Planet Golf — 05 August 2022 by GW staff and news services
Kim secures PGA Tour card with win

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Joohyung “Tom” Kim announced his arrival on the PGA TOUR when the 20-year-old South Korean closed with a 9-under 61 for a five-shot victory in the Wyndham Championship on Sunday, making him the second-youngest winner on TOUR since World War II.

A marathon day because of storm delays turned into a sprint for Kim. He finished the third round in the morning and was two shots behind, and then shot 27 on the front nine to leave the rest of the field in his wake.

No one came close the rest of the way.

The victory gave Kim instant membership on the PGA TOUR, making him eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs that start next week. He is No. 34, assured of playing two Playoffs events and with a reasonable shot at getting to the finale at the TOUR Championship at East Lake.

Sungjae Im, who finished seven holes Sunday morning to take the 54-hole lead, had a 68 and tied for second along with John Huh (67).

Kim is the first PGA TOUR winner born after 2000. Jordan Spieth was 19 when he won the John Deere Classic for his first TOUR win.

“I can’t believe it,” Kim said, and then adding with a laugh, “I didn’t know golf was this stressful.”

It sure didn’t look that way for Kim, who opened the tournament with a quadruple-bogey 8, laughed it off and then finished the week at 20-under 260 at Sedgefield Country Club.

It was plenty stressful for others, even those who weren’t playing.

The heartbreak belonged to Justin Lower, who was poised to move into the top 125 in the FedExCup standings to reach the postseason and secure a full card for next season.

But on the final hole, Lower hit his 60-foot birdie putt a little too firm. That left him a 6-foot par putt that would have put him inside the top 125. He missed it to the right and was wiping away tears as he walked off the green.

“I don’t really know what I’m thinking. It sucks to come up this short,” Lower said.

Rickie Fowler looked to be out of luck when he missed the cut on Friday at No. 123. But enough players faded on the weekend, such as Brian Stuard, that Fowler gets to extend his season for at least another week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship next week.

Two players were knocked out of the top 125 — Matt Wallace (124) and Austin Smotherman (125), who needed par on the final hole of the second round and took double bogey.

Max McGreevy, who was the equivalent of No. 126, tied for fifth to move to No. 104. The other went to Kim, who was not part of the standings until he accepted membership with his win. Along with a pair of top 10s, including third place at the Scottish Open, Kim moved to No. 34.

Kim — he goes by “Tom” from his fascination as a kid with Thomas the Tank Engine in the TV series “Thomas & Friends” — moved to No. 21 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Only Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy reached that high in the ranking at a younger age.

And he did it in similar fashion to McIlroy winning his first PGA TOUR event in 2010, when he shot 62 in the final round at Quail Hollow.

Kim rolled birdie putts of 20 feet and 25 feet on the second and third holes. He followed with a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 4, an 8-foot eagle putt on No. 5 and an 18-foot birdie on the next hole. He closed out the front nine with two more birdies for a 27 and was on his way.

Kim’s only dropped shot was a bogey from finding deep rough off the tee at No. 10. Otherwise, the outcome was rarely in doubt the rest of the way.

Along with qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs, Kim should expect to be part of the International team for the Presidents Cup next month.

THIRD ROUND

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — The largest cut since the PGA TOUR went to top 65 and ties, followed by two delays for storms in the area, kept the Wyndham Championship from finishing the third round Saturday and set up a long final day of the regular season.

Brandon Wu holed out from 147 yards on the par-4 11th hole for an eagle, giving him a share of the lead with Sungjae Im at 12-under par. They were through 11 holes. John Huh and Joohyung “Tom” Kim were one shot behind.

Only 12 players finished the round.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat had a 7-under 63 and was at 10-under 200.

The eagle was Wu’s final shot before the second delay of the third round, and players never returned to the course. The third round was to resume Sunday at 7:30 a.m., and players again will go off both tees — and hope for good weather — to get the tournament in.

At stake Sunday in the final event of the regular season is a shot at some bonus money for Im and Will Zalatoris (who had a 66 and was at 7 under) if they can move into the top 10 in the FedExCup.

It’s far more important for players to finish in the top 125 and qualify for the lucrative FedExCup playoffs that start next week. Finishing in the top 125 also assures a full card for the next season, which starts in September.

Most of the drama was Saturday morning, and it involved plenty of heartache for one player. Austin Smotherman was at 1 under and faced a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 8, his 17th hole of the second round. A birdie would have moved the cut to 2-under 138.

But he missed, and then he missed the green on the ninth and wound up with a double bogey. Smotherman, the equivalent of No. 125 in the FedExCup, missed the cut and was virtually certain to fall out of the top 125.

