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Tom Kim | Shriners Children’s Open

By: Ben Everill, PGA Tour

LAS VEGAS – Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, choo choo! Get out of the way; the Tom Kim train just became an express headed straight to superstardom.

It’s certainly easy to get carried away amongst the bright lights of Vegas, but comparisons to Tiger Woods have begun after the 20-year-old Korean sensation claimed his second PGA TOUR title in his last four starts.

Kim survived a knock ’em down, drag ’em out prize fight against former FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay at the Shriners Children’s Open when the American pulled his 72nd-hole drive into the desert and was unable to extricate himself expeditiously.

The pair were tied at the time, but Cantlay’s triple-bogey finish allowed Kim to waltz down the final fairway with the smile of a winner. And what an infectious smile it is. It was just his 18th career start on TOUR.

In adding to his Wyndham Championship victory in August, Kim became the first player since Woods to win twice before turning 21. Woods coincidently won his first of 82 TOUR wins in Las Vegas back in 1996.

It’s a remarkable rise for the man who turned professional at 16 and changed his name to Tom after his childhood favorite “Thomas the Tank Engine.” Hmm … wasn’t Tiger called Eldrick at one point?

Now, we get it. It’s clearly premature to suggest Kim will go on to do Tiger-like things. The 15-time major winner stands in the greatest-of-all-time debate with Jack Nicklaus. But just look at some of what Kim has done in his short time on TOUR.

• Won the Wyndham Championship by five shots despite opening the tournament with a quadruple-bogey 8.
• Produced an excellent performance at the Presidents Cup for the International Team, helping drag Trevor Immelman’s squad out of an early hole with some epic shots, and memorable reactions, at Quail Hollow.
• Won the Shriners Children’s Open by three shots, at a tournament record-tying 24-under 260, beating TPC Summerlin specialist Cantlay at the same time.
• Won the Shriners without making a single bogey, the first stroke-play TOUR winner to be bogey-free since J.T. Poston at the 2019 Wyndham Championship.
• Already moved to 15th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
• Including Sunday’s 5-under 66, has par-or-better scores in the final round in all 15 made cuts on TOUR.
• He was sick with a bad cough and cold all week and still won the tournament.

Those are Tiger-like things.

“It’s really amazing,” Kim said after his victory. “A few months ago, I didn’t have any status in the U.S., and now being a two-time winner on TOUR, having that place with Tiger, it’s an unbelievable feeling for me. It’s an honor for me, and it’s definitely a dream come true.

“I’ve worked really hard, and my team has worked really hard to this point, and I’m just really grateful and I’m fortunate to have an opportunity like this. I’m having fun playing on the PGA TOUR. It’s awesome … I’m a 5-year-old at Disneyland for sure.”

Joining Kim on the 72nd hole to celebrate his victory were fellow Koreans Sungjae Im, K.H. Lee and S.H. Kim. One because they’ve formed a brotherhood on TOUR, but two because the trio believe they are witnessing the fledgling moments of something extra special.

The rise of Korean men’s golf has been very noticeable over the last decade but with Im and now Kim, the last two Shriners champions, they are going to another level again.

Kim made a point to thank his “big brothers” for their support and also heaped praise on new caddie Joe Skovron, the man who for over a decade carried the bag for another former young phenom in Rickie Fowler. Skovron wasn’t ready to make comparisons between anyone but knows his new boss is full of talent. In just their second event together (Presidents Cup) they’ve made an epic start.

But can he maintain pace? While refusing to give up his specific goals, Kim is eyeing more wins and a real pursuit of the FedExCup. Not to mention major championships. But he intends to stay humble in the process and won’t be resting on his laurels or expecting his success to continue without hard work.

“I’ve still got a long way to go, and I want to hopefully have a long career on the PGA TOUR,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do. I still need to get better at golf, and there are a lot of guys out here who have had a lot more success than me, so I’ve got to learn and I’ve got to keep playing better.

Check out “Watts” in Tom Kim’s bag below.

Driver: Titleist TSR3 (9 degrees, A1) – Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X

3-wood: Titleist TSR3 (13.5 degrees, A1) – Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei 1K Pro White 70 TX

IronsTitleist T200 (2-3), Titleist T100 (4-9) – Shafts: Fujikura Ventus Black HB 10 TX (2), Project X 5.5 (3), Project X 6.0 (4-PW)

WedgesTitleist Vokey Design SM9 (46-10F, 52-12F), Titleist Vokey Design WedgeWorks Proto (60-A) – Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron TourType GSS Prototype – Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Tour 2.0

BallTitleist Pro V1x