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May 17

Si Woo Kim Calm at Players

21 Year Old South Dorean Si Woo Kim Takes “5th  Major” at Players

The Players Championship has taken on the status of what is termed a “5th major.” It doesn’t have the zing of the other four as yet. You have to be old for that. However, it’s a great deal of money if you win the Players, and a lot of perks come with it for the following years. South Korean Si Woo Kim won almost 1.9 million in a stroll to the victory Sunday in a notable day, not only for him, but a few others. This Players had a lot of gifts to go around.

Si Woo Kim’s victory is notable. For one thing, he’s 21 years of age. We’re a little acdustomed to that on the women’s side, thanks to Kydia Ko and others. It’s not uncommon for a young golfer to do well on the PGA, but they don’t genrally win majors, 5th or not. For another thing, if a kid is going to win such a big event, the least he can do i to make it a nail biter.. Kim denied us even that.

I loved the interview afterward.  The young man is big, strong, and displays no nerves whatsoever, on the course or off. Beneath his reserved exterior, one senses that he is a friendly sort, and he talks about golf the way other golfers talk about it. Amusingly, he pushed his translator to the limit in the response to every question as she wrote notes like a court secretary.
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I didn’t get to see the entire tournament, but in the highlights, Kim was rolling in putts from everywhere, distance nothwithstanding. Even though he didn’t have a putt of less than two feet on the back nine of round four, I had the feeling that somehow, it wouldn’t have mattered.  Even those hoping for a little extra drama relied on the famous par 3 islnd green at 17 to cause a slipo-up in the Korean’s progress. They were to disappointed. For Kim, it was just another golf shot. There were no bogeys, no breakdowns no putt too far, no sweat.

So, what’s next for the new phenom? It seems that the heights of glory will have to wait for a while, as Si Woo Kim is up for military service. All men in South Korea are between the ages of 18 and 35. The term of service is, so I have read, at least 21 months. Athletes at times, become national symbols, and gain exemptions or deferments.  We’ve been through this sort of thing a lot in the United States, with Muhammad Ali, Joe Lewis, and others. In the Second World War, almost every famous actor served. Even in Korea, athletes on a roll have attempted court battles. Si Woo Kim, however, seems ready and comfortable with this obligation, and to win the Players is an outstanding send-off.  Korea’s situation is different, much like the circumstances for the west  over 70 years ago. Kim’s country is never far from a state of war.
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When he returns, Kim will have money in the bank, a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and an automatic three for the Masters at Augusta. He’s got to like that. He will also return, at least in a personal sense, as the Players defending champion. He won the event in such a fashion that others had to provide the suspensse – Ian Poulter’s runner-up finish, and Rafael Cabrera Bello’s albatross, for example. His winning strategy is clear, to not merely appear calm, but to be calm at the deepest level. If Kim truly manages that, we’re going to see more of him.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.