Korea’s rising star Tom Kim is prepared to withstand a severe test to his major pedigree when he lines up alongside the stars in his third PGA Championship appearance at Oak Hill Country Club this week.
The 20-year-old, who is already a two-time PGA TOUR winner, is amongst a strong Asian contingent gathered for the year’s second major which delivered the region’s first male major champion in Korea’s Y.E. Yang, who triumphed in 2009 at Hazeltine.
Countryman Sungjae Im, who missed last year’s PGA due to Covid-19, will tee up at Oak Hill in good form following a home victory on the Korean PGA Tour last week. Other Asian hopefuls keen to make an impression at the challenging par-70 Oak Hill layout include Si Woo Kim, K.H. Lee and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, winner of the 2021 Masters.
“It’s a tough track, but it rewards good golf. So looking forward to it,” said Kim on Wednesday.
Kim had missed the cut in two previous appearances in the PGA Championship in 2020 and last year, but he has slowly made his impression at the majors with a 23rd place finish at the U.S. Open followed by a tie for 47th at The Open Championship last year. Last month, the ultra-talented Korean finished a joint 16th in his Masters Tournament debut.
“It’s my third one. It’s kind of cool to have it because this is the most major championships I’ve played so farm” said Kim, who is presently ranked 16th on the FedExCup points list thanks to a win at the Shriners Children’s Open and three other top-10s this season.
With Justin Thomas defending his title this week against the likes of World No. 1 Jon Rahm, the second-ranked Scottie Scheffler and reigning FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy, Kim knows he must not contend only against a demanding golf course but also face a deep and talented field.
Kim doesn’t quite mind seeing himself as an underdog as this is only his second year on the PGA TOUR but following an impressive past 12 months, he feels he has also done enough to enter any week with the knowledge and confidence that he has a chance to win like any other top player.
“These guys have had 10 or 15 (appearances) under their belt. I like to think of it that way a little bit (being an underdog), but at the same time I don’t because I feel like if I had the game good enough to compete out here and that’s why I’m here. If I can give myself a good game plan, it’s not going to be easy. I just have to try my best and hope for the best.
“It’s hard for everyone. I think it rewards good golf shots, and I think that’s the big thing. You can’t fluke it around here. You really need to control your ball really well. You have to hit a lot of fairways; you have to hit a lot of greens. At the same time, you just have to be really mentally tough. It’s a major championship. I feel like this course definitely shows you why it’s a major championship,” said Kim who is currently ranked 19th in the world.
Oak Hill will host its seventh major championship this week and first since the 2013 PGA Championship. The venue has held three PGA Championships (1980/Jack Nicklaus, 2003/Shaun Micheel and 2013/Jason Dufner) and three U.S. Opens (1956/Cary Middlecoff, 1968/Lee Trevino, 1989/Curtis Strange). Thirty-five players who competed in the 2013 PGA Championship are in the 2023 field, led by Adam Scott, who finished T5.