Players Championship 2017
Round 4 - Si Woo Kim becomes youngest Players winnerMay 15, 2017
Si Woo Kim made Sunday at The Players Championship look like child's play.
From a tough lie behind the green, in a bunker with not much room between him and the pin, or even standing on the 17th tee and staring at an island, the 21-year-old South Korean never flinched and never made worse than par.
Kim kept a clean card to the end for a 3-under 69 to become the youngest champion in the 44-year history of the biggest tournament this side of the majors.
''I feel like I'm still dreaming that I won this championship,'' Kim said after his three-stroke victory.
On a windy afternoon at the TPC Sawgrass, where anything can go wrong without notice, Kim was the only player to go bogey-free in the final round that derailed everyone else in a hopeless pursuit of him.
His last hurdle was getting by the final two holes where not even his two-shot lead was safe - the island green at the par-3 17th and a closing hole with water all the way down the left side.
''I wasn't nervous at all because I was leading,'' he said. ''I just focused on the middle of the green.''
He landed safely and two-putted from 45 feet, and then he smashed another drive down the middle of the 18th fairway.
The only drama at the end came from Ian Poulter, who was happy just to be here.
Two weeks ago, Poulter thought he had lost his PGA Tour card until officials realized a clerical oversight that restored his status and even gave him a spot in The Players Championship. He was the only player to seriously challenge Kim until he ran out of holes, and then it was a matter of finishing second.
Poulter shanked his second shot from the right rough on the 18th, and it bounced off hospitality tents, down a cart path and into a palmetto bush. He took a penalty drop, and then hit wedge over the trees and nearly holed it, tapping in for bogey.
He closed with a 71 and tied for second with Louis Oosthuizen, who shot 73.
''It was a big shock to the system to hit one of those nasty shanks when I've hit it as good as I have all week,'' Poulter said. ''But the fourth shot was pretty special - from one of the worst shots I've ever hit to one of the very best.''
The bogey on the 18th was only the second for Poulter over the final 46 of the tournament. As tough as the Players Stadium Course played, his best chance was waiting for Kim to make a mistake, just like so many other players. Remarkably, Kim never did.
''As good as he played yesterday, he's obviously gone out there today and played even better,'' Poulter said. ''He's gone clean out there today, which is extremely impressive under that pressure. ... You have to respect some good golf, and that's exactly what he's done.''
Oosthuizen, who fell out of the lead for good with a fairway bunker shot into the water for double bogey on No. 4, watched it all day playing alongside Kim.
''If you're on your game and playing well, that the things you do,'' Oosthuizen said. ''You just don't give shots away. If you can do that around this golf course, you can outscore everyone. 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. Never once did he look flustered at all.''
The excitement, good and bad, came from everyone else.
Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain hit 8-iron that bounded off the side of a bunker and into the cup for an albatross 2 on the par-5 16th. He followed that with a birdie on the 17th, and then holed a long par putt from just off the 18th green. That gave him a 70 and a tie for fourth with Kyle Stanley, a co-leader after 54 holes who shot 75.
The other co-leader was J.B. Holmes, and it was a horror show for the Kentuckian.
Holmes shot 40 on the front nine and still had hope until bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes. And then it turned ugly. He hit too shots into the water on the 17th and make a quintuple-bogey 8, then finished with a double bogey to close with an 84, the worst finish by a 54-hole leader at The Players.
Holmes wasn't alone. Defending champion Jason Day closed with an 80, keeping very much in tact the streak of no winner ever repeating in the Players. Rickie Fowler, who won the year before, closed with a 79.
As for the winner? That was rarely in doubt for Kim, who finished at 10-under 278
Kim said he wasn't nervous because of his victory last year in the Wyndham Championship, which gave him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. This victory comes with perks beyond the $1.89 million first prize. He gets a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and a three-year exemption to the Masters.
The previous youngest champion of The Players was Adam Scott, who was 23 when he won in 2005.
