Korea’s newest golf star Tom Kim received the best possible advice about dealing with success when he jumped into a press conference at THE CJ CUP at South Carolina on Wednesday and asked the tournament’s defending, Rory McIlroy, how he dealt with his early fame.
McIlroy, 33, was in the middle of his press conference when Kim, who is already a two-time PGA TOUR winner at the age of 20, picked up a microphone and surprised the Northern Irishman with a question of his own.
“Rory, I have a question for you. What’s it like having so much success as a young player? Coming out and many years on tour, how do you manage all that?,” Kim asked inquisitively.
McIlroy, who holds 22 PGA TOUR wins including three FedExCup titles, responded: “I didn’t have as much success as you’re having at such a young age. Like I think when you start to have success at a young age, I think the biggest thing that I realized is managing your time.
“You’re going to be pulled in so many different directions. You’ve got one, two, three, four, I can see five sponsors on you at this point, right? So it’s just trying to manage your time to realize what got you to this position, right? Why are you a two-time PGA TOUR winner, why are you such a great player?
“And it’s the time that you put into it and it’s the practice, it’s not losing sight of that. I think that’s the thing. I was speaking here just before you came in that I’ve almost found it easier to get to No. 1 in the world than staying there. I think staying there is harder. I think you’ve got a bulls-eye on your back, you’ve got to work harder, everyone’s coming after you. That’s the one thing I would say is just managing your time and not forgetting why you’re in this position and why you’re so lucky to get to play with me the next two days. And that was a joke that went over everyone’s head.”
Kim’s rise has been meteoric following stunning wins at the Wyndham Championship in August and Shriners Children’s Open last month and the young Korean also starred for the International Team at the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow, winning two points against the U.S. on his debut with some fiery and exuberant displays.
Kim will play alongside McIlroy and last week’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP runner-up Rickie Fowler in the opening two rounds of THE CJ CUP at Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina, where the event is making its third visit to the U.S. having been played in Korea from 2017 to 2019.
McIlroy, who won THE CJ CUP in Vegas last year, has become a big fan of Kim. “I think that the journey or the rise that Tom’s been on over the last few months has been incredible. I think it made everyone really take notice of the talent that he has. And then I got to play a nine-hole practice round with him in Delaware (BMW Championship), which was fun to just see him play in person. And then I was watching the Presidents Cup a lot. I think there’s a lot more Tom Kim fans in the world because of the Presidents Cup, right? He was really fun to watch, he showed a ton of emotion, he played great. And then he wins in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. He’s been on a great run. He seems like he’s a really good character, he’s pretty funny. I’m excited to play with him this week,” said McIlroy.
Kim will be looking to ride on his good form and challenge for THE CJ CUP, which is one of his main sponsors as well. “I mean, obviously having my title sponsor as an event is really special. With the win in Vegas, I would love to kind of have a good week here. It means a lot to all Koreans playing this week and hopefully I can do something special and have a good week.”
He is also looking forward to playing alongside McIlroy in the first two rounds after the nine-hole practice in August. “It was the first time for me to kind of see Rory in action on the course and he’s a different person really. He’s an amazing ball-striker, everyone knows he’s an amazing driver of the golf ball. Obviously I had a few nerves for the first few holes, but I kind of obviously talking to him a little bit more got me into kind of being more comfortable around him, because obviously he’s someone I looked up to ever since I started golf,” said Kim.
“It’s going to be a really fun first couple days for me. It’s going to be a great experience and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Other leading Koreans in the elite field this week which features 15 of the world’s top-20 golfers include Sungjae Im, Si Woo Kim, K.H. Lee, Byeong Hun An and S.H. Kim. No Korean player has won THE CJ CUP since it was launched as Korea’s lone PGA TOUR tournament in 2017.