LA QUINTA, Calif. – Si Woo Kim left the Coachella Valley a year ago with his back aching again and his game in disarray.
The 25-year-old South Korean returned this week with a healthy back and a rock-solid mentality that didn't even waver when Patrick Cantlay threatened to run away with The American Express.
Kim birdied two of the final three holes to finish an 8-under 64 Sunday, coolly rallying past the late-charging Cantlay by one shot to earn his third PGA Tour victory.
A year after Kim shot a 15-over 87 in the first round and quickly withdrew from this event because of his persistent back problems, he began the final round with a share of the lead atop a crowded board. He endured a restless night as he prepared to chase his first win since the 2017 Players Championship, a string of 102 straight starts without a victory.
“Every year, I've had a chance, but I couldn’t make it,” Kim said through a translator. “I had a lot of resolve in my mind last night. I took melatonin, but still I didn’t sleep very well.”
Kim acknowledged he watched the leaderboard while he played. Six groups ahead of him, Cantlay shot a 61 and surged out of 13th place to the front while breaking the Stadium Course record by two strokes.
“I had to know what’s going on, so I knew how to play my game in the final round,” Kim said. “I knew Cantlay played really well. I tried to keep patient and believe in myself. I got the chance on 16 and 17, and that’s when I could make it. I feel good about myself.”
Cantlay's surge still only put him one stroke in the lead, and Kim comfortably birdied the par-5 16th to pull even. Kim then buried a 19-foot birdie putt on the island green on the 17th to move back in front, joyously pumping his fist when his perfectly paced putt dropped.