‘How can you not love this man?’ Inside Tom Kim’s magical Presidents Cup day
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Chug, a-chuga, chug …
It’s Day 3 foursomes here at the Presidents Cup, and Tom Kim is leaving the station. His International team is down big to the U.S. side, 8-2, but he’s about to get rolling. On 10 at Quail Hollow, he drops a 10-footer for birdie to move him and partner K.H. Lee even with Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns, though he starts his walk off the green before his ball is finished rolling. He points at caddie Joe Skovron, Rickie Fowler’s old bag man, to pick it up for him, Jordan Spieth-style.
Chug, a-chuga, chug, a-chuga …
Kim pulls his team ahead a hole later. The wheels are moving. On 11, he eagles on a 36-footer, this time dropping his putter before the ball reaches the hole. He double fist-pumps, shouts, “Come on!” and walks to 12. Here, Skovron grabs his putter.
By now, you’ve figured out our format here. Trains. You see, Joohyung Kim goes by Tom, after Thomas the Tank Engine, the children’s cartoon, so we’re telling our story full train style. It’s a writing technique. Though it’s in his honor. And honestly, Kim’s Saturday felt like, well, a train that just kept rolling and rolling and …
Chug, a-chuga, chug, a-chuga, chug …
Kim and Lee win 2 and 1, though Kim isn’t done; captain Trevor Immelman throws him right back into the mix, in afternoon fourballs, against American studs Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. His whistle blows. On the 1st tee, Kim wants noise from the 2,500 seated around him. They oblige — and he hooks his ball left, only for it to kick back right. He laughs with partner Si Woo Kim. “I think he’s my new favorite player,” analyst Paul Azinger says on the NBC broadcast.
They’re going shot for shot when we hit 11. Kim’s accelerating now. There, he slams home a 54-footer, screams again and fist-pumps again, but now he tosses in a slap to his chest. “How can you not love this man right here?” analyst Justin Leonard says on the NBC broadcast.
We’re on the par-4 18th, and Kim/Kim and Schauffele/Cantlay are knotted. Kim, the train one, hits his tee shot down the tracks. On shot two, from 233 out, he shapes his ball to the left side of the green, and it feeds back toward the hole, to 10 feet. Immelman, walking with the match now, whispers, “Please be good.” It is.
Kim curls in the left-to-righter.
Get off the tracks!
Before his ball drops, in front of about a five-deep crowd around the green, he turns around, flings his white hat to the ground and shouts in the direction of his teammates, who are camped out at the back of the green. Kim fist-pumps. He hugs Si Woo Kim. He looks for anyone to hug. He shakes hands with Cantlay and Schauffele. He does multiple interviews to the left side of the green. He signs three of the same hat for a fan. He sticks around to see teammates Cam Davis and Adam Scott win 1 up, and the Internationals shrink their margin to 11-7.
Afterward, in the player press conference, he’s cool with playing Justin Thomas in Sunday singles. He ends up being paired against Max Homa.
But back to Saturday. He’s back in the station now. A reporter asks him for the best part.
“Last hole, without a doubt,” he says. “I was looking over that putt, and I wanted it more than anything in the world. I would have done anything for that to go in. And I had the whole team behind me.
“But I think for me and Si Woo, I think that birdie — that eagle on 11 was that — we were 2 down, and we just came off a bogey on 10. And, you know, I tried to really bring some energy. We got some momentum there.
“But without a doubt, 18 was without a doubt probably the highlight of the week so far for me.”
There have been a few. For one, he’s here; after a whirlwind few months, which have included a win last month at the Wyndham Championship, he was picked, at the age of only 20. He went through the press conferences; this website wrote its headline of him: “After turning down LIV, Tom Kim is quickly becoming a PGA Tour superstar.” He played Thursday, but lost. He played Friday, but lost. He won twice on Saturday.
A reporter then asks:
“Did you want that moment at the end?”
“Oh, 100 percent,” he said. “I was already thinking in the back of my mind, if this goes in, what am I going to do? How am I going to celebrate?”
He laughs, too.
“That’s if it goes in, right?” he continues. “I did stay in the moment, but that was definitely on my mind. And it was an amazing feeling for that to go in because the team was behind, and they were watching.
“And, yeah, I mean, I wanted it more than anything in the world.”