Just over four years ago, Kim came over to America to play the final version of PGA Tour's qualifying school. He earned a card at age 17, but he could not become a PGA Tour member until he turned 18 the following June. That card effectively went to waste, and Kim spent the next two years on the developmental tour until earning his card back to the big leagues.
Now he's here to stay for at least the next five years, and based on his game, probably much longer.
Round 3 - J.B. Holmes & Kyle Stanley top leaderboardMay 13, 2017
J.B. Holmes defied conventional wisdom on a most unconventional course, walking anything but the straight and narrow at the TPC Sawgrass until he wound up in a most unlikely place Saturday in The Players Championship.
He was tied for the lead with Kyle Stanley.
Holmes didn't hit a fairway over his last six holes on the wind-swept Players Stadium Course, including one that was so far right off the 14th tee that it went into a water hazard on the 12th hole.
He was among eight players who hit five or fewer fairways in the third round. The other seven had an average score of 76.43. Somehow, Holmes shot 70.
''An adventurous day, for sure,'' Holmes said.
Stanley got his mistakes out of the way quickly with three bogeys on his opening four holes, kept a clean card the rest of the way and finished with a tough par save from the bunker behind the 18th green for a hard-fought 72.
They were at 9-under 207, and more adventures await - for more than just them.
Louis Oosthuizen saved par on the 18th for a 73 and was one shot behind. Six other players were only four shots behind, a group that included Masters champion Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter, who thought he had lost his PGA Tour card two weeks ago until a clerical oversight was discovered.
And if the final round is anything like Saturday, it can all change so quickly.
Jon Rahm of Spain went into the third round in a tie for 10th, just five shots behind. He shot 82 and was headed home after missing the 54-hole cut. Of the 82 players on the course, 49 had at least one double bogey. Matt Kuchar had a 9 on the 14th hole and shot a career-high 81 at The Players Championship.
The culprit, as if the TPC Sawgrass isn't enough, was a wind so treacherous that only one player who teed off after 11:30 a.m. broke 70. That was Si Woo Kim, who didn't make a bogey until the 16th hole and shot a 68 to get within two shots.
Emiliano Grillo had a 67 and was at 6-under 210, along with Poulter, who had the only bogey-free round. Garcia, Patrick Cantlay (72) and Alex Noren (72) were another shot behind. Pat Perez, in the third group to tee off, had a 66 for the day's best score and suddenly was in the group just five shots behind.
''No lead can be big enough,'' Oosthuizen said. ''That's what makes this golf course great. We've been over the years great finishes around this golf course and horrible finishes. It's a great three finishing holes, and you need to be on your game. You need to hit the ball well and ... try not to do anything heroic when you have the lead.''
Holmes had to be remarkable where he was hitting it.
He opened with 10 straight pars, added a pair of birdies, and then the fun began.
After hitting off the map on the 14th into the water on the 12th hole, he faced a blind shot over the mounds from 230 yards into the wind on the hardest hole on the course. He let it rip, and it flew into the left bunker. He nearly holed that and escaped with bogey, his only dropped shot of the round.
From the pine straw left of the 15th fairway, he managed to get it on the green and lagged beautifully from nearly 60 feet. Another poor drive kept him from going for the green on the 16th, and after a birdie on the island-green 17th, Holmes finished with one more wild drive, one more unlikely par.
''I usually can make a bunch of birdies, so if I can just narrow it down to one bogey, then I'm usually in good shape,'' Holmes said.
So many others wish they could have done the same.
Vijay Singh, the 54-year-old Fijian, quickly got within one shot of the lead until it all fell apart. Singh took a double bogey on his fourth hole, a triple bogey on the par-3 eighth by hitting a tee shot into a palmetto bush, and he finished his bad day with two balls into the water on the 17th for a triple bogey. He shot 79.
Phil Mickelson shot 78.
That goes for Dustin Johnson, the world No. 1, who looked as though he might have a chance to at least get in the mix until tiny mistakes led to bogeys, and a big mistake led to double bogey on the 16th hole. Johnson shot 40 on the back nine for a 74 and was 11 shots out.
