Military service looms for Players champion Si Woo Kim

South Korea requires all able-bodied men between 18 and 35 to join army for 21 months

Si Woo Kim of South Korea celebrates with the winner’s trophy after the final round of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Si Woo Kim of South Korea celebrates with the winner’s trophy after the final round of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

 

Si Woo Kim’s victory at The Players Championship on Sunday burnished the South Korean’s reputation as one of the best young talents on the PGA Tour but the 21-year-old knows his career will soon have to take a back seat to defending his country.

South Korea requires all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35 to complete at least 21 months in the military as a deterrent to North Korean aggression.

It offers exemptions to athletes who win a medal of any colour at the Olympics or gold at the Asian Games.

Unfortunately for Kim, winning the PGA Tour’s flagship event does not bring an exemption.

“I really wish we could have that benefit,” Kim said. “However, regardless of me winning this tournament I really have to go to the military service, and I’ve already decided I’m going to go so I’m ready for that.”

Kim’s compatriot Bae Sang-moon, another two-time winner on the PGA Tour, lost a legal battle to defer his military service in 2015. He is expected to return for the 2018 season though it is unclear how much time it will take to regain top form after two years away from competitive action.

Kim, who said he had not decided when he will undertake his military service, delivered an impressive three-stroke victory in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The win was Kim’s second on the PGA Tour and earned him a five-year exemption on the Tour.

Kim became the second South Korean to win the event after KJ Choi in 2011 and he said he hoped his victory would help inspire his countrymen to raise their game.

“I really wish I could be a good example of the Korean men’s player,” Kim said. “The Korean ladies are dominating the LPGA Tour, so I was kind of jealous seeing that and I wanted to represent Korea very well.”

Meanwhile, Ian Poulter hopes to use his second place in The Players as a “stepping stone” for the rest of the season after making the most of his second chance at Sawgrass.

Poulter had slipped from a career-high of fifth in the world to 197th and just three weeks ago had seemingly lost his PGA Tour card until fellow professional Brian Gay alerted officials to a discrepancy in the points structure used for players competing on major medical extensions.

After playing just 13 tournaments in 2016 due to a foot injury, Poulter had 10 events this season to earn 218 FedEx Cup points or $347,634 to remain fully exempt.

He came up short in both categories after missing the cut in his 10th event last month, but Gay – who was also playing on a medical exemption after back problems – came to the rescue by discovering a difference between the way points were allotted this season compared to a year ago.

“From being in a position a couple of weeks ago where I wasn’t here to finish tied second, it’s a good week,” Poulter said. after finishing three shots behind South Korea’s Si Woo Kim – his best finish since November 2014.

“It’s been a tough 18 months. I’ve had the kids up here all weekend and had some fun on the beach and it’s kind of taken my mind off things. From a playing perspective to be in this situation where I can play a schedule and enjoy some golf, some of my best golf has come out this week.

“I’ve enjoyed it and hopefully this is just a stepping stone to pressing on for the rest of this year.”

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