LA QUINTA, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 21: Tom Kim of South Korea interacts with fans on the 18th green during the third round of The American Express at PGA West Pete Dye Stadium Course on January 21, 2023 in La Quinta, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Korea’s rising star Tom Kim will be targeting an epic Tiger Woods-like comeback at The American Express as he chases to match the American legend’s record of requiring only 23 starts to secure a third PGA TOUR victory.

The 20-year-old Kim calmly rolled in a birdie from 12 feet at the last hole for a third round of 5-under 67 at PGA West Stadium Course on Saturday for tied fifth place on 18-under 198, five strokes behind joint third-round leaders Jon Rahm and Davis Thompson, who signed for a 65 and 67 respectively.

Following wins at the Wyndham Championship and Shriners Children’s Open last year which made him the first golfer since Woods to win twice before turning 21, the talented youngster faces an uphill battle to secure a third victory, especially against an in-form Rahm, who himself had come from seven back two weeks ago to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

Kim will also aspire to make it a second win in as many weeks for Korea following compatriot Si Woo Kim’s triumph at the Sony Open in Hawaii last weekend. If he succeeds, he will etch his name in golf’s history books alongside Woods in needed only 23 tournaments to win three times on the world’s leading golf circuit.

After turning in 32 following some exquisite shot-making, Kim needed a crucial birdie from the bunker on the 12th hole to halt a run of two successive bogeys. He made two more birdies coming home, with the final gain prompting him to urge the fans to cheer him louder.

“A hundred per cent,” said Kim when asked how important the birdie was at No 12. “I was in a tough spot. I didn’t hit a really good 2-iron off the tee. I pulled it left in that bunker literally a hundred yards right and put myself in a spot that I couldn’t be in. I was on a bogey train. I had two bogeys in a row. Hitting a really good wedge shot from the bunker to give myself a chance for birdie and making that putt kind of calmed me down a little bit to kind of just cruise through the back nine.”

Kim reckoned the good finish was a confidence booster ahead of a return to the Stadium Course for the final round. “I missed a few chances coming in. Obviously a lot of people on 18. I just wanted to hit a good putt and hopefully make it,” he said. “Good front nine. Little shaky back nine. I walked away with under par on that nine, which is great. It just kind of keeps me in a good spot for tomorrow.”

Another Korean Sungjae Im birdied three of his last six holes at La Quinta Country Club for a 68 and 17-under total to be tied for the ninth spot.

Compatriots Si Woo (69), Byeong Hun An (63) and China’s Marty Dou (68) were the other Asians to survive the 54-hole cut, finishing the third round in T27 on 203, T36 on 204 and T62 on 206 respectively.

World No. 4 Rahm, the 2018 winner of The American Express, will aim to become the first multiple-winner on TOUR in the 2022-23 season by following up on his Sentry Tournament of Champions three weeks ago where he came from behind to beat Collin Morikawa.

“So very confident going into tomorrow and knowing that I’m going to have to shoot another low score if I want to have a chance to win,” said Rahm, who was 8-under through 12 holes courtesy of an eagle and six birdies before conceding his only bogey at the last.

Third-Round Notes – Saturday, January 21, 2023

Weather: Mostly Sunny. High of 64. Wind NW 5-10 mph.

54-hole cut: 69 professionals at 10-under 206 from a field of 155 professionals and one amateur

Third-Round Leaderboard

Jon Rahm                            64-64-65—193 (-23) LQ-NT-SC

Davis Thompson                 62-64-67—193 (-23) LQ-NT-SC       

Christiaan Bezuidenhout   68-67-62—197 (-19) SC-LQ-NT

J.T. Poston                          65-66-66—197 (-19) NT-SC-LQ

Tom Kim                              69-62-67—198 (-18) LQ-NT-SC

Harry Higgs                         70-66-62—198 (-18) SC-LQ-NT

Sam Burns                           64-70-64—198 (-18) SC-LQ-NT

Taylor Montgomery           64-69-65—198 (-18) LQ-NT-SC

- Advertisement -