Korean star Si Woo Kim returns to the Sony Open in Hawaii starting on Thursday with every intention of prolonging his honeymoon with a successful title defence for the first time in his career.
The 28-year-old Kim has happy memories of his fourth PGA TOUR triumph a year ago on the world-famous holiday isle as it came just weeks after he tied the knot with Ji Hyun Oh, who is a Korean LPGA Tour winner.
“The most special memory is that this was the first win after my marriage. This tournament last year was like our honeymoon and it feels good to come back. I feel my life has balance now and I’m relaxed as I have her by my side every day. In golf, not every week is perfect but my wife gives me good influence to play well,” said Kim, who is set to welcome his first child with Oh in a couple of months’ time.
He will face a stellar cast at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu which includes last week’s The Sentry winner Chris Kirk, World No. 8 Matt Fitzpatrick, 2023 Rookie of the Year Eric Cole and rising star Ludvig Aberg. 2022 Sony Open champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and another Korean, Byeong Hun An, who finished solo fourth in the season-opening event on Sunday, will also compete in the US$8.3 million showpiece.
Kim brilliantly holed two closing birdies in the final round at Waialae last year to pip Hayden Buckley by a single stroke and victory propelled him into the FedExCup Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship, for the first time since 2016.
“It is always nice to come back in Hawaii every New Year. I’m thankful to play in this great environment. Compared to last year, I’ve started a week earlier in Hawaii (where he finished T25 at The Sentry) and I’m satisfied with last week’s result, shot 20-under. Everything feels great and feels more like I can start doing more here. I wish to achieve something similar again,” said Kim, who has yet to successfully defend a title on TOUR in three previous attempts.
Kim’s goals for the New Year is similar to last year but with the Presidents Cup slated at Royal Montreal in September, getting back onto the International Team where he was the leading performer with three points in 2022 is a also big priority.
“I’d like to win one or two events and get back into the TOUR Championship again. Last year, I secured a win and was able to get to Atlanta which was satisfying. I wish to do something similar again. I think last season was probably the most consistent in terms of my performances,” said Kim, who registered four other top 10s and seven top 25s aside from his lone victory in Hawaii.
“With the change in our schedule, I was able to strengthen my fitness and physical well-being and more importantly, I got quality rest. We have the Presidents Cup and I have great memories playing as an International Team member, especially with so many Koreans being on the team in 2022. I want to make the team again and create more memories.”
As a four-time winner where he sits only behind compatriot K.J. Choi and Hideki Matsuyama, who has eight wins each, on the list of Asian golfers with the most wins on TOUR, Kim feels a better sense of belonging now competing alongside the world’s best golfers.
“Too many good players here. Sometimes hard to believe in myself. Like I always say I’m the worst player in the field. Have always said that. But last year this week gives me more confidence, and feel more comfortable,” he said.