The cut stayed at 1-under 139 and featured 87 players for the weekend. The last time that many players made the cut was in 2018 at the Wells Fargo Championship, before the TOUR instituted a new policy of top 65 and ties.

Having that many players — Hayden Buckley withdrew Saturday morning after making the cut because of a wrist injury — will make it tougher to finish the final round if any weather arrives.

Brian Stuard was at 10 under with one hole to play, keeping himself in the mix to climb into the top 125 and retain a full card.

Kim, meanwhile, was hoping to extend his season. The 20-year-old from South Korea, already up to No. 34 in the world, is assured a PGA TOUR card for next season. But he can only qualify for the postseason if he wins the Wyndham Championship, which would make him an instant member.

SECOND ROUND

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Joohyung “Tom” Kim began the Wyndham Championship with a quadruple bogey on his first hole and wasn’t the least bit bothered. The kid seems to be going places in a hurry.

Already assured a PGA TOUR card for next season, Kim overcame his rough start with a 6-under 64 on Friday that gave him a share of the lead with Brandon Wu and Ryan Moore in the final PGA TOUR event of the regular season.

Kim, a 20-year-old South Korean, has to win at Sedgefield Country Club to qualify for the FedExCup playoffs because he will not be considered a PGA TOUR member until September when the new season starts. Only a victory gives him instant membership.

He doesn’t feel extra pressure to get it done. Considering where he was a month ago, Kim is happy to be where he is.

Kim — he goes by “Tom” because of his fascination as a kid with Thomas the Tank Engine in the TV series “Thomas & Friends” — finished third in the Scottish Open, made the cut in the British Open and 3M Open, and then finished seventh last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

That gave him enough points to be assured of a card next year. And as he has shown in two days, it takes a lot to stop this train.

He took eight shots for his first hole on Thursday. Since then, Kim has made 14 birdies and reached 9-under 131 along with Wu (67) and Moore (67).

“If you would have told me after the first hole yesterday where I’d be after two days, I definitely would have taken it, so pretty happy,” Kim said.

“It’s just one bad hole,” he said, “Told myself, ‘You know what? I’ve got plenty of holes to bring it back if I just play well on my next 35 holes.’ And that’s exactly what I did. I played better than I thought I was going to, so it’s a bonus.”

John Huh, who opened with a 61, had a 71 and was one shot behind along with Russell Henley (65) and Sungjae Im (67).

A storm late in the afternoon led to a delay that kept the second round from finishing until Saturday morning, and there will be consequences.

Chris Gotterup needed a par on the 18th hole for the cut to be 2-under 138. But he went into a bunker, blasted long and faced a 4-foot bogey putt when he returned in the morning. He will finish no better than 1 under, which could let as many as 23 players into the weekend.

Austin Smotherman, however, was 1 under and had a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 8, his 17th hole. Smotherman is the equivalent of No. 125 in the FedExCup, and has to make the cut to keep alive his hopes of getting into the postseason.

Moore needs a big weekend, too. Coming off a chronic back injury, nothing short of a solo second will be enough for Moore to regain his full card for next season.

He’s not thinking about that as much as taking time off to rest and get his back in shape. He said there is deterioration where the rib joint meets the spine, and swinging a golf club isn’t necessarily the best therapy. But he can see the finish line, and a great result this week would help with his status and confidence going forward.

As for the top 125 who qualify for the postseason?

“I’m so far out of it, it doesn’t even matter at this point,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with this injury for a while. I know what’s wrong now. I just need time to deal with it. So right now it’s just trying to find a little form, a little confidence to spring me into this fall.”

Rickie Fowler is getting time off he doesn’t want. He had three straight bogeys early in his second round and rallied for a 69. That left him at even par for the tournament to miss the cut. Fowler is the equivalent of No. 123 and most likely would fall out of the top 125, missing the postseason for the second straight year.

Brian Stuard started at No. 137 in the FedExCup and followed his opening 65 with a 68, two shots off the lead. A strong weekend would allow him to get into the top 125.

DIVOTS: Jason Day withdrew because of an illness. He had opened with a 67. … Former Masters champion Danny Willett was headed for a missed cut and will finish out of the top 125.

FIRST ROUND

GREENSBORO, N.C. — John Huh wasn’t expecting the lowest round of his PGA TOUR career Thursday in the Wyndham Championship, and he had no complaints about the score or the timing.

Huh made seven of his eight birdie attempts from 10 feet or closer and holed a 40-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th hole at Sedgefield for a 9-under 61, giving him a two-shot lead over Sungjae Im in the final tournament of the regular season.