Defending champion Jason Day had two double bogeys in his round of 73 and was eight shots behind, still hopeful of becoming the first back-to-back winner of this championship. He will play Sunday with Rory McIlroy, another former world No. 1, who shot 71.
''This is a really tough golf course. It doesn't matter how good you're feeling, you have to play really well,'' Grillo said. ''It doesn't matter who you are.''
Stanley, who just nine months ago was close to losing his PGA Tour card, didn't panic when he started making bogeys early. And he remembered where he was, at The Players Championship, where nothing ever feels as good - or as bad - as it really is.
''You just kind of have to remind yourself that even though you're a little bit over par, on the leaderboard I was still in a pretty good spot,'' Stanley said.
Round 2 - Louis Oosthuizen & Kyle Stanley share leadMay 13, 2017
South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen stretched his cuts-made streak to 15 with a bogey-free 66 to grab a share of the lead after the second round of The Players Championship.
The 34-year-old from Mossel Bay reached nine-under 135 to tie Kyle Stanley (66) with a two-shot lead at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
"We're in a pretty good spot going into this weekend," said Oosthuizen. "A lot of golf to be played around this course, and as we've seen the last two days, you can easily make a mistake."
American J.B. Holmes is alone in third after shooting a three-under 69.
Veteran Vijay Singh is also lurking near the top of the leaderboard. The 54-year-old Fijian-Indian is by himself in fourth after shooting a 69 to reach six-under 138, three shots adrift of the leaders.
David Hearn of Canada (69), Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain (70), Patrick Cantlay (70), Ian Poulter of England and Alex Noren of Sweden (71) are tied for fifth at 139.
Six players -- including Jon Rahm of Spain (72), former US Open champion Webb Simpson (69), Brendan Steele (71) and England's Paul Casey (69) -- are another stroke back at 140 and tied for 10th.
Oosthuizen, who's only win on the PGA Tour was at the British Open in 2010, has 13 victories worldwide including eight on the European Tour.
His round on Friday, which began on the back-nine, featured six birdies and no bogeys after he collected four birdies and one bogey in the opening round on Thursday.
The last time Oosthuizen missed a cut on the PGA Tour was the 2016 Open Championship, a run of 15 straight made cuts.
"I'm rolling the ball really nicely and feel really confident on the greens," Oosthuizen said.
Defending champion Jason Day fashioned a 72 on Friday and is at 142 along with Phil Mickelson (70), Adam Scott of Australia (72), Henrik Stenson of Sweden (70) and first-round co-leaders William McGirt (75) and Mackenzie Hughes of Canada (75).
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson followed up his first-round 71 with a 73 and stands at 144, nine strokes off the lead heading into the weekend.
Among the others at 144 are Masters champion Sergio Garcia of Spain (71), Justin Thomas (71) and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy (71).
Singh's position near the top of the leaderboard comes as a surprise considering he has missed nine out of his last 10 cuts.
"I don't try to remember what I did in the past, I came here feeling good about my game. I was ready to play well, too. I'm playing well and I'm excited about it," Singh said.
If Singh wins this week, he would become the oldest player to do so on the PGA Tour. Sam Snead currently owns the record at 52 years.
Players who didn't make the cut included world number five Jordan Spieth who finished at two-over 146.
American Jim Furyk, Marc Leishman of Australia, Bernhard Langer of Germany and Ernie Els of South Africa also failed to get into weekend play.
Round 1 - Mackenzie Hughes & William McGirt share leadMay 12, 2017
Mackenzie Hughes arrived at the TPC Sawgrass with no scar tissue and played his first round at The Players Championship with no bogeys.
Pretty simple, eh?
The Canadian rookie shook his head and laughed. Even after going bogey-free in his debut Thursday for a 5-under 67 to share the lead with William McGirt, Hughes saw enough of the Players Stadium Course to realize that surprises lurk around every corner.
''There's just not really a moment where you can let up,'' Hughes said.
No need explaining that to Adam Scott, who won The Players in 2004 and was off to a strong start on a steamy afternoon when he was 6 under and heading to the infamous par-3 17th with its island green.
