I'm thankful every day for living in a free country like the United States. Why do I mention this in a golf story? At age 21, Si Woo Kim of South Korea became the youngest winner of the Players Championship on Sunday with a closing 3-under 69 and three-shot victory. Kim got $1.89 million for his second career PGA Tour win, a five-year Tour exemption and three-year exemption to the Masters Tournament.
What Kim doesn't get is to avoid mandatory military service in his homeland. South Korea, still technically at war with North Korea, requires all able-bodied men between the ages of 20-30 to serve military service ranging from 21 months (Army or Marines) to 24 months (Air Force). There are rare exceptions for athletes. For example, winning a gold medal for Korea in the Olympics or a win on the Asian Tour would get you out of it. That worked for Whee Kim in 2010. However, in 2015, Sang-Moon Bae -- in the midst of a career season -- was forced to put career on hold to fulfill his obligation. Si Woo Kim still has to go as well, saying he hasn't decided yet when he will do so. As long as he does so before turning 30 he's good.
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I certainly didn't expect Kim to win last week and didn't even mention him. Prior to his victory, Kim had gone 16 straight starts without a Top-10 finish. That was pretty much out of nowhere against a stacked field. J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley entered Sunday tied for the lead at 9-under, but Holmes shot a whopping 84 and Stanley a 75.
I was high on both Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar to win, but McIlroy was T35 at 2 over and Kuchar had an MDF after a third-round 81. TPC Sawgrass played very tough. McIlroy apparently had a recurrence of his rib injury from early this year that sidelined him for a while. He never broke 70.
I didn't get much right last week, so let's move on. Kim was originally in the field for this week's Tour stop, the AT&T Byron Nelson at the TPC Four Seasons Resort outside Dallas. Kim withdrew hours after winning the Players Championship with a back injury. That problem forced him to withdraw from a few earlier events. Kim was replaced in the field by Michael Putnam.
The TPC Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas is a par-70 measuring 7,166 yards. Four of the world's top six players are in attendance. Sergio Garcia is the defending champion. He finished at 15-under 265 and beat American Brooks Koepka in a playoff after Koepka found the water on the first playoff hole. Garcia also won in 2004. In 1999, Garcia made his first professional start in America in this event and was T3 at age 19. Garcia is the first two-time winner in this event's history since it moved to TPC Four Seasons in 1983. Koepka, who started the final round with a two-stroke lead over Jordan Spieth, was 17 under after his last birdies of the day, at Nos. 7 and 9. He shot 71.
This event moves to Dallas' Trinity Forest Golf Club next year for the foreseeable future.
Golf Odds: AT&T Byron Nelson Favorites
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is the +500 favorite at Bovada . I told you I wasn't all that high on DJ last week at TPC Sawgrass, where he has never had any success. He finished T12. He has four Top 10s at the Byron Nelson since 2009, last an eighth in 2015.
You may remember that Spieth (+1100), the hometown favorite, played this event as a 16-year-old six years ago when he tied for 16th -- still his best finish. He missed the cut last week.
Garcia (+1200), Jason Day (+1600) and Koepka (+1800) round out the favorites. I thought Garcia might contend last week if he was done celebrating his Masters win. Maybe not as he was T30. Day won here in 2010 at 10 under but hasn't played the tournament since a 27th in 2013. Day isn't played all that well of late. Koepka probably should have won last year. He was 16th and MC in his two previous trips to the Nelson and 16th last week.
Golf Odds: AT&T Byron Nelson Picks
For a Top-10 finish, I like Johnson (-200), former champion Jason Dufner (+350) and Tony Finau (+350), who was 12th in 2016 here and 10 th the year before. He missed the cut last week but was third at the Valero Texas Open. Go Marc Leishman (+400) over Day (even) as top Australasian and Sergio (-200) as top European.
Head-to-head, lean Dufner (-125) over Ryan Moore (-105), Ryan Palmer (-110) over Bud Cauley (-120), DJ (-175) over Spieth (+135), Finau (-120) over Brandt Snedeker (-110), and Texan Patrick Reed (-120) over Russell Henley (-110).
Charley Hoffman is solid value at +4000 to win as he has finished 12 th, second and eighth his past three trips. I'm also throwing some money on Koepka, Reed & Finau at +700 vs. the field (-1400). I just wish someone other than Reed was in there, Hoffman in particular. You can also get Johnson & Spieth at +300 vs. the field (-450), but I'm not big on Spieth and would bet the field there.
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