Defending champion Tom Kim of Korea fired a scintillating 9-under 62 to grab the joint third round lead with Adam Hadwin and Lanto Griffin at the Shriners Children’s Open on Saturday, with countryman K.H. Lee lying a stroke back.
The 21-year-old Kim burst to life at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas by sinking an eagle, nine birdies against two bogeys for 15-under to give himself a shot at earning a third PGA TOUR victory in what has been a meteoric career rise.
Lee, who is also a two-time winner, carded a 66 to sit one back in the third event of FedExCup Fall while Chinese rookie Yuxin Lin returned a 69 to sit on 10-under heading into the final round.
After missing his defence at the Wyndham Championship due to injury, Kim was excited to have the chance to shoot for a repeat victory. “You know, tee to green, I was really solid. Gave myself a lot of looks. Obviously you’ve got to finish them off, and that’s exactly what I did. I putted great,” said the young Korean.
He started the day six off the pace but roared to an outward 30, highlighted by an eagle on Hole No. 9 when he rifled a 4 iron approach from 244 yards to 15 inches of the flag. He then made five more birdies coming home.
“Obviously I was aiming a little left of where it landed but kind of gave myself room if it did that, and it hit in the perfect spot, almost came close to my first albatross, but wasn’t to be. Still got to keep waiting,” said Kim.
“I wasn’t rushing anything. I wasn’t trying to force anything. I was just really calm, and yeah, just a great day. I’ve been seeing a lot of good things at the end of this year, and obviously still got a long ways to go, but no, it’s been really cool to see for me to be able to kind of play the way that I felt like I can keep playing. Golf is obviously not consistent all the time. It’s up and down. But it’s kind of nice to see that good golf again.
“It’s my first time basically defending a title on the PGA TOUR, and it’s actually pretty cool. Hopefully many more to come. Just the vibe, feeling like you won this event last year, and I feel like because you won, you have the positive vibes and you kind of relive that winning moment, and it kind of gives you that energy of, okay, I have good vibes here and I’m comfortable around here and I’ve played well here, and just to be able to come back, especially now near the leaderboard, at least I have a chance on Sunday. I think it’s great for the tournament, and for me, I’m just glad as a defending champion I’m able to compete on a Sunday.”
Lee hit three birdies and an eagle on the 16th hole to charge into contention. He sent a 5-iron from 210 yards to nine inches of the hole for a tap in eagle.
“I mean, just first couple holes, good patience, and then just to coming No. 7 and then No. 9, I think good first nine. I like the 16th, par-5, 8-iron shot. Pretty good round. I saw that the line is really good (on 16), but I didn’t know and was just hoping to get it over the water. Then definitely over the water and then people started cheering,” said Lee.
With Sungjae Im having won the tournament in 2021 as well, Lee is eager to keep the title in the hands of Korean golfers although he realises his Presidents Cup International Team partner, Tom Kim, is in good form.
“Tom really played well today, too, and then I play well. Hopefully really enjoy tomorrow. Let’s see what happens,” he said.