Not even a closing bogey could wipe the smile from Tom Kim’s face on Thursday. He had played Rory McIlroy to a draw, and now he finds himself in good position to move ahead of Tiger Woods’ record win pace.
Yes, we realize Kim is just starting his career. And, yes, we realize this tournament is just starting. Still, it’s impossible to not look ahead considering how well Kim has played of late, including Thursday’s first-round 66 at the CJ Cup that has him one shot behind early leaders Gary Woodland and Trey Mullinax.
Should Kim win this week in South Carolina, that would be three PGA Tour titles before turning 21—something even Tiger couldn’t accomplish. Not that Kim was thinking about that after. He was still beaming from playing with Rory, who also shot an opening 66 at Congaree Golf Club.
“It was really hard to just kind of play my own game sometimes,” Kim said. “Seeing the lines he took and it was like 380 to the runout and he was saying, ‘Sit.’ I was like, really? Like, sit? It was like 380, but he almost made it. Things like that. Obviously what was the most important thing for me today was trying to play my own game and not look at his line, but it was still so much fun.”
Kim was having more fun before the 18th hole, where a missed fairway led to the lone blemish on his scorecard. Still, it was another successful day for the 20-year-old South Korean who is looking for a third PGA Tour win in six starts.
Kim previously won the Wyndham Championship in August and the Shriners Children’s Open earlier this month to become the first player since Woods with two PGA Tour titles before turning 21. In between those wins, Kim was the breakout star of the Presidents Cup.
“I just try to take it day by day,” Kim said. “Obviously you can’t get ahead of yourself. Like these guys are so good where you just have to keep your head down and play your game and just try to sum up the results. I just really try to stay day by day really.”
Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. And even if he doesn’t win this week, Kim has a lot more days to keep ahead of Tiger’s pace. After all, he doesn’t turn 21 until after the 2023 U.S. Open. Just saying . . .