Kim breaks door down, dominates in first TOUR win
July 16, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Michael Kim wins by eight strokes at John Deere
SILVIS, Ill. – After getting just seven hours of sleep the past two nights combined, 2013 college Player of the Year Michael Kim fires a final-round 66 at TPC Deere Run to leave four players eight shots back and tie the record margin of victory on the PGA TOUR this season.
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Kim—who was born in Seoul, South Korea; raised in Southern California; and lives in Houston—made good on all that potential everyone saw in him when he arrived at Cal as a short-hitting prospect from La Jolla, California.
1. Kim has a loyal team.
Talk to those who know the Deere winner and they speak of his quiet confidence, which spilled over after he birdied 16, cupping his hand to his ear as if to tell the fans to let him hear it.
They talk about his friendship; Zach Johnson was grateful to Kim for playing in his foundation’s charity tournament in Cedar Rapids at the start of the week, which raised $1.3 million. Kim teared up while speaking about how hard it was to switch coaches from longtime friend James Oh to John Tillery not even a month ago, making sure to credit both.
“Nothing makes an old, retired coach happier than seeing one of his former players do well,” ex-Cal coach Steve Desimone said while watching the Deere on TV. “On his recruiting visit, all we did was talk trash about sports, Northern California versus Southern California, over lunch. He has a wonderful sense of humor. I think the world of him, and there’s no stopping him now.”
2. Progress isn’t always easy to measure.
Kim had missed the cut in his three previous starts coming into the Deere.
“We were still seeing some good things, and felt like he was getting closer,” said Andrew Gundersen, Kim’s caddie over the last four-plus years. They kept the faith. It wasn’t easy.
A member of golf’s high school Class of 2011 (Spieth, Thomas, Berger, Schauffele, et al), Kim hadn’t won in 83 starts. That’s not a long dry spell, and it’s not that he was old; he only turned 25 on Saturday of the Deere. But he had watched those other guys, with whom he more than held his own in college, launch their pro careers with majors, FedExCup wins, Presidents and Ryder Cup appearances, and Rookie of the Year honors. What about him?
“You can’t help but feel you’re getting left behind,” Kim said.
As it turned out, he just needed a little extra help off the tee, and Tillery spotted a few things that were sending his drives wayward and mostly to the right. The 7,268-yard TPC Deere Run was well-suited to Kim’s usual straight but not overly long game, and on the greens he found a putting trigger that worked for him, averaging 26.5 putts per round.
3. Joel Dahmen is on a roll.
Coming off a T5 at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, Dahmen in his distinctive hat was elated after he shot back-to-back 65s on the weekend at TPC Deere Run to finish T2. He knew that with Kim running away with it, everyone else was playing for second, and he got there.
The most satisfying part? That would be the scary fairway bunker shot he hit on 18, where water lurks down the left side of the fairway and also swallows anything left of the green.
“If people had any idea what I’ve been through with fairway bunkers,” Dahmen said. “On the last hole of U.S. Open qualifying, I was in a fairway bunker and chunked it out about 100 yards into water and missed … The week after that I was at Travelers; I was in like 16th place on Friday afternoon, I chunked it out of a fairway bunker into water, made triple.
Dahmen worked on it, and all that work paid off in a big way at the tough 18th on Sunday. He hit his drive through the short grass and into the left fairway bunker, and from 177 yards, with water lurking left, he caught the ball cleanly and found the green. After a tough two-putt par from just over 46 feet, he could finally exhale.
“I don’t know what happened with that shot,” he said of his difficult approach from the sand. “Just blacked out. It was so good.”
4. Sam Ryder is breathing easier.
Rookie Ryder’s T2 (final-round 66) was his best finish in 22 starts on TOUR—previous best: 5th at the Houston Open—and vaulted from 148th to 115th in the FedExCup.
“Every FedExCup point matters for me right now,” Ryder said. “Been trying to get to the FedExCup Playoffs. I’m proud of myself for the way I played and the way I hung in there, especially when I didn’t hit some of my best shots. I just kind of made a couple tough pars.”
He said he’d made “life a little easier on myself” by moving inside the FedExCup top 125, and that, with five weeks remaining, “Anyone is lying if they say they’re not thinking about that.”
5. Bronson Burgoon is loving life.
Whether he’s taking a selfie with Tiger Woods at the Quicken Loans National (T6) or throwing his arm around playing partner Michael Kim at the Deere (T2), Burgoon is having a blast.
And why not? He shot 69 to share runner-up honors, was a collective 11 under par on the par-5s for the week, and moved from 134th all the way up to 98th in the FedExCup, making himself almost a lock to make The Playoffs.
“That’s three straight weeks being in the top 10 going into Sunday, in contention,” he said after admitting to running on fumes during a sub-standard ball-striking round Sunday. “For someone who had never been there before, it feels good. It’s been tiring, so that’s why I’m so pooped.”
Michael Kim's Round 4 highlights from John Deere
1. Kim found some pop in his driver. He averaged 294.7 yards off the tee at the Deere, and was 27th in the field in driving distance. He tied for second in fairways hit (46/56), was third in greens in regulation (60/72), first in average proximity to the hole (24’ 11’’), and made 481 ½ feet of putts, tops in the field. In posting a winning score of 27-under 257, he was just one stroke shy of the 72-hole record on TOUR on a par-71 layout.
2. In addition to vaulting from No. 161 to 56th in the FedExCup, Kim earned the only Open Championship berth on offer at the Deere. His trip to Carnoustie this week, where he will be joined by his older brother, Richard, and parents, Sun and Yun, who surprised him at the Deere, will be his second start in a major. He finished T17 at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.
3. Francesco Molinari, who was one of four players who tied for second at 19-under, and was making his first start since winning by eight at the Quicken Loans National, is a combined 40 under par in his last two starts. He was 14 over in his two starts prior to the Quicken Loans.
4. Dylan Meyer and Nick Hardy, two sponsor invites and newly-minted pros from the University of Illinois, closed with matching 66s to finish 10-under and tied for 43rd place.
5. There were 15 players at the Deere who were scheduled to compete in The Open Championship at Carnoustie this week: Bronson Burgoon (T2), Austin Cook (T34), Chesson Hadley (MDF), Zach Johnson (T16), Matt Jones (T12), Sung Kang (MC), Si Woo Kim (MC), Patton Kizzire (T30), Kelly Kraft (T63), Andrew Landry (T55), Francesco Molinari (T2), Ryan Moore (T55), Chez Reavie (MC), Kyle Stanley (MC) and Bryson DeChambeau (WD). Then there was Kim (1), who wasn’t scheduled to make the trip but played his way in.
Michael Kim's news conference after winning John Deere