Flash back to the Presidents Cup in September, and though the U.S. team won again, there were several reasons for the International side to be encouraged after pushing the Americans deep into Sunday before the matches were decided.
One of those reasons was Si Woo Kim. While South Korean countryman Tom Kim emerged as the telegenic star of the International team, Si Woo Kim was right there with him, going 3-1-0 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, a resounding reminder of how good he can be.
Kim gave another demonstration Sunday, shooting a final-round 6-under 64 to win the Sony Open in Hawaii by one stroke over American Hayden Buckley. It was the fourth PGA Tour victory for Kim, who won the 2017 Players Championship, and celebrated his recent marriage by winning in his first start of 2023.
“First time winning (my) first event, it can’t be better than this,” said Kim, who earned his PGA Tour privileges as a 17-year-old.
He started the final round three strokes behind Buckley on a day with several players dancing around the lead. The tournament swung on the par-3 17th hole when Kim chipped in for a birdie just moments after Buckley took a one-stroke lead with a birdie at the 16th hole.
“Right before that, I heard the noise,” Kim said. “There was nothing to lose, so I hit it aggressive and it goes in.”
As solidly as Kim appeared to have played, he hinted that it didn’t always feel that way.
“I was three strokes behind. It can happen fast,” Kim said. “I tried my best every shot. It was a little shaky the last four holes, but I (was) trying to get confident and keep calm.”
It was a disappointing finish for Buckley, who led for much of the final round in seeking his first PGA Tour victory. Needing a birdie at the short par-5 18th, Buckley hit a 5-iron approach shot from the light right rough that finished short right of the green in rough.
His pitch ran nearly 12 feet past and his putt to force a playoff skidded past on the left side. Still, it was the best career finish for Buckley, a second-year tour player who got married in December and did not swing a club for approximately one month before early January.
Ron Green Jr.