Korea’s S.H. Kim secured a career best runner-up finish at the Fortinet Championship as his brave bid for a maiden PGA TOUR title on his 25th birthday fell short on Sunday.
Kim closed with a bogey-free 4-under 68 at Silverado Resort in Napa, California and finished two shots behind winner Sahith Theegala, who also carded a 68 to realise his childhood dream of winning on the world’s elite circuit in front of family and friends.
Playing alongside 15-time TOUR winner Justin Thomas in the penultimate pairing, Kim produced another measured performance as he bettered his previous best finish of T4 at the Shriners Children’s Open last year. “It’s been a long week. I tried to mentally stay focused throughout the week. I’m happy with how things ended and I look forward to the future,” he said.
Starting the day two back of overnight leader Theegala, Kim tried his hardest to apply the pressure early on but opened with nine consecutive pars. His game finally clicked on the homeward stretch with birdies on Hole Nos. 10, 15, 16 and 18 but by then, Theegala was already cruising towards a well-earned victory.
With strong finishes of T13 and T4 at last year’s Sanderson Farms Championship and Shriners Children’s Open, which are the next two events in the re-imagined PGA TOUR Fall Schedule, Kim, who rose to 57th position in the FedEdxCup Fall rankings, will be eager to consolidate his position and secure exemptions into the early Signature PGA TOUR events in early 2024.
He also found inspiration playing alongside Thomas for the first time.
“Nothing significant is going to change,” said Kim of his goals over the next few weeks. “I’m just going to keep playing my game, stay focused and try to play well for the remaining Fall events to see what my position is.
“I could definitely feel that playing with J.T., he is a top-class player and I can feel why. I saw the pairing last night. Very nervous, very excited. I started slow but tried to play my game and find my rhythm. He complimented me on a few shots and we had a fun round together.”
He was delighted to see Korean veteran star K.J. Choi, who is also his mentor, finishing solo second on PGA TOUR Champions at the Sanford International presented by First PREMIER Bank & Mastercard. “K.J. is someone that I look up to and admire, and to finish second together on the same day when he’s on the Champions and I’m out here on the PGA TOUR, that’s really special. I really cherish our relationship.”
Theegala, 25, was over the moon to earn his first win in what is only his second season on the PGA TOUR. With a large cheering squad on site which included his parents and girlfriend, the Indian-American produced seven birdies against three bogeys to coast to victory and cement his stature as one of the game’s rising stars.
“It doesn’t feel real. It’s probably not going to set in for while. But man, that was a lot of good golf, and that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I had so many family and friends cheering me on, and just the support I have is mind blowing,” said Theegala, who had 12 top-10s previously before Sunday’s triumph.
“But man, this feeling is incredible. And I couldn’t have done it without my whole team and everyone out here. This is such a team effort, and for me to just put it together like this, it means the world to me.”
Justin Thomas finished solo fifth following a 72 while defending champion Max Homa (69) settled for a share of seventh position.
Final-Round Notes – Sunday, September 17, 2023
Weather: Sunny. High of 78. Wind SW 10-18 mph.
|1||Sahith Theegala||68||64||67||68||267 (-21)|
|2||S.H. Kim||65||67||69||68||269 (-19)|
|3||Cam Davis||68||68||65||70||271 (-17)|
|4||Eric Cole||68||66||68||70||272 (-16)|
|5||Justin Thomas||69||67||65||72||273 (-15)|