The legend of 20-year-old Tom Kim continues to grow but Sunday’s ending at the Shriners Children’s Open looked like something out of golf’s version of a Twilight Zone episode.
The final round at the TPC Summerlin was shaping up as a classic match between the upstart 20-year-old (Kim) and the highly-ranked veteran, 30-year-old Patrick Cantlay. Both started the day deadlocked at 20-under par and by time they reached the 72nd hole, they were still tied for the lead at 24-under.
As the two reached the 443-yard 18th, it looked like advantage Cantlay as he birdied the 15th and 16th to tie Kim, who failed to birdie those two easy scoring holes. It was a mis-match, experience-wise. Cantlay, ranked fourth in the world with eight wins, seven coming since 2019 versus Kim’s single victory.
After both parred the par three 17th, Cantlay had the tee at 18 and chose three-metal for his tee shot. A perfect drive would put the pressure on Kim.
But there would be no perfect drive. Instead, Cantlay hit an ugly toe-hook that sailed for the desert area on the left and his ball lodged in a wiry bush. Cantlay chose to attempt a hero shot as he tried to get the ball back in the fairway. That backfired in an ugly way as his ball settled into a purely unplayable spot, even worse than the one he just tried.
Cantlay took a penalty drop and was facing his fourth shot from a sidehill, rocky dirt lie. With a large pond guarding the left side of the green, he took a big risk and lost. His fourth shot sailed into the middle of the pond, didn’t come close to dry land. Out in five, hitting six into the green. Obviously shaken, his sixth settled just outside 35 feet from the hole.
Kim, who found the fairway, had no pressure at all and safely landed his wedge from 124 yards some 52 feet to the right, well away from the water.
Kim then snuggled his lag putt to two feet and watched Cantlay two-putt for a triple-bogey seven. Kim’s 66 got the job done although he got a lot of help from Cantlay’s misfortune. Cantlay signed for 69 and finished tied for second at 21-under with Matthew NeSmith.
“I figured the only chance I had was to get it in the fairway,” Cantlay said as he explained his decision to try to play his second shot from out of the bush. “I played well — one bad swing at the end. Obviously, I would have liked to have closed the deal out today, but sometimes that’s golf. “I hit a lot of good shots. Obviously, the last hole makes the whole week kind of sour.”
Cantlay and Kim roared into the final round after big moves on Saturday. Cantlay had a shot at shooting 59 but “settled” for an 11-under par 60 while Kim’s 62 put him in the last group with Cantlay.
Kim earned his way onto the PGA Tour at the end of last season at the Wyndham, winning that championship and playing his way into the FedEx Cup playoffs.
He became the star of the International team at the Presidents Cup with his Saturday play against Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns.
Now, his legend grows as he became the first since Tiger Woods to score two wins before turning 21. In the process Sunday, Kim went the 72 holes in Vegas without a bogey.
Next up for Tom Kim is the Zozo Championship in Japan next week. He will climb to No. 15 in the world, moving ahead of defending Zozo champion Hideki Matsuyama.
Tom Kim’s star is rising. He’s Mr. Excitement on the PGA Tour and right now, the world is his oyster.