GREEENSBORO — We’ve seen more than our fair share of young talent blossom right here at stately Sedgefield Country Club.
But we’ve never seen anything quite like the train that steamed through the 83rd Wyndham Championship this week.
Tom Kim — the 20-year-old golf wunderkind who at age 4 nicknamed himself after Thomas the Tank Engine — played Sedgefield’s front nine in 8-under par Sunday afternoon on the way to a 9-under 61 in the final round.
Kim finished the tournament at 20-under par for a five-shot victory over a pair of former PGA Tour Rookies of the Year, third-round leader Sungjae Im and first-round leader John Huh.
Huh shot 67 in his final round. Im, meanwhile, closed with a 68 to move up to No. 10 in the FedEx Cup points standings and earn a $1 million Wyndham Rewards bonus.
Im has played 16 career rounds at the Wyndham Championship: 15 of them under par and one even-par 70.
But this week was all about introducing Tom Kim to the world.
Kim won in just his 15th start on the PGA Tour, his ninth this season. It’s been a journey for the young phenom, who was born in South Korea and lived in China, Australia, Thailand, Philippines and now Dallas, Texas.
“I didn’t know golf was this stressful,” Kim said moments after making par on No. 18, his 72nd hole in four long days. “… It’s a moment I’ll remember forever.”
It’s a moment Wyndham Championship fans will likely never forget. Consider …
- Kim is the first player born in the 21st century to win on Tour.
- Since World War II, he’s the second-youngest winner on the PGA Tour behind Jordan Spieth, who was 19 years 10 months old when he scored his first victory at the 2013 John Deere Classic.
- Kim is the 20th player to score his first PGA Tour victory in Greensboro, and the eighth in the last 15 years since Wyndham became the title sponsor and tournament organizers began to focus on recruiting rising young talent.
- With the win, he qualifies for the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time, jumping from no status to No. 34 in the standings.
“I wanted to go home next week. I was looking forward to that,” Kim said. “I’ve been home two weeks this year, so I was like, ‘You know what? Secure my PGA Tour card for next season, then I can go back and relax for a week.’ But I guess that’s not going to happen. I would love to play three weeks in a row again and make it to the Tour Championship.”
Kim started the final round two shots behind the leader, Im, and played in the next-to-last group.
And he simply ran away from the field by shooting 27 on the front nine. He parred his nemesis No. 1, then played the next eight holes in 8-under, including an eagle on the par-5 No. 5 hole.
It was a remarkable run, especially for a player who built a snowman on his very first hole of the tournament. He penciled in a figure “8” on No. 1 in the first round … then played the next 71 holes in 24-under.
Kim laughed off the quadruple bogey, in part because he had already secured his PGA Tour card last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
“A hundred percent, (Detroit) took so much pressure off,” Kim said. “That’s why I was able to rebound so nicely after the quadruple bogey. Last week, that was a 9-under par final round as well, but that back nine was one of toughest I’ve ever played. Just knowing that if I could play well that week, I could come in here this week not worrying about my card.
“I told myself from the start of the week, ‘Just have fun, enjoy it, you’ve got your card already. Enjoy every single moment of it, have fun and just don’t get too intense. But this back nine was crazy. It was probably the most intense round I’ve played. My putter felt like it weighed 200 pounds today.”
The putter worked just fine.
And now Kim has gone from aspiring pro to PGA Tour winner in a meteoric rise.
“I’ve expected so much of myself, and so does my team. We expect the highest, and it hasn’t been the easiest,” Kim said. “It might look easy for a lot of people, but it’s a lot of work behind the scenes. … I wish my family was here for this week. They left yesterday for Dallas. I had a flight at 8 p.m. today, and I guess I’m not going to make that. I’ve got to book a flight to Memphis”
That flight takes him to the FedEx Cup playoffs.
It’s a flight made possible by this wet and wild week at the Wyndham Championship.
Tom Kim could be golf’s next star, and he burst onto the scene here at Sedgefield with a victory they’ll talk about here for years to come.
“This is just a start for me, and I still have so much I want to accomplish for me and my family,” Kim said. “It’s like we bought the car, I just need to drive it, keep pushing that pedal.”
By Jeff Mills. In his career at the News & Record, journalist Jeff Mills won 10 national and 12 state writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the N.C. Press Association.