Korean golf star Tom Kim is learning golf is not entirely a game of perfection as he prepares for a successful title defence at this week’s Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas where he was bogey-free through 72 holes some 12 months ago.
The 21-year-old Kim, who at World No. 16 is the highest ranked player in the field, is excited at the opportunity to go back-to-back at TPC Summerlin after missing his defence at the Wyndham Championship in August due to injury.
“It’s a great feeling. Obviously it kind of sucked to not be able to defend my first title, but it’s great to be here. I’m really looking forward to hopefully defending my title. A lot of great memories. Played really well last year and played the course and it’s in great shape,” said Kim on Tuesday.
A year ago, he made golf history by becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to win twice on the PGA TOUR before turning 21. En route to tying the tournament scoring record of 24-under, the Korean phenom, who defeated Patrick Cantlay and Matthew NeSmith by three strokes last year, was also the first since J.T. Poston in 2019 to not card a single bogey through four rounds.
The year 2023 has not quite lived up to his wins tally but Kim understands the need to stick to his process of learning to navigate new golf courses and managing his own expectations after a flying start to life in America, which included a stand-out performance in the Presidents Cup last September.
“It’s definitely not an expectation to have this week,” Kim responded when asked about the likelihood of him staying bogey-free at TPC Summerlin.
“My caddie pointed that out, definitely expectations are – it’s so easy to set them so high because I didn’t make a single bogey, 24 birdies, and you kind of have a feeling where you need to do it again. Bogeys happen. I can’t try to not make a bogey.”
While the victories have stopped for now, Kim has shown some stellar form in recent months which include a tied eighth at the U.S. Open and a runner-up finish at The Open Championship. In his last five starts, he has not finished lower than T24 and was equal sixth at the Cazoo Open de France at Le Golf National on the DP World Tour, which is also the host venue for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
He started working with Chris Como in July following a stint with Cameron McCormick and the teachings from two top coaches have helped him piece the puzzle together as he looks to buck the trend in his career trajectory once more.
“You know, I’ve learned … obviously this was my first year, so just that transition of seeing new golf courses, and last year when I felt like I played so well. Suddenly I’m playing really firm, long, penalizing golf courses. It was just the adjustment factor and I got into some spots where I feel like I didn’t really want to be in,” said Kim.
“I’ve learned so much this year from Cam and even from Chris, just combining everything I learned this year. Everything at the British Open really showed results-wise, but I wasn’t far off. Having a new perspective helped me get more comfortable with myself, and especially out here when you’re not comfortable and thinking a lot, doesn’t really help.”
Other leading Asians in the field at the third of seven FedExCup Fall events include China’s Marty Zecheng Dou (124th), Carl Yuan (131st), Chinese Taipei’s Kevin Yu (107th) and C.T. Pan (122nd), who are all fighting to be in the top 125 to secure their PGA TOUR card for 2024. Korea’s S.H. Kim, ranked 60th, will be looking to repeat or better last year’s tied fourth finish at TPC Summerlin to cement his position in the 51st to 60th bracket which offers exemptions into two Signature events in early 2024, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational.
The Shriners Children’s Open will also include 11-time LPGA winner, Lexi Thompson, who received a sponsor exemption and will become the seventh woman to compete in a PGA TOUR event and first since Brittany Lincicome at the 2018 Barbasol Championship.