Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)

Tee it high and let it fly

'It's unusual': Si Woo Kim's eye-catching final hole tee-shot, explained

January 17, 2023

Stepping onto the 18th tee with a PGA Tour title on the line, on a golf course known to be challenging off the tee, is certainly no easy task. Time to call on a shot that's safe and reliable. Nothing fancy, but something no-frills that's easy to hit, hard not to screw up.

So what did Si Woo Kim do? He pulled his 3-wood and teed his ball up really, really high. As high as he would a driver, and then sent it. He hit it well, but found a fairway bunker. With a good lie in the sand, he was able to advance his ball onto the green of the par 5 and two-putt for birdie. He won the tournament by one shot because of it.

As for why Kim called upon the high tee here? It was certainly more extreme than we're used to seeing, but the reasoning is not quite as unusual as you might think.

Pro golfers will often vary the height they tee the ball based on the shot they're trying to hit. As Tiger Woods explains in his Golf Digest Schools series here, he'll tee it higher when he's reaching for a little extra, and peg it a touch lower to create some extra spin when the time comes to find the fairway.

It doesn't track that Si Woo would tee one high then let it fly...with a 3-wood. But his tee height is indicative of him trying to hit a specific shot.

Why pros use tee height to hit different shots

Si Woo Kim is a bit of a master at being able to hit a driver off the deck, and when he does, it lends itself to a left-to-right fade because using a low (or no) tee increases the angle of attack. It forces you to hit more down on the ball, in layman's terms, and it's true with other pros as I wrote about last week with fellow player Ben An.

Teeing the ball high does the opposite. It helps shallow your angle of attack and swing the club more around you, and that's why Kim decided to peg it high here. On a hole that doglegs left, he's trying to hit a draw with a more in-to-out path. He did succeed in moving his ball from right-to-left (too much so actually, because he ended up finding the bunker on the left side of the hole), and for whatever reason teeing the ball really high helped him do that.

It's not something you see every day, but that doesn't matter. In its own roundabout way, it was a shot Si Woo knew he could call upon, because he knew with some level of predicatibly where it was going to go. Even if it came as a surprise to the rest of is.

"I've never seen him hit that shot," said his recently-hired coach, Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher Chris Como. "It looked great though."