Kim extends lead at John Deere Classic
July 14, 2018
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
Michael Kim maintains impressive lead at John Deere
SILVIS, Ill. – Michael Kim turned 25 on Saturday, but you’d be crazy to call him a late-bloomer. It’s just that, well, Kim hasn’t won yet on the PGA TOUR.
Terrible, right? And at his age!
When you’re a member of golf’s overachieving high school Class of 2011 (Spieth, Thomas, Schauffele, Berger, Jonas Salk, etc.), you get used to seeing frowny faces at cocktail parties when it comes out that you haven’t won a major or three, or at least invented a vaccine.
But there’s good news. Kim, who won the Jack Nicklaus Award as college player of the year in 2013 (Cal), may be on the verge of joining his baton-twirling classmates after extending his lead Saturday at the rain-delayed John Deere Classic. He birdied five of his last six holes for a third-round 64 and leads by five over Bronson Burgoon (66) going into the final round at soggy TPC Deere Run.
“All the guys I played against in the 2011 class, I felt like I was just as good as those guys,” Kim said. “Seeing them do those things, win majors, win tournaments, is really motivating trying to keep up with them. It's just been added motivation for sure.”
Matt Jones (66) is six back, while Harold Varner III also shot 66 to go into Sunday seven back.
Returning to the course to finish his second round at 8 a.m. Saturday, Kim bogeyed the 18th hole for a 64 for a three-stroke lead halfway through the tournament. In this, his third season on TOUR, it marked the first time he had led after any round.
He wasted no time in extending it after the second rain delay Saturday.
Heavy rain delayed tee times two and a half hours, sending the leaders out at 2 p.m., but Kim settled in with birdies at the second and sixth holes to maintain momentum. He later pulled off a nifty par save at the par-3 12th hole, pointing the toe of his putter down to pop his ball out of the rough left of the green and watching it roll to within a foot of the hole.
He had birdied the 13th hole before another rain delay gave way to his late fireworks as he began to run away from the field.
Players were afforded lift-clean-and-place rules on the rain-saturated course.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Kim grew up in La Jolla, California, same as Schauffele, whom he’s known since they were 12 years old. They played against each other in junior golf, when Kim more than held his own. Professionally, though, it’s been another story. Now based in Houston, Kim has kept his head down while following his own slow-and-steady path.
He was 48th in Web.com Tour money in 2014, and 13th the next year, earning his call-up to the PGA TOUR. He made 22 cuts in 29 starts as a rookie in 2016, when he finished 118th in the FedExCup Playoffs, and last season brought his best golf yet, a T3 finish at the Safeway Open and final ranking of 100th in the FedExCup. That got him into THE PLAYERS Championship.
In other words, Kim has gotten better every year since turning professional. How he plays at the Deere on Sunday will go a long way toward determining whether that trend will continue. So far the signs are very, very positive.
COOK LEADS ROOKIE RACE: Austin Cook shot a third-round 66 and sits at 9 under. That’s not exactly in contention for his second win, but he’s looking better and better in the race for Rookie of the Year with Aaron Wise. “Coming into this year it was a goal, and Aaron and I are in a good little battle right now,” said Cook, 27, who won The RSM Classic last fall. He cautions that he’s playing against the field, not just Wise, whose progress he is nonetheless monitoring as they battle it out in the FedExCup. “I’m aware that last week I jumped right in front of him,” said a smiling Cook, who finished T5 at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier to move up three spots to 24th, while Wise missed the cut to drop to 25th. The two may be further apart still after this week, as Wise missed his fifth straight cut, by one, despite a second-round 67 at TPC Deere Run. Next week, Cook (like Wise) will head to Scotland to play The Open for the first time. He is expecting culture shock, so much so that he laughed about potentially bringing ketchup packets to eat. Turning serious, Cook said, “I’ve done pretty good in the wind; Sea Island blew pretty strong this year, and I hit the ball pretty good that week. Hopefully I can keep it going over there.”
QUOTABLESI have my wife, mom, dad, two grandpas, and a couple buddies.
Low round: 63, Tyler Duncan.
Longest putt: 74 feet, 4 inches, by Joaquin Niemann (68, 7 under) at the par-4 fourth hole, which he birdied.
CALL OF THE DAY
For play-by-play coverage of the final round at the John Deere Classic, listen at PGATOUR.COM.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Bronson Burgoon's 226-yard drive for Shot of the Day