“It’s kind of strange because like earlier I mentioned, I wasn’t really feeling great with my game and (to) shoot my career low, it’s kind of weird,” Huh said. “Sort of mixed feelings, but I’ll take this any day.”

Huh needed a round like this. He is No. 120 in the FedExCup and only the top 125 advance to the lucrative postseason next week and are assured a full PGA TOUR card for next season.

“I know what’s on the line, I know how important this tournament would be,” Huh said. “At the same time you’ve just got to go and play and I think I did that really well today.”

Im had two eagles in his round of 63. At a true No. 15 in the FedExCup, he already is set for the postseason and a good week might be able to sew up his spot in the finale at East Lake.

Peter Malnati and Brandon Wu were at 64.

Far more relevant was the group at 65, which includes Austin Smotherman. He is list at No. 135 in the FedExCup, but he would count as No. 125 — the cutoff — because 10 players ahead of him have been suspended.

Smotherman missed only two greens and kept bogeys off his card. Three others at 65 — Ben Kohles (181), Cameron Percy (170) and Brian Stuard (148) were outside the top 125.

Also at 65 was Aaron Wise, who is at No. 34 in the standings and is looking to improve his ranking going into the lucrative FedExCup Playoffs. Wise had a five-hole stretch on the back nine that he played in 5-under par, including a 30-foot eagle putt on the 15th, until missing the fairway and failing to save par from beyond the green at the 18th.

Will Zalatoris, at No. 14 in the world the highest-ranked player in the field, was hopeful of moving into the top 10 in the FedExCup and collecting bonus money from the regular season. A two-time runner-up in majors this year, he opened with a 71 and next had to worry about making the cut.

Rickie Fowler also had a 71 playing in the afternoon. Fowler is No. 123 in the FedExCup — accounting for the suspended players ahead of him — and likely will need to make the cut to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

Huh now has three rounds at 62 or lower on the PGA TOUR — he had a 62 at Sedgefield in 2013 and a 62 in Las Vegas in 2016 — and made this one look easy.

Starting on the fourth hole, he ran off five straight birdies, the longest one at 10 feet. After his long eagle putt, he holed a 4-foot putt for birdie on the 17th.

“I hit it close enough, gave myself a chance,” Huh said. “The longest putt I made was for eagle, but other than that, I put it pretty much inside 10 feet and made all that.”

PLAYOFFS BUBBLE WATCH

Here are the players who were projected to move in and out of the top 125 at the end of Thursday’s first round at Sedgefield Country Club.

PROJECTED IN

Michael Gligic (No. 132, Projected No. 116) Gligic’s 65 matched his low round at Sedgefield, shot in the first round of last year’s event, and it included a 31 on the back nine.

Brian Stuard (No. 137, Projected No. 124) Stuard, who shot 5 under in Thursday’s first round, shot a pair of 65s in last year’s Wyndham Championship on the way to a tie for 15th. 

PROJECTED OUT

Rickie Fowler (No. 123, Projected No. 127) Fowler had a rough start and a difficult finish – making double bogey on No. 1 and bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 – on the way to a 71.

Matt Wallace (No. 124, Projected No. 128) Wallace, who missed the cut in his Wyndham Championship debut last year, also shot 71 with three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.

NOTES: 
John Huh played in the first group off the first tee, went out in 29 and posted a career-low 61 that gave him a two-stroke lead and boosted him 72 spots in the FedExCup to No. 39. “I wasn’t really felt great with my game and shoot my career low, it’s kind of weird,” Huh said. “Sort of mixed feeling, but I’ll take this any day. I was able to take advantage of a good break and good shots, that’s all I can say today.” … Aaron Wise has only played once since in the last five weeks, and that was at the Open Championship where he tied for 34th. “That’s why I came here, to kind of knock some rust off for the Playoffs and if I find myself in contention, that’s even better,” said Wise, is trying to make the TOUR Championship for the first time since his Rookie of the Year season in 2018. He’s on the right track, moving up eight spots in the FedExCup projections to No. 26. … Austin Smotherman, who came in as the bubble boy at No. 125, made a big move in a positive direction with a bogey-free 65 Thursday that left him tied for fifth and projected No. 106. Smotherman, who hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation, said he was glad to finally get golf under way. “Absolutely, yeah, the suspense, the build-up to the first round. You take care of your business,” he said. … Speaking of business, there are three players with a chance to move into the Comcast Business TOUR Top 10 entering the Wyndham Championship – Will Zalatoris, Sungjae Im and Billy Horschel. Of the three, only Im made a move. He’s alone in second at 7 under and projected to move from No. 15 to eighth.  

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