Scottie Scheffler. Credit Getty Images (2)

Korean star Si Woo Kim fired his career best score of 8-under 64 at THE PLAYERS Championship on Sunday to post his first top-10 of the season as World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler made history in the 50th anniversary of the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament.

Kim, the 2017 PLAYERS champion, hit top form in the final round of the US$25 million showpiece, snaring an eagle, seven birdies against a lone bogey to finish tied sixth on 15-under 273 alongside Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama who closed with a flawless 67.

Scheffler lived up to the adage “Beware the Injured Golfer” as he overcame a neck injury sustained on Friday, firing a closing 64 to overcome an overnight five-stroke deficit and pip overnight leader Xander Schauffele (70), Brian Harman (68) and Wyndham Clark (69) by a single stroke after a pulsating final round shootout. With his 20-under winning total, the 27-year-old Scheffler became the first player to successfully defend his title at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Kim was delighted to enjoy his first top-10 since finishing fourth at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday last June. “I’m happy with my first top-10 of the season. I’ve played well over the last few weeks but didn’t finish strong, so I’m happy with this,” said Kim, who has registered five top-30s without missing a single cut in seven prior starts this year.  “Over the last six holes, I was trying my best. I tried to focus hard and I think I did well.”

The highlight of Kim’s day was an eagle on the par-5 16th hole when he rifled a 3 iron from 236 yards to 18 feet of the pin, which he duly buried the putt. “The last couple of days, I didn’t hit enough with the tee shot (on 16), so I hit it hard today as the pin was tucked at the back. It was a perfect number with a 3-iron and I made it,” said Kim, who sank birdies on the other three par-5 holes and ranked second in Strokes Gained: Putting in the final round.

“I putted well. I’ve not been putting well on Sundays and last few holes have always been a struggle. I tried to not think about next shot, and stayed in the moment. I think it helped with my focus. This finish helps me a lot, it’ll give me confidence. I think everything have started to fall in place. My putting is coming along and I’m doing good now.”

Matsuyama maintained his recent run of good form which includes a win and a T12 in his last two starts as he recorded his fourth top-10 in THE PLAYERS Championship. He made five birdies against no bogeys to end his week on a high note. “My putting and shot-making were not that great, but I was able to get a few strokes back again today, so I’m happy about that,” said the nine-time PGA TOUR winner.

“There was some bad and there was some good. If I can keep progressing, I feel I should be able to keep myself in contention each week, so I’ll focus on that and keep moving forward. The last couple weeks have been pretty rough with my back so I plan to get some rest and not overwork myself and get ready for my next tournament.”

Scheffler, 27, cemented his stature as the best golfer on the planet by becoming the first player to successfully defend THE PLAYERS title, while also winning in back-to-back weeks following his triumph at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard last week. It was his eighth PGA TOUR title since the start of the 2021-22 season, the most of any player in that span (second: 5, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm).

Playing in the fourth to last pairing on Sunday, Scheffler holed out from the fairway for a stunning eagle on the fourth hole to spark his title charge before adding six more birdies to post the day’s joint low score with Kim. Harman, Schauffele and Clark, who also finished runner-up to Scheffler last week, all had birdie looks on the last hole to force a play-off but missed. Clark came closest when his 17-foot attempt horse-shoed out of the cup.

“Today was another battle, hard-fought week. A lot of guys played some really good golf this week. A few of them finished at 19; I finished at 20-under. That’s some really good golf around this course,” said Scheffler, who suffered a neck sprain during second round which inhibited his movements.

“I parred the first three, and then the hole-out really got me going there on No. 4. I made some nice putts to close out the back nine. Going into days like today it’s nice coming out on top, for sure. It’s a great feeling.”

Final-Round Notes – Sunday, March 17, 2024

Weather: Partly cloudy. High of 81. Wind S 6-12 mph.

Final Leaderboard

1Scottie Scheffler67696864268 (-20)
T2Brian Harman72656468269 (-19)
T2Xander Schauffele65696570269 (-19)
T2Wyndham Clark65657069269 (-19)
5thMatt Fitzpatrick66696869272 (-16)

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