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Former Philippine amateur champ nails PGA breakthrough

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Former Philippine amateur champ nails PGA breakthrough
South Korea's Kim Joo-hyung plays from the 18th tee during his third round on day 3 of The 150th British Open Golf Championship on The Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland on July 16, 2022.
Paul Ellis / AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Kim Joo Hyung did the unthinkable, closing out with a brilliant nine-under 61 to cap an emphatic five-stroke triumph in the Wyndham Championship at the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina Sunday (Monday, Manila time).

The 20-year-old Korean, the reigning Order of Merit champion on the Asian Tour, thus became the second youngest winner on the PGA Tour this century and first born in the 2000s.

“I can’t believe it,” said Kim, who kicked off his bid in the $7.3 million championship with a quadruple bogey on No. 1 Thursday but came into the final round just two shots off the lead. “I didn’t know golf was this stressful.”

But it was his stirring eight-under card in eight holes in the final round that must've left his rivals awed and doubly stressed.

For he drilled in putts from as far as 25 feet for back-to-back feats from No. 2, knocked in another on the fourth then came through with a spectacular second shot on the par-5 No. 5 that rested eight feet off the cup.

Eagle.

But going five-under in the first holes proved not enough for a player, nicknamed Tom, who won the Philippine Amateur Championship and the WExpress RVF champion in early 2018, victories that led to a pro debut months later he marked with a one-stroke victory at Pueblo de Oro with father Kim Chang-ik on his side throughout his campaign.

He then became the youngest pro winner at 16 in the 2019 The Country Club Invitational, the flagship tournament of the Philippine Golf Tour.

He then campaigned on the Asian Development Tour to toughen up and gained an automatic Asian Tour card after winning three legs on the region’s premier circuit’s farm league.

Riding the momentum of a scorching start, Kim buried another 20-footer for birdie on No. 6, banged in a seven-footer on the next with another birdie on the eighth netted him a frontside 27, equaling the second-lowest 9-hole score in PGA Tour history.

He earlier pooled rounds of 67, 64 and 68 to officially earn his full PGA Tour membership, making him eligible to vie in the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs.

Kim did stumble with a bogey on No. 10 after a wayward drive and flubbed a birdie chance on the par-5 12th from close range but went on another birdie run with a two-putt feat on the par-5 15th before gaining another stroke on the par-3 next off a solid tee-shot.

He missed to break 60 with closing pars but those proved more than enough to demolish the field, including compatriot Sungjae Im, who finished second at 265 after a 68, for a whopping $1.71 million paycheck.

“I stayed very patient this week. Instead of getting angry and depressed, I stayed in the moment and I can’t believe I won with a quadruple bogey on the first hole,” said Kim. “After the quad, once I started to laugh it off, I was in a better mental state.”

And now, he’s in a far better, most lucrative league.

GOLF

PGA

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