By TOM LaMARRE
Tom Kim of South Korea took the PGA Tour by storm in 2022.
Kim, who had yet to turn 21, captured the 2022 Wyndham Championship by five strokes with a 61 in the final round in August, and then won the Shriners Children’s Open by three when he shot 63 in round three in October.
By winning, Kim became the second youngest two-time winner in PGA history behind World Golf Hall of Famer Ralph Guldahl, who achieved that feat in 1932, and was the first win twice before the age of 21 since Tiger Woods in 1996.
Kim, who claimed nine pro victories in Asia, hasn’t won since the Shriners last year, but he has 15 results in the top 25 in the last year and is back to defend his Shriners title beginning Thursday at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.
This will be the first time Kim will defend a title on the PGA Tour because he was unable to play in the Wyndham Championship this year after he sustained an ankle injry while tying for second in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake England.
“I’m just really grateful and I’m fortunate to have an opportunity like this,” said Kim, who tied for eighth in the U.S. Open in July at Los Angeles Country Club. “I’m having fun playing on the PGA Tour. It’s awesome, … I’m like a 5-year-old at Disneyland, for sure. I was very gutted to not be able to defend the title from my first PGA Tour victory, so I am really looking forward to this opportunity.
“A few months before my first win on the PGA Tour, I didn’t have any playing status in the U.S., and now being a two-time winner, 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.”
Kim entered the final round of the Shriners last year tied for the lead with now fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, but the youngster didn’t blink playing alongside one of the best players in the world.
In fact, it was Cantlay who stumbled, hitting a wild drive into a bush on the 18th hole when they were still tied, taking a drop for an unplayable lie and then hitting into the water en route to carding a triple-bogey 7.
All Kim had to do was two-putt for a par to claim his three-stroke victory.
“I got very lucky on the 18th, I’m not going to lie,” Kim said after hoisting the trophy. “Patrick played awesome and it was an honor to battle with him, and to come out on top, I feel very fortunate.
“I think I’ve got to give big credit to Joe Skovron, my caddie. He really kept me in it and we had a really good gameplan coming into the week, and it paid off.”
Cantlay is not in the field this week, but one player who will be is LPGA Tour Lexi Thompson, who received a special exemption to play against the men and said she simply hopes to make the cut.
1. Tom Kim, South Korea—The Shriners defending champion became the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to win two PGA Tour events before turning 21 when he won by three shots at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. Kim, who also won the 2022 Wyndham Championship by five shots, has 15 finishes in the top 25 in 2023, including a tie for second in the Open Championship.
2. Ludvig Aberg, Sweden—After helping Europe regain the Ryder Cup two weeks ago, Aberg lost in a playoff at the Sanderson Farms last week while posting four scores in the 60s. He has nine top-25 finishes this year, including his third victory as a pro in the Omega European Masters, but is still looking for his first title on the PGA Tour. He’s making his Shriners debut.
3. J.T. Poston, United States—Recorded 11 finishes in the top 25 on the PGA Tour in the last year, including a tie for second in the 3M Open and three ties for sixth. Poston claimed his second PGA Tour victory in the 2022 John Deere Classic and also won the 2021 Wyndham. He makes his sixth start in the Shriners, having tied for fourth in 2017 and tied for 20th last year.
4. Si Woo Kim, South Korea—Claimed his sixth pro victory and fourth on the PGA Tour early this year in the Sony Open in Hawaii, one of 10 finishes in the top 25, including a tie for second in the AT&T Byron Nelson and solo fourth in the Memorial. Kim is making his seventh start in the Shriners, and he tied for eighth last year and also in 2020 among four finishes in the top 10.
5. Cam Davis, Australia—Has finished in the top 10 in four of his last five starts, including solo third in the Fortinet Championship last month, with 10 results in the top 20 during the last year. Davis, who has four pro victories, including the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic on the fifth playoff hole, has played in the Shriners twice, tying for 27th in 2021 and tying for 37th last year.
6. J.J. Spaun, United States—A Los Angeles native who played at San Diego State, Spaun won the 2022 Valero Texas Open for his only PGA Tour victory, in addition to winning once on the Korn Ferry Tour and once on the PGA Tour Canada. He has recorded 10 results in the top 25 in the last year, including a tie for 15th in the Shriners, in which he also tied for 10th in 2017.
7. Nicolai Hojgaard, Denmark—Posted a 0-2-1 record as Europe reclaimed the Ryder Cup two weeks ago in his rookie appearance. Hojgaard, who has won twice on the DP World Tour and once in the Nordic Golf League, has posted 11 top-25 finishes in the last year, including second in the Corales Puntacana Championship. He will make his debut this week in the Shriners.
8. Tom Hoge, United States—After winning the 2022 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for his first PGA Tour victory and fourth as a pro, Hoge has placed in the top 25 on 13 occasions in the last year, including ties for third in the Players Championship and the Sentry TOC. Has played in the Shriners seven times, tying for fourth last year and tying for seventh in 2017 among four top 25s.
9. Adam Hadwin, Canada—Has 12 victories as a pro, including the 2017 Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour, and came close again before losing in a playoff at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July. That was one of his nine top-10 finishes in the last year. Hoge is making his eighth start in the Shriners, tying for fourth in 2019, tying for sixth in 2021 and tying for 10th twice.
10. Eric Cole, United States—The rookie from Palm Springs, who won 12 times on the Minor League Golf Tour, nearly claimed his first on the PGA Tour this year, but lost in a playoff at the Honda Classic. That was one of his 11 finishes in the top 25, including fourth in the Fortinet recently, a tie for fifth in the Mexico Open and a tie for sixth in the RBC Canadian Open.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Adam Schenk, United States; Vincent Norrman, Sweden; Harry Hall, England; Troy Merritt, United States; Andrew Putnam, United States; Lucas Herbert, Australia; Emiliano Grillo, Argentina; Luke List, United States; Mark Hubbard, United States; Christiian Bezuidenhout, South Africa; Lexi Thompson, United States.
1. Justin Suh, United States—The former USC star from San Jose won the 2022 Korn Terry Tour Championship and this year was T-5 in the Honda, T-6 in the Players, T-26 in the PGA.
2. Akshay Bhatia, United States—Claimed first PGA Tour title and fifth as a pro in alternate field Barracuda Championship in July. Was second in Puerto Rico Open, fourth in Mexico Open.
3. Taylor Pendrith, Canada—Two-time winner on PGA Tour Canada finished solo sixth in the Barbasol, T-7 at Pebble Beach, T-14 in Rocket Mortgage, T-15 in RSM Classic this season.
4. Taylor Montgomery, United States—Winner of the 2019 Long Beach Open finished solo third in 2022 Fortinet, fifth in AmEx, T-9 at Sanderson Farms, T-10 at Mayakoba in the last year.
5. Callem Tarren, England—The PGA Tour rookie claimed his only pro victory in the 2017 Jiangsu Open in China. Tarren finished T-2 in RSM Classic and T-7 in the Fortinet last month.
For first-round tee times and complete results once the tournament starts, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard