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Young Blood

by Mike Cullity

Golf’s youth brigade has a new soldier in Si Woo Kim.

The 21-year-old South Korean, who first qualified for the PGA Tour at 17, navigated Pete Dye’s diabolical Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass with preternatural calm on Sunday and became the youngest player to win the Players Championship.

Kim’s victory wasn’t exactly out of nowhere – he won the Tour’s Wyndham Championship last August, posting a second-round 60 in the process – but it was eye-opening, given his youth and the caliber of a field boasting 48 of the top 50 players in the world. He is the second Asian player to win the Players, following countryman K.J. Choi (2011), and the victory lends credence to his home continent’s steadily growing sway in the game.

Kim finished three strokes ahead of Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poulter, who might have been playing for relative peanuts in Portugal last week had it not been for a recent Tour recalibration regarding major medical extensions that allowed him to keep his card when he thought it lost.

Meanwhile, the Stadium Course exacted its toll on the game’s superstars. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson (T12) was never in the hunt, defending champion Jason Day made a 9 at No. 16 on the way to a closing 80, Masters champion Sergio García shot 78 on Sunday to fall from contention and world No. 5 Jordan Spieth missed the cut for the third consecutive year.

Perhaps most ominously, newlywed Rory McIlroy revealed Thursday that he had been experiencing discomfort in his back, in the same area where he sustained a stress fracture in a rib earlier this year. Downplaying his distress, he finished a pedestrian T35 and is scheduled for a precautionary MRI today.

 

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