First, he watched Masters champion Sergio Garcia hit a gap wedge that took one big hop, land just behind the cup and disappear for a hole-in-one. Scott followed by spinning a shot off the bank and into the water for a double bogey, and he compounded that with another double bogey.
''I played some good golf out there and unfortunately not on the last two,'' Scott said after settling for a 70. ''It happens.''
At least he had company.
Dustin Johnson's first wedge of the way hit the pin, caromed off the green and led to bogey. On a day when nothing seemed to go his way, the world's No. 1 player opened with a 71. Rory McIlroy went to tap in from 2 feet and missed it, and then had to make one twice that long for his double bogey on the 10th hole. He shot 73.
Through it all, Hughes was rock solid. Only twice did he have par putts longer than 3 feet, and he made them both. The last piece of stress came on the final hole when trees block his way to the green. To chip out sideways would risk chipping into the water. He found a 4-foot wide window in which he had to keep it under on branch and go over two more. It was a large enough gap and the perfect shot for a 6-iron.
''I was close enough to the trees. It paid off,'' said Hughes, who already has won (Sea Island) in his rookie season on the PGA Tour.
McGirt played in morning and made a pair of eagles on the back nine to atone in his round of 67.
Among those at 68 was Jon Rahm, another first-timer at this lucrative event who had one of four bogey-free rounds on the steamy day in north Florida. Even with a mild wind in the afternoon, just over a third of the field broke par.
Fast starts and bad finishes were the norm, and not just for Scott.
Defending champion Jason Day ran off two straight birdies after making the turn and was in the lead at 5 under, which for the former world No. 1 was a peculiar position. He hasn't won since The Players last year. Day, however, made three bogeys over his last four holes and had to settle for a 70.
He was playing in the same group as Rickie Fowler, the 2015 champion who also got off to a fast start until one bad shot - a really bad shot - on his 15th hole at the par-4 seventh. From the middle of the fairway, Fowler blocked it so badly to the right that it hit a cart path and went deep into the pines. It took him two shots to get out and he made double bogey. Fowler also shot 70.
Fowler managed to see the big picture.
''No one's going crazy low or anything like that,'' he said.
Garcia's round was different. He made three bogeys and a double bogey in his opening six holes and went out in 40, the first nine holes of competition he has played since winning the Masters a month ago. He felt nerves on the first tee when he was introduced as the Masters champion.
''The feeling was great,'' he said. ''I think I wasn't quite in the tournament because of everything that's been going on after the Masters win and media and people congratulating you left, right and center. I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was 4 over after six.''
Johnson still has only two rounds in the 60s out of 27 attempts at the Stadium Course. He could accept this 71 just because of all that went wrong - the wedge that hit the pin on No. 1, birdie putts that spun around the holes at Nos. 2 and 12. Johnson rallied late with a 25-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole.
''It could have been really good today, but ended up just being OK,'' Johnson said.
McGirt was among 13 players from the morning draw who shot in the 60s, but he was the only player to get as low as 6 under until he missed a short par putt on the final hole. Told that no one had made eagle on both par 5s on the back nine in the opening round, McGirt didn't have an answer.
''Good numbers at a good time, made a good swing at a good time,'' McGirt said. ''You just kind of see the shot and hit the shot and see the putt and hit the putt.''
He made it sound simple, even though the Players Stadium Course can be anything but that.
|T4||ESP||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-6||18||-2||69||70||73||70||282|
|T35||USA||Harold Varner III||2||18||Par||71||70||77||72||290|
|T41||USA||Billy Hurley III||3||18||Par||71||72||76||72||291|
|T41||USA||J. B. Holmes||3||18||12||68||69||70||84||291|
|CUT||KOR||K. J. Choi||3||-||72||72||75||-||-||147|
|CUT||USA||D. A. Points||8||-||72||73||79||-||-||152|
|CUT||RSA||Tyrone van Aswegen||9||-||72||75||78||-||-||153|