Korea’s Tom Kim reinforced his growing reputation as a golf’s newest star by outlasting World No. 4 Patrick Cantlay for a three-shot victory at the Shriners Children’s Open on Sunday, and became the first player since Tiger Woods to secure a second PGA TOUR win before turning 21.
The baby-faced Kim fired a flawless 5-under 66 for a record equalling 24-under 260 winning total at TPC Summerlin as Cantlay, who was tied for the lead with one hole remaining, stumbled at the finish line with a triple bogey following an uncharacteristic errant tee shot.
It was Kim’s second TOUR win in four starts, and his rapid rise to prominence was also accelerated by a memorable Presidents Cup debut two weeks ago where he contributed two points for the International Team and emerged as a livewire at Quail Hollow with his fiery and exuberant displays.
Such was his flawless form at TPC Summerlin that he was bogey-free throughout four rounds, becoming the first player since J.T. Poston (2019 Wyndham Championship) to win without dropping a shot.
"It's really amazing. A few months ago, I didn't have any status in the U.S., and now being a two-time winner on TOUR, having that place with Tiger, it's an unbelievable feeling for me. It's an honour for me, and it's definitely a dream come true,” said the 20-year-old Kim, winner of the Wyndham Championship in August.
Tied overnight with Cantlay, the 2017 Shriners Children’s Open winner and 2021 FedExCup champion, Kim seized a two-shot lead at the turn with three birdies on his outward nine. Cantlay turned on the style with four birdies of his own down the stretch against two more birdies from Kim which saw the leading duo tied for the lead playing the 18th hole.
Cantlay then pulled his drive into the wasteland and after a failed recovery attempt and a subsequent penalty drop, the American lost his chance for a ninth PGA TOUR victory as Kim cruised home with a par to succeed countryman Sungjae Im as champion at TPC Summerlin.
“I got very lucky on the 18th. I'm not going to lie, Patrick played awesome, and it was an honour to battle with him, and to come out on top, I feel very fortunate,” said Kim, who had faced Cantlay twice at the Presidents Cup with one win and one loss.
Cantlay conceded he simply put in a bad swing at the wrong time. “Not too unlucky. I made a bad swing, and it went where it went. After it was kind of in the bush there, I figured the only chance I had to stay in the tournament was to try to get it back in the fairway. Obviously I couldn't get it back in the fairway. I figured it was worth the risk because I didn't think I'd have too much of a chance of getting it up-and-down from the bush there,” he said.
It certainly has been a wild and amazing ride for Kim, who started the year without any status on the PGA TOUR. He first earned special temporary membership with a third place finish at the Genesis Scottish Open in July, a co-sanctioned tournament with the DP World Tour, before winning at Wyndham.
"Coming off a win, Playoffs, the Presidents Cup, and a win this week is - I mean, it's absolutely amazing. I've just got to keep going, and I'm enjoying the ride, so hopefully, many more to come. I've still got a long way to go, and I want to hopefully have a long career on the PGA TOUR. I've got a lot of work to do," said Kim.
Despite his early success, he intends to keep putting his foot on the pedal as he heads out to the Far East this week for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Japan. "There's a lot of things that I still need to get better at golf, and there's a lot of guys out here who have a lot more success than me, so I've got to learn and I've got to keep playing better, said Kim, who had compatriots Im, K.H. Lee and S.H. Kim waiting by the 18th greenside to celebrate another Korean victory.
"It's amazing. You know, they're my big brothers, and for them to wait on the 18th green for me, I'm really grateful for that. It's special for me for them to be there.”
It was certainly a week to remember for the Korean contingent as S.H. Kim (66) enjoyed a tied fourth finish on 20-under, Im (67) came in solo seventh in his title defence and Si Woo Kim (67) settled for tied eighth to make it four Koreans in the top-10 of a PGA TOUR event for the first time.
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