Carnage out there.
So Woo Kim of Korea passed the ultimate test in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan today. The young man who earlier this year became the youngest ever winner, aged 21, of the Players championship, amassed an 11 at the par five eighth but was still game enough to speak about it.
There are countless players who, had they been asked to share details of such a fiasco, might have contemplated murder as a next move. As it was, Kim gave a shy smile and listed some at least of the events involved. There were bushes, bunkers and water in the mix, while his caddie remembered a good putt at the end. When finally they left the green, Kim said he felt something akin to a sense of relief: “After that, I felt like I was playing a practice round”. In that mode, he succeeded in notching a couple of easy birdies on his way to setting an inward 35 alongside his outward 44 and a 79 alongside a couple of 71s.
Yet Kim was going to have plenty of players with whom to compare notes in that sevens and eights at the eighth were hardly out of the ordinary. Brooks Koepka who had started the last round just one shot back from Dustin Johnson, was the owner of an eight which saw him plummeting from 15 under par to 12 under. The reigning US Open champion was still out in 36, but two more birdies in the place of the next three holes saw him down to 10 under par against Johnson’s 15 under.
“It was carnage out there,” said those photographers who had stationed themselves at the accident black spot that was the 603 yards eighth. The wind was with, and the temptation to go for the green in two enormous. But before too long the figures were telling their own salutary story. Where, on Thursday, there were 45 pars and 24 birdies and six bogeys at the hole, Saturday’s stats involved 22 pars, 15 birdies and 12 bogeys and worse.
Golf being the game it is, it will come as no surprise that Kim had led the greens hit in regulation over the first two days. On Day One, he hit all 18 greens; on day two, 15 of the 18. To put it another way, he was three ahead of anyone else on that particular list at the half-way point.
That in itself was a positive to set against the eighth hole disaster but, still more importantly, he was able to remind himself of how it is only a matter of months since he won the Players, the so-called fifth major.
With that in mind, the eleven he made at Sheshan will never be anything more than a light-hearted footnote.