Koreas Kim Si-Woo, 21, won for the second time on the PGA Tour in less than a year while Ian Poulter finished joint-second in The Players, his first tournament since regaining his card
Events of the last month mean Ian Poulter should not be disconsolate at falling short at The Players Championship. He was ultimately denied the completion of a great golfing fairytale by a youngster living one of his own.
Kim Si-Woo, at 21, has become the youngest champion in Players history. How the South Korean deserved it, with a nerveless march down the Sawgrass stretch that which has caused carnage for bigger names that belied his age.
Kim was no also-ran when arriving in Florida, having endorsed his prodigious talent by turning professional back in 2012 and winning the Wyndham Championship last year, but the world No75 was hardly a general fancy. This season Kim had had rounds of more than 80 three times, missed seven cuts and been forced to withdraw from four events because of injury trouble.
Now, courtesy of a bogey-free 69 on Sunday which secured a three-stroke win at 10 under par, Kim has collected $1.89m (1.47m) and earned a batch of exemptions which will elevate his career. Going by such a calm approach Kim made nine straight pars on the back nine on Sunday further glory awaits.
Poulter, restored to full status on the PGA Tour only a fortnight ago after a recalculation of FedEx Cup points, was always the man pushing Kim. The Englishman was never closer than a shot but was two adrift when shanking his second shot to the 18th. Poulter took a penalty drop before producing an outstanding iron to tap-in range. A share of second with Louis Oosthuizen barely told the story of how impressive Poulters play had been over the weekend in particular. If there was a shortcoming, it was that Poulter did not convert birdie chances.
Still he has justified his tour standing and will receive a substantial boost from last weeks world ranking of 198. Poulters Sunday 71 was two better than Oosthuizen.
I was nervous out there all day, said Poulter. I think understandably because I havent 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.
Sergio Garcias tilt at glory had surprisingly fizzled out during a front half of 41. Perhaps the fatigue associated with a first tournament appearance since ending his wait for a major finally caught up with the new Master, who signed for a 78.
Some endearing moments belonged to Rafa Cabrera-Bello. The Spaniard became the first Players competitor ever to record an albatross at the 16th, having holed his second shot from 181 yards. Cabrera-Bello backed up his heroics with another two at the 17th, and the saving of par at the last despite pulling his tee shot into a lake. Cabrera-Bellos reward was a share of fourth with Kyle Stanley at six under par.
Jason Days Players defence ended in inauspicious fashion. The Australian was not troubling the leaders anyway but could have done without a nine at the 16th and wedge into water from the next tee. Days 80 meant he closed at seven over par and is still battling to find anything like the form which had him dominating the world of golf 12 months ago.
Days playing partner , Rory McIlroy, headed straight for his native Northern Ireland where he will undergo a scan on the back problem which hampered his week. In truth McIlroy could probably have done without a basically irrelevant final round during which he understandably struggled for momentum. A 75 meant McIlroys aggregate was two over. Intrigue inevitably and instantly shifted towards whether doctors will deem the 28-year-old fit enough to compete in the forthcoming BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Dustin Johnson improved his position markedly with a final round of 68 for a two-under total. Justin Rose, who has never seemed particularly enamoured by Sawgrass, will not have felt such sentiment change after signing for an 80. Rose played the back nine in 42.
As if to prove further that it is not all peace, love and harmony in golf Phil Mickelson issued a broadside towards the United States Golf Association before departing Florida. The custodians of the US Open, who are also jointly responsible with the Royal & Ancient for rules matters, have been at the centre of various controversies in recent times. With that in mind, Mickelson was asked whether a successful US Open at Erin Hills next month might be necessary to restore the USGAs reputation. I dont know if one thing right is going to fix that, said Mickelson.