By Madison Paige
The Rocket Mortgage Classic is a special tournament for Korean golf rising star Tom Kim.
Last year, the 21-year-old Kim secured his PGA TOUR card with a solo seventh outing, finishing eight shots back of winner Tony Finau following a final round 63 while competing as a special temporary member.
A week later and on the back of his stellar form, his world changed completely when he claimed his winning breakthrough at the Wyndham Championship.
A return to Detroit Golf Club this week has certainly brought back fond memories and Kim is relishing the opportunity to challenge for a third career title in the U.S.
“This event kind of has a special place in my heart because that’s when I realized my dream came true,” Kim said in an interview on Wednesday. “I remember I just made the cut on the number, and I had a really good weekend to give me a top-10 to secure my card.
“Great memories. It’s kind of nice to come back to an event I’ve been to not being able to adjust every week, so it’s been a nice easy week and hopefully I’ll be able to have a better week than I did last year.”
Kim has been amongst the breakout stars on the PGA TOUR in the past year. He also starred for the International Team in the Presidents Cup last September before lifting a second PGA TOUR title at the Shriners Children’s Open where he defeated Patrick Cantlay in a head-to-head duel in October.
Along with the Shriners win, Kim has four other top 10 finishes this season – T5/Sentry Tournament of Champions, T6/The American Express, T7/Zurich Classic of New Orleans and T8/U.S Open – and is presently ranked 18th on the FedExCup points list.
“I had a really great start to the year and had some ups and downs during the season, but obviously, that T8 at the U.S. Open has definitely got my confidence back up a little bit,” said Kim, who will play the opening two rounds with last week’s Travelers Championship winner, Keegan Bradley and Collin Morikawa.
Kim has noticeably become stronger from his gym work this year, and his clubhead speed has increased and resulted in having shorter clubs in his hands for shots into the greens.
“I definitely spent a lot of time this year in the gym and my speed has definitely gone up. My ups and downs this year has played a role in that. Obviously gaining so much speed in a quick amount of time, just the positions that I’m in now, it changes a lot in the timing of it,” said Kim.
“It hasn’t been crazy amounts of changes, but it’s definitely in the long term I feel like the way I’ve done it is – it’s going to benefit me tremendously.”
Kim turned 21 last week where he celebrated the milestone with World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who shares the same birthday. His time on the PGA TOUR has allowed him to pick the brains from the likes of Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth as he seeks to cement himself amongst the world’s top players.
“Finally 21, I never really thought I would get here,” said Kim, who is currently ranked 24th in the world.
“Obviously Scottie and I have a great relationship. It’s really cool to be able to just be kind of close with the guys who are like on top of the world rankings and the FedExCup. You get to learn a lot. I ask him a lot of things. Obviously Scottie, he’s very nice enough to tell me a lot of things just about golf and even outside the golf course, but it comes with a price where he can give me a really hard time! It definitely helps me because I’m still trying to learn. I’m still in my early stages of my career, so to be able to kind of be around those guys, it definitely helps me.”