International flavor adds spice to final leaderboard at The Players Championship

Si Woo Kim pumps his fist after a birdie on the 7th hole in The Players Championship on Sunday. Playing partner Louis Oosthuizen walks away. (The Florida Times-Union, Bob Self)

A golf tournament doesn’t develop a nickname for being the deepest field in golf by only welcoming American players. As has been the case in recent years, the leaderboard at The Players Championship featured an international flavor.


Si Woo Kim won the plaudits and the tournament with a 3-under-par 69 during Sunday’s final round, but the 21-year-old South Korean was immediately followed by an Englishman, South African and Spaniard. Kim’s win marked the seventh time in the last ten years the champion hailed from overseas.

Since World War II, Kim would be only the second person born outside of the U.S. to win twice on the PGA Tour before his 22nd birthday. Former Players champion Sergio Garcia is the other.

“Today was a very happy day,” Kim said. “I didn’t expect that I could be the champion of this tournament at this young age. I’m just so honored to become the youngest and the best champion.”

With tournament co-leaders J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley well over par, it was apparent for hours The Players would have an international champion once again. Kim took the lead toward the turn and held it over Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen.

“As good as he played (Saturday), he’s obviously gone out there (Sunday) and played even better,” said Poulter, who tied for second with Oosthuizen with a 7-under 281. “I kind of got closer there on (No.) 11 once I made birdie, and obviously I wanted to try and put a little bit more pressure on. But, it was tough to get it close. …I believe he was hitting most of the fairways and just putting it in position, and to win this tournament, you have to do that. You have to take your hat off. You have to respect some good golf and that’s exactly what he’s done.”

Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello finished albatross, birdie, par to card a 70 and finish 6-under for the tournament. Cabrera Bello’s double eagle — the first of his golfing life — was just the third in tournament history and the first at the par-5 16th hole.

“I’ve been fighting all day. It didn’t quite feel that things were going my way, just having the odd, weird bounce and the putts (were) not dropping.

“…I took the risk hitting driver off the tee on (No.) 16, hit an enormous drive and just left myself an 8-iron. Hit a good shot, I saw it kick off the bank of the bunker and I was a bit worried at the beginning because I kind of felt that it shot a little too fast, and I’m like ‘Oh, is that going to go in the water now?’ Then I saw it rolling towards the hole, like we see many times, like with shots, they just roll.

“Then I don’t know. I saw it bump with the flag and I didn’t know what happened; had it gone in or had it just stayed just like a foot away or something like that.”

Cabrera Bello was tied with Stanley in fourth.

Australian Adam Scott as well as Italian Francesco Molinari were in a four-way tie for sixth with Americans Lucas Glover and Brendan Steele.

The seven different countries represented in the top 10 marked the most since The Players Championship moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982. On six different occasions, including in three of the past four years, six countries were represented in the top 10.

Scott, whose record as the youngest Players Champion was usurped Sunday afternoon, was pleased with his weekend, but described it as one that needed to be survived. Scott and Oosthuizen are well positioned to qualify for The President’s Cup, which will take place this fall in New Jersey.

Sunday afternoon, Oosthuizen smiled and said Kim would be a welcomed addition to that team.

“I’m very excited to play at the Presidents Cup,” Kim said. “From the beginning of this year, I really wished I could be top 10 so I could get the ticket to get in, and I’m very proud that I could join this tournament as the representative of Korea and Asia, and I’m very excited for that tournament.”