SEOUL (Reuters) – After becoming the youngest golfer to win The Players Championship in 2017, South Korea’s Kim Si-woo has now set his sights on being the first to successfully defend the title when he returns to TPC Sawgrass in May.
The Seoul native stunned a strong field last year to win the PGA Tour’s flagship event when he was 21-years-old, his victory coming six years after compatriot K.J. Choi also took the title.
If Kim defends his title at the $10.5 million tournament from May 10-13 this year, he would be the first to do so since it was established in 1974.
“Someone told me there hasn’t been any back-to-back champion, and I’ve noticed a lot of champions who come back don’t play well,” the 22-year-old said at a media event at TPC Sawgrass in Florida on Monday.
“I would like to change that, and I’m already preparing to come back and defend my title this year.”
Kim said returning to the scene of his biggest victory conjured up many happy memories.
“To see my pictures up on the wall and to drive up to this course, it brings back a lot of memories, and even though all tournaments are great, I would like to come back and win this one and defend my title,” he added.
Kim, ranked 53rd in the world, said that while it was an honor to have won the same title as Choi, he had a long way to go to matching the feats of the South Korean trailblazer, who has won eight times on the elite U.S. tour.
“I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Obviously K.J. has a lot more wins and a lot of experience. I currently only have two wins. But I definitely hope to be as great by having more wins and playing on the tour.”
Kim also said he was glad to be returning to full fitness after his form was hampered by a back problem.
“I went back to Korea last winter, and I think just having the cold weather there didn’t help, and I didn’t really exercise or stretch as much as I should have, so looking back, I think that’s what caused a lot of the injury,” he said.
“Now it feels great. I’m able to swing without any pain.”
He added that it was great to see Tiger Woods, who won the Players in 2001 and 2013, returning to the tour after recovering from back surgeries.
“To know that we’re both The Players and to know that we both won on this course, it’s pretty amazing, and to just see him out there practicing is just unreal because he’s such a legendary player and I watched him growing up and watched him just dominate the sport,” said Kim.
“I’m hoping to play with him one day. I haven’t played with him yet in a tournament, so I’m looking forward to that day.”
(Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)