Si Woo Kim of South Korea played well all day, but saved his best for last.
The 27-year-old Kim birdied the last two holes to cap his second straight 6-under-par 64 and claim his fourth PGA Tour victory by one stroke over Hayden Buckley in the 58th Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
“I heard the roar behind me when (Buckley) made his birdie at No. 16 to take the lead, so I knew what I had to do,” said Kim, whose biggest victory came in the 2017 Players Championship. “I played well all the way, but especially on the last four holes.
“I hit a great chip shot on No. 17, had to be aggressive with it and it happened to go into a hole for birdie. I was so excited. Then I made another nice approach shot at No. 18 and was able to make another birdie to eventually win.
“This is the first time I’ve won my first event of the year and I hope there are more to come.”
Kim, who last won in the 2021 American Express, birdied the first three holes and added six more birdies against bogeys at Nos. 6 and 8, while posting a winning score of 18-under 262, after opening the tournament with 67-67.
On the 17th hole, Kim chipped in from 28 feet for his birdie, and after a 42-foot bunker shot on the final hole, he tapped in from two feet for what proved to be the winning birdie.
Buckley, who led by two shots after the third round, took the lead by sinking a 16-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole with the tall palm trees that form the famed “Big W” in the background, but missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole that would have forced a playoff and he closed with a 68.
“I felt I played well all week, but missed a few short putts, while also making some longer ones,” said Buckley, who was seeking his first PGA Tour victory after winning one each on the PGA Tour Canada and the Korn Ferry Tour. “I just I have to keep working on my game and I believe I will win before too long.
“I played great, but (Kim) played better and sometimes you just get beat. I made a nice birdie at No. 16 to take the lead, but he birdied Nos. 17 and 18 in the clutch to just get the job done. I had a chance on the last hole, but my putt just didn’t go in.
“However, this is only the start and I believe I’m going to have a great year.”
Chris Kirk, who had at least a share of the lead after each of the first two rounds, made three birdies down the stretch in a 68 and was three shots behind in solo third, while Andrew Putnam of Pepperdine birdied the last two holes for another 68 to finish four back in a tie for fourth with David Lipsky of Los Angeles, who birdied the last hole for a 69, and Ben Taylor of England, who also had a 69 with a closing birdie.
Aaron Baddeley of Australia carded a bogey-free 65 to wind up five strokes behind in a tie for sixth with Matt Kuchar, who birdied three of the first four holes and the last two for a 66; Maverick McNealy of Portola Valley and Stanford, who birdied the last hole for a third straight 67; Nick Taylor of Canada, who had two birdies on each nine against a single bogey in another 67, and Nate Lashley, who birdied the last hole for a 68.
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan birdied the last hole to salvage a 71 to tie for 48th.
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