A day after pencilling down golf’s dreaded “Snowman”, Korean rising star Joohyung “Tom” Kim found himself sharing the second round lead at the Wyndham Championship on Friday after shooting a superb 6-under 64.
The 20-year-old Kim found himself smiling for the right reasons at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina after seven birdies against a lone bogey earned him the joint lead with Brandon Wu (67) and Ryan Moore (66), both from the U.S., on 9-under 131.
Kim, who earned his PGA TOUR card last week through the Special Temporary Membership category after finishing seventh at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, has wielded a hot putter all week, sinking 301 feet of putts – the most by any player through 36-holes this season – and ranking first in Strokes Gained: Putting. He has gained 9.3 strokes over the field as he seeks to extend his dream run.
Countryman Sungjae Im, searching for a third career PGA TOUR win, carded a sluggish 69 to lie one stroke off the pace while India’s Anirban Lahiri maintained his resurgence with a 67 for joint seventh, just two back at a venue were close friend, Arjun Atwal made history by becoming first Indian winner on TOUR by winning the Wyndham Championship in 2010.
The likeable Kim fought back on Thursday with a 67 despite opening his first round with a dreaded quadruple bogey eight, which he could only laugh at himself then. “If you would have told me after the first hole yesterday where I’d be after two days, I definitely would have taken it, so pretty happy,” said Kim. “I mean, played solid.”
The past month has been a whirlwind for Kim, who at a tender age has already won nine times in Korea and across Asia. A solo third at the Genesis Scottish Open, a co-sanctioned event with the DP World Tour, saw him earn and accept Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR, and last week’s top-10 in Detroit gave him enough FedExCup points to secure his card for the 2022-23 season.
“It’s been a crazy month. Last month before the Scottish, I was like I guess just Korn Ferry Finals for me,” said Kim, whose English name was given to him as he grew up liking Thomas the Tank Engine. “One month later I secured my PGA TOUR card without even going to Korn Ferry Finals.”
The World No. 34 admitted getting nervous arriving at the first hole in his second round – his 10th of the day – and subsequently found himself in the same fairway bunker. But after splashing back out onto the fairway, Kim nailed an exquisite approach to within two feet to save his par.
“I was like, well, here we go, just don’t make a quad,” he laughed. “I was like, let’s just get this on the fairway. And I did. I hit a great shot to two feet. You know what, this is strokes gained right here – four shots better than yesterday. So most improved on hole No. 1.”
If Kim goes on to win on Sunday, he would become the second youngest winner on TOUR since World War II (youngest: Jordan Spieth/2013 John Deere Classic) and the first player born in the 2000s to win. A victory will also see him qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs – he is not eligible without winning – and joins countryman Si Woo Kim (2016) and K.J. Choi (2005) as champions of this week’s tournament.
With two top-10s at Sedgefield, Im is looking to challenge for his second win of the season although he conceded that he struggled in the weather.
“It was hot and bad weather today, so I felt little tired when I turned to the back nine. I made many bogeys because I couldn’t hit the shots as I targeted. But finishing under par is not bad. I am close to the leaders and there are lots of players on the leaderboard. I just want to play my game and focus on self-control.”
Five birdies against two bogeys kept Lahiri in the title hunt as he brushed off some recent poor form which has seen him miss four of his last five cuts. The 35-year-old is counting on his putter to light up over the weekend as he seeks his first PGA TOUR victory.
“I’ve been playing really solid. Today I hit it really good again. Bit of a cold day with my putter. Started out, had a lot of really good looks from short range, didn’t make any and just couldn’t build the early momentum,” said Lahiri.
“I played a lot better than my score, so I’m just going to stay relaxed and keep doing what I’m doing. I think I’m getting closer and closer to putting my best on these greens, so just got to stay a little more patient.”
PARTIAL Second-Round Notes – Friday, August 5, 2022
Weather: Mostly cloudy. High of 88. Wind SW 7-14 mph. The second round was suspended due to inclement weather at 5:36 p.m. ET and resumed at 7:06 p.m., a delay of 1 hour, 30 min. Due to darkness, the second round was suspended for the day at 8:20 p.m. with seven players left to complete their rounds. The second round will resume at 6:45 a.m.
Brandon Wu 64-67—131 (-9)
Joohyung Kim 67-64—131 (-9)
Ryan Moore 65-66—131 (-9)
Russell Henley 67-65—132 (-8)
John Huh 61-71—132 (-8)
Sungjae Im 63-69—132 (-8)