. Three weeks ago, he thought he had lost his playing privileges on the PGA Tour having failed to earn enough money – or more accurately enough FedEx Cup points – within the period of the medical exemption the Tour had previously granted him. That was until fellow pro Brian Gay, who was in a similar situation, realised a mistake in the Tour’s computations. Having been pleased for himself, he suddenly thought: ‘Holy shit! I just got Ian Poulter his card.’ Poulter has told Gay he’ll buy him “a proper bottle of wine” as a reward. Maybe that should be a vineyard?
“I was nervous out there all day,” Poulter said when it was over. “I think understandably, because I haven’t been in that position for a long time. The last month has been extremely stressful. I would love to have won but this was a good week.”
The recently married Rory McIlroy arrived at Sawgrass as the owner of a new 10-year equipment contract with TaylorMade worth $100 million; not bad given that Nike were already paying him $200 million over 10 years to wear their gear. According to Golf Digest, he was in any case golf’s highest earner. Now he’s even more so. But he left Jacksonville after shooting 290, two over par, to finish in a tie for 35th and confirming he’s going to need an MRI scan this week on the back injury that flared up just after the start of the season. The European Tour will fervently be hoping that won’t keep him away from its PGA Championship at Wentworth next week.
Of course, the Players Championship used to be routinely described as the ‘fifth major’, although when it is these days it’s usually as a slightly weary cliché rather than with any great enthusiasm on the part of the PGA Tour. Interestingly, golf’s fourth major, the USPGA Championship, which is played in August, may soon be moved to May, which would mean the Players would revert to March. That would make the Open Championship, in July, the final major of the year. This might seem a somewhat premature big-time climax but it would fit in with the PGA Tour’s wish to enhance the profile of its season-ending FedExCup and the concluding Tour Championship, which could then move forward on the calendar in order to avoid a TV clash with the NFL in the States. Another consequence of that may be good news for the European Tour: it might make it a very desirable circuit for leading PGA Tour golfers to play on from earlyish September until late November, thereby providing a boost to the Race to Dubai. Double gins all round!
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