Kim Si-woo, the 21-year-old South Korean who won the Players Championship in such terrific fashion last week, exemplifies what I have been saying for a long time about Asian players.
It was a stunning win. Not only because it came against a world-class field — with 48 of the top-50 players in the world teeing up — but also because it came on a golf course that is widely regarded as one of the toughest test of your skills and mental strength.
What struck me as most impressive on Sunday was how comfortable Kim seemed in the situation he found himself in. The composure he showed coming down the final stretch was akin to Jordan Spieth when winning the Masters. There were trainwrecks after trainwrecks around him, but he managed to shut everything else and focus on the job in hand.
On a day when overnight leader J.B. Holmes shot 84, and such established names as Jason Day, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell shot 80s, Kim’s 69 was worth its weight in gold.
Very often with tournaments like the Players Championship, the ability to save pars from a potentially disastrous situation becomes more important than making birdies.
A golf course like the TPC Sawgrass, especially when the wind is up and when it is playing firm, gives you very few birdie chances. But despite the fact that Kim missed as many as 10 greens in his final round, he managed to make pars on all of them. That, for me, was the key.
Some time ago, I read an interview by the legendary Gary Player on why he thought that Asia is going to produce a number of major champions very soon. Player felt that Asian youngsters worked harder than others, and that they had far greater hunger to succeed. I completely agree with that viewpoint. Once they have more playing opportunities in bigger Tours, they are only going to get better. The only thing that is holding them back still is the lack of experience.
Meanwhile, there have been a couple of great developments on the Asian Tour. The first is that we are playing the Thailand Open this week, which is now back on the Asian Tour schedule after a gap of seven years. Given the success of the Thai boys internationally, especially Thongchai Jaidee, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and the ageless Prayad Marksaeng, I think this is a very important tournament to be on the calendar.
Secondly, the European Tour announced that they would host a first stage of Qualifying School leg in Asia. It is a step in the right direction, and one that enhances the chances of more Asian and Australian players getting into the European Tour. The cost of going to Europe for one week of Q-School first stage is prohibitive for most upcoming players, and this way, we will have greater participation in the second stage.
Following the Players Championship, all eyes will now be on next week’s BMW PGA Championship — first of the new Rolex Series events on the European Tour. It is a bold and ambitious move by the Tour and it is fantastic to see the support it is receiving from all the top players.
here is looking forward to another fantastic battle at Wentworth.
(Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour)