Tom Kim’s Vegas celebration, LIV’s relegation, Harmon’s new student | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re shouting “leaf rule!” on every wayward tee shot. Free drop season, gang. Happy fall. Let’s get to the golf!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
Tom Kim’s wild night.
What would you do if you’d recently turned 21, just shot 62-66 on the weekend to win a massive golf tournament that included a check for $1.5 million and had a night to yourself in Las Vegas?
Tom Kim had his answer ready.
“I was actually thinking about this last night,” he said. “I knew I was going to get this question.”
Kim had originally been considering the red eye out of Vegas but changed his plans; he’d allow himself a few hours’ sleep before a 6:30 a.m. flight instead. In the meantime…
“I’m going to finish a piece of chocolate that I’ve wanted to finish, so I’m going to do that,” he said. “Then I’m going to order room service and I’m going to go to bed, then I’m going to wake up at 3:00 and take my 6:30 a.m. flight.”
Kim said he’d purchased the chocolate during a trip to Europe and revealed it’s a Ferrero Rocher white chocolate — the type reserved for special occasions. When I talked to Kim at the Tour Championship in August he explained that he’d started to better understand the effects of a healthy diet on his day-to-day performance, so he’d cut back on fast food and was picking his spots to treat himself.
Plus, as he said post-win, “I’m not a really big fancy loud type of guy, so when I come to Vegas I don’t really like going to the Strip.” So this seemed like as good a time as any.
“I can’t wait to finish that chocolate. I’ve wanted to finish it so bad.”
Who won the week?
Kim defended his title at the Shriners Childrens Open, joining Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa as the only back-to-back PGA Tour winners in 2023. That’s good company. Kim also became the fourth-youngest golfer to reach three PGA Tour wins, with only Gene Sarazen, Horton Smith and Tiger Woods accomplishing the feat at a younger age. That’s even better company.
Angel Yin got her first win at the Buick LPGA Shanghai. Even better, it came with a side of revenge. That retribution came in the form of a playoff win over World No. 1 Lilia Vu, who’d beaten Yin in a playoff at this year’s Chevron Championship. Yin got it done, she said, by being herself.
“Growing up everyone taught me to be stone-faced, no emotions, poker face,” she said. “I don’t think that fits me. What’s fitting me right now is I’m going to express myself.”
Brooks Koepka won LIV’s event in Jeddah, defending his title in Saudi Arabia and picking up his first professional win as a father. His strategy? “Stay out of the desert, stay out of the bunkers,” he said. Koepka picked up $4 million for the win — and pocketed another $4 million in surprising fashion by leapfrogging former nemesis Bryson DeChambeau to snag third place on the season-long points list. DeChambeau needed a 13th-place finish to hold the spot but finished 16th.
Matthieu Pavon won the Spanish Open on the DP World Tour, shooting 66-64 on the weekend to claim a four-shot victory. And Min Woo Lee won on the Asian Tour, claiming a two-shot victory at the SJM Macao Open.
It’s not just first or last around here.
Adam Hadwin finished solo second, his second runner-up finish in his last seven starts. Eric Cole shot nine-under 62 on Sunday to claim T3 and better his already-beefy case for Rookie of the Year. Fan favorite Joel Dahmen finished T7 in Las Vegas, his best result since last fall, when he reeled off three consecutive top-10s in a red-hot start to the season.
Ludvig Aberg was T42 at seven under entering Sunday’s final round before reeling off eight birdies and an eagle (plus one bogey) to log a sparkling nine-under 62, the lowest number of his young PGA Tour career. He’s now at No. 95 in the FedEx Cup standings, all but locked into the top 125 and complete status for next year.
Talor Gooch lost to Koepka in that LIV playoff but had a decent haul nonetheless; he won $18 million for finishing on top of LIV’s season-long points list. After a three-win season, Gooch said he considers himself “one of the best in the world” and reveled in