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Monday, May 15, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 THE PLAYERS

Winner: Si Woo Kim

Around the wider world of golf: Celine Boutier won the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic on the Symetra Tour; Matt Wallace won the Open de Portugal on the ET; Yusaku Miyazato won the Japan PGA Championship Nissin Cup Noodle Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Ai Suzuki won the Hoken-no-Madoguchi Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Si Woo Kim lifts THE PLAYERS trophy

I have to take issue with Brandel Chamblee and Friends at GC. They said that TPC Sawgrass was "star player proof," that it was designed to keep the best players in the game from capitalizing on their strengths. The implication was that, if the top players could use their strengths, a player like Si Woo Kim wouldn't win because he isn't as good.

Oh, really? You say a long hitter is at a disadvantage on a relatively short course like Sawgrass? Let me pick on Dustin Johnson, since he's a good example here. (I got the Sawgrass percentages from the individual scorecard pages, accessible from THE PLAYERS Leaderboard page.)

According to the PGA stats page, DJ hits 57.45% of his fairways on average while Si Woo Kim hits 55.02%. I would assume that, since DJ doesn't need driver that much at Sawgrass, he should be able to hit quite a few more fairways using 3-woods and long irons, while Si Woo needs driver. (After all, aren't you supposed to be more accurate with shorter clubs?) However, Si Woo hit 69.64% of his fairways while DJ could manage only 51.79% of his.

That's not a big hitter having his strength taken away. Rather, it's a big hitter not using his strength strategically. That's the very thing Sawgrass is designed to test.

Even hitting from the same place in the fairway, DJ should have a huge advantage since he can hit shorter irons in, which means they can fly higher, spin more, and land more softly. Indeed, DJ leads the Tour at 74.44% while Si Woo can only manage 58.59%. And at Sawgrass, DJ posted 69.44% and Si Woo posted 62.50%.

Those Sawgrass figures are still in the ballpark with the yearly averages. The difference could be explained by the course redesign that everybody had to learn. For example, we saw many players miss putts simply because they putted from memory, rather than reading the redesigned greens.

Again, that's a matter of poor strategy. If you know things have been changed, shouldn't you plan your strategy with that in mind?

And that's exactly what Si Woo Kim did. Just because you're a big star doesn't mean you can ignore the basics of the game. After all, Jordan Spieth didn't even make the cut and he's nowhere near as long as DJ. Did the course rob him of his strengths too?

Brandel and Friends lamented that Si Woo Kim's stats didn't allow them to predict his potential win... and I suspect THAT is the real problem for them. All of us -- not just analysts -- believe we have far more control over our games (and our lives) than we actually do. No matter how much data you collect, you can't predict how soon a player will recover from injury (assuming you remember to take it into account, of course, which the GC analysts clearly didn't) or whether the weather will cooperate or even what personal events may affect the game of individual players.

In the end, Si Woo Kim became the youngest-ever winner of THE PLAYERS, something that's not so hard to believe when you remember his amateur career or even analyze his short pro career to this point. And that's why he takes home all THE PLAYERS swag and his second Limerick Summary to boot.
The youngest to take home the prize,
Kim performed like a man who is wise
Far beyond his few years.
Now his future appears
To be brighter than most realized.
The photo came from this page at

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