GREENSBORO, NC — Joohyung Kim’s nickname, “Tom,” is a reference to Thomas the Tank Engine, the famous British children’s book character who lacks the strength or pedigree of the most powerful locomotives, but instead finds himself overtaking in the railyard.
This, we are afraid to point out, is a totally unfit and unacceptable metaphor for Tom Kim. Tom Kim isn’t a rambling machine plodding its way up a hill; Tom Kim is a high-speed train, and if his Wyndham Championship victory on Sunday is the rise that first brings him to the attention of the American public, you get the impression that it’s not the peak the more impressive than it gets. at the peak of his career. Far from a “small engine that might” character, what we just saw is the coming-out party of a well-oiled iron horse, primed for some kind of greatness that could come so quickly that makes us dizzy.
There are almost too many superlatives to attach to Kim’s remarkable five-stroke victory at Sedgefield Country Club after posting a 20-under 260 total. So decide, if you will, which one drops your jaw the quickest:
• At 20, he is the second-youngest winner on the PGA Tour since 1932behind only Jordan Spieth.
• He is the first player born in the 2000s to win on tour.
• He is the first player to make a quadruple bogey on the first hole and win the tournament (since 1983, when hole-by-hole statistics were first kept), and only the fifth player to make a quadruple and win .
• With a Sunday 61 that included an absurd 27 of the front nine, he posted the fifth-lowest final-round score by a winner since 1983 and became the first pro to score the Sunday 61 and win since Rory McIlroy at the 2019 RBC Canadian Open.
• Since he only had special temporary status in Greensboro, he needed to win to qualify for the playoffs – no other result would give him full status and entry for the first leg of the week next in Memphis – and he did.
• He accomplished everything in his fifth straight week and in extremely hot and humid weather. (Afterwards, Kim joked that while he was thrilled to make the playoffs, he was thrilled to have a week at home and wasn’t thrilled to go to a place, Memphis, that could be even warmer than North Carolina. )
It’s a series of incredible facts, but somehow it has nothing to do with how Kim looks on the actual course. The son of a South Korean professional, Kim has lived in five different countries and speaks three languages. Like Spieth and Collin Morikawa, he carries himself with a poise belying his years. His celebration as he poured his par on the 18th hole, a subtle fist-pump, aired the story not of a savage upstart winner, but of someone who fully expected to be there.
And, it turns out he did.
“I expected so much from myself and my team too, we expect the highest,” Kim said. “And it hasn’t been the easiest. It may seem easy for a lot of people, but it’s a lot of work behind the scenes. … It’s just the beginning for me and I still have so many things to get done. … I bought the car, we bought the car, we just need to drive it, so hopefully I keep pushing that pedal.”
Kim’s temperament reads friendly, and he calls himself a prankster on his team, but acknowledged that he was mature for his 20s. He’s the kind of person who can talk about his immense work ethic in one breath, then describe his parents’ logistical tasks in the service of his career as an “asshole” with an easy laugh.
He’s strong-willed too – he gave himself the nickname “Thomas” as a child because he was a fan of the show, but also because he didn’t accept that his parents had any authority to name him. (He almost chose “Buzz Lightyear” and is grateful today that he decided against it.) Golf is in his blood; his father Chang-ik Kim is a former tour pro who turned instructor, and Kim, whose English is fluent, spent some of his formative years in places like Australia, the Philippines and Thailand.
“I didn’t have the most financial comfort when I was younger, so I’m just glad I can support them now and they can just travel with me,” he said of his parents. “I can’t say exactly one thing they sacrificed. They sacrificed so much for me. I’m really glad I can give that back to them.”
With his 27 of the front nine, in which he birdied or eagled on all but two holes, he eliminated the drama of the final regular season event of the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, and transformed Saturday’s crowded leaderboard into a Sunday. run away. Yet this performance didn’t come out of nowhere – he’s been on the scent of victory all summer, where after topping the Order of Merit on the Asian Tour and Korean Tour since 2021, he has clinched third place at the Scottish Open. , and started his American career with a 23rd place finish at the US Open before earning his first PGA Tour top 10 finish last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
It certainly didn’t look like he would continue his ridiculous trajectory at the Wyndham. Not at least after playing his first hole. On Thursday, he posted an 8 to kick things off without even picking up a penalty stroke. It was a testament to the scorching state of his game that he almost fought back even on the turn and finished the day with a 67.
A 64 second round sent him to the top of the standings. Then on Sunday afternoon, he made his big move, draining 20-foot, 24-foot, 12-foot, seven-foot and 18-foot putts in a five-hole 2-6 stretch he played in six-under. Two more birdies to complete the front nine gave him a four-stroke lead, and although he calmed down with a bogey on the No. 10, he played well enough on the back nine to hold off competitors like Sungjae Im, John Huh and Russell Henley. , none of which have ever really come close.
Kim clinched his PGA Tour status for next season with last week’s result – earning enough FedEx Cup points as a ‘non-member’ – and it eased the pressure he was feeling at the Wyndham. Still, the pressure returned on the back nine and despite the appearance of relative calm, his heart was racing.
“I had no idea golf could be so stressful,” he told CBS’ Amanda Renner.
During his post-round press conference, Kim spoke about Michael Jordan and how he felt a certain connection was in the air with this week’s tournament in Jordan’s native North Carolina.
“I’ve just been a huge fan of people who have achieved so much in their careers. … I don’t know any of them personally, but I’m a huge fan, just that Mamba mentality,” he said. declared. “And I looked the last dance probably 10 times just because there are so many great quotes from him and there’s a reason he was the best basketball player. Once it was confirmed this week that he is from North Carolina and to win somewhere he is from is an honor. He’s not gonna know it, but like me, it’s a special little thing in my heart. There are so many beautiful quotes from him.”
You wonder, though, if Jordan will actually know him, and if they have more in common than Kim thinks. If nothing else, we know Jordan is a fan of tag team events, and in addition to earning his status and a spot in the Masters next year, Kim has put himself in a great position to be part of the team. Presidents Cup team; International captain Trevor Immelman has already spoken to him. There’s a chance that Kim will cross paths with Jordan in Charlotte.
For Im, who finished tied for second, the day was still a success, and a late push to 15 under saw him drop from 15th to 10th in the FedEx Cup standings, slipping into finish in the Comcast Business Tour Top 10 and earn a $1 million bonus. (Hideki Matsuyama, who opted out of attending the Wyndham, was eliminated by just 35 points.)
Given the Wyndham’s usual spot on the tour schedule as the last-ditch Saloon for the pros to earn their spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs, Sunday came with Top 125 bubble drama. Kim and Max McGreevy were the two players who started on the outside of the bubble (in Kim’s case, he was technically on the inside, but needed the outright win to make the playoffs), and Austin Smotherman (who missed the cut in brutal fashion) and Matt Wallace were the two unlucky souls to fall. Rickie Fowler, who along with Wallace and Smotherman missed the cut on Friday, barely held onto 125th place and will make the trip to Memphis next week.
Final in-and-out tallies never quite capture Wyndham’s full theater on Sunday, and that has remained the case this year. Justin Lower looked like he had a two-putt to retain his PGA Tour card on the 18th green, and three putts in heartbreaking fashion. Doc Redman needed a good lap to break into the top 125, and nearly got it, but in the end his 64 wasn’t good enough.
Even outside of Greensboro, Tom Kim’s win had the domino effect of knocking out four players from the Korn Ferry Tour finals and making their careers a whole lot tougher than it looked hours earlier. With every mis-putt, every unpredictable push, the repercussions were felt across the landscape of professional golf, but it was 20-year-old phenom Kim who was responsible for the greatest shockwaves. There will be more to come.