A few months ago, hardly anyone knew who Tom Kim was. Now, two wins, a memorable Presidents Cup and an invite to Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge later, he’s starting to feel like he belongs.
The latest stage of his ascent comes this week, as Kim’s in Hawaii for the first time in his life and playing the Sentry Tournament of Champions with some of the best players in the game.
“It’s been a crazy 2022,” Kim said on Tuesday at Kapalua, “and things happened so fast where I think this past offseason I was able to kind of reflect on what it was like — and it’s amazing.”
When Kim won the Wyndham Championship in August — a week after he was seventh at the Rocket Mortgage Classic — he became just the second player since World War II to win before the age of 20 years, 2 months (the other was Jordan Spieth, whom Kim is paired with for the first round on Thursday).
That helped him make the Presidents Cup team — he was the star for the Internationals and arguably the highlight of the week for the entire event — and introduced him to the greater golfing public.
He’s hardly slowed since. Two weeks later he won the Shriners Children’s Open and, now, he’s the 15th-ranked player in the world.
“I’m not that big of a star yet, so it hasn’t been that crazy,” Kim said. “But I spent time back home a little bit. I’ve definitely had a few more people recognize me on the streets, which is, I think it’s great. I don’t get to be back home as much, so whenever I go back home and see that, it feels great. It kind of motivates me to come back to the U.S. and play better. It’s been pretty fun for me.”
And one of the bests part about all this success? It might be getting to know Tiger Woods. Kim got a chance to talk to him at the Hero in the Bahamas last month, when he was one of the few elite players selected for Woods’ event.
“Tiger’s like, man, he’s pretty cool,” Kim said, laughing. “I’ve seen him a few times, but to be able to kind of just have a conversation with him was pretty amazing. You look at him, and just the amount of things he has accomplished in his career was really cool to see.”
It was the first time Kim had a significant interaction with the 15-time major champ. The first time he ever saw him was when Kim was 5 or 6 and living in Australia. Woods was there for a tournament and Kim was wearing the star’s trademark TW cap, which was way too big for his small head.
“He was walking literally 3 feet in front of me and I shouted, ‘Go, Tiger!’ and [he] tipped the cap and went in the bathroom,” Kim said. “And literally thousands of people started running to the bathroom waiting for him to come out.”
Kim got a better up-close look at Woods and other stars when he qualified for the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, his first major, but now he says he’s even more comfortable on Tour. He’s proven himself. He’s a PGA Tour member. Hey, he’s in Kapalua.
“I’ve been going out and having some great food and like I still, like the sunsets and sunrises are just, it’s great, it’s beautiful,” he said. “So I’ve just been enjoying that, but just been trying to stay focused on my golf.”