Tom Kim is usually polished, showing a maturity uncommon for a 21-year-old.
Sometimes, though, he’s “a five-year-old at Disneyland.”
Those are his words – used to describe the giddiness he feels about playing on the PGA TOUR and accumulating special moments in golf.
He felt he missed a pretty big one in August at the Wyndham Championship. An ankle injury prevented Kim from defending his maiden victory on TOUR.
That left him especially amped for this week’s Shriners Children’s Open—finally, the chance to notch another seminal golfing memory: his first title defense.
“It’s actually pretty cool,” he said. “Hopefully many more to come.”
Another could be coming at the Shriners Children’s Open a year from now. He’s put himself in a position to convert on that possibility. He shot 62 on Saturday to jump from outside the top 20 to a share of the lead at 15-under. He made nine birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. He will play in the final pairing alongside Adam Hadwin.
It was in Las Vegas a year ago that Kim put a stamp on his superstar trajectory. He had won the Wyndham Championship a few months earlier with an emphatic final-round 61. Weeks later he was the breakout performer at the Presidents Cup. But his win at TPC Summerlin put him in rarified air. It made him the first player since Tiger Woods to win twice on the PGA TOUR before turning 21 years old. He was the youngest to reach two wins on TOUR in the last 90 years.
The last 12 months have not lived up to those lofty standards he set, he said. Kim’s best finish was a T2 at The Open Championship, where he finished six strokes back of Brian Harman.
“Mid-year I definitely didn’t feel comfortable over the ball,” Kim said. “I think that’s because obviously playing a lot of different courses, just feeling a little uncomfortable got me in some tough spots. Definitely been working really hard to get back to that place.”
He began working with Chris Como in early July. The duo didn’t change Kim’s golf swing, focusing instead on the mental aspects of the sport. The new perspective was enlightening.
He finished T6 at the Genesis Scottish Open before the runner-up result at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. Kim returned to the U.S. and finished T24 at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and T10 at the BMW Championship. He returned to Europe in September and carded a pair of top-20 finishes at the BMW PGA Championship and the Cazoo Open de France.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of good things at the end of this year, and obviously still got a long ways to go, but no, it’s been really cool to see for me to be able to kind of play the way that I felt like I can keep playing,” he said. “Golf is obviously not consistent all the time. It’s up and down. But it’s kind of nice to see that good golf again.”
It will take another day of good golf on Sunday to claim his third TOUR win. There are 17 golfers within three shots of the lead, second most of any TOUR event this season. There were 22 golfers at or within three shots of the lead at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday.
So what’s the game plan?
“Make as many birdies as possible,” said Hadwin, who shot a bogey-free 63 to jump into a share of the lead. “I feel like we’re going to be in for a shootout.”
That hasn’t been an issue for Hadwin, who has twice finished runner-up this year at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Rocket Mortage Classic. Both weeks he shot better than 20 under.
That’s the result players are bracing for again.
“I would imagine, 20- to 21-under tomorrow (wins),” said Lanto Griffin, who shot 68 on Saturday and is also tied for the lead at 15 under. “I’m going to have to go shoot 5-, 6-under to have a chance.”
Source : PGA Tour