Hilton Head Island’s annual PGA Tour stop crowned its first Asian champion when Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira surged from six shots back in the final round of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. He defeated South Korean Si Woo Kim on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Fans at the 17th green erupted when Kodaira rolled in a 25-foot birdie on the third extra hole and were primed to do the same had Kim’s attempt to force another hole made a couple more revolutions to fall into the cup.
The cheers were a universal sign of support for the pair of golfers, who used translators to conduct media interviews throughout the week — Kodaira doesn’t speak English, and Kim is far from fluent.
“Even though I'm not an American player, I'm just incredibly grateful to see some of these fans cheering my name and cheering for me in the playoff,” said Kim, who missed putts inside 8 feet on each of his last four holes of regulation play; sinking any one of them would have made him the champion.
Kodaira’s win gives him the opportunity to join the PGA Tour full time — a “dream come true” that he plans to accept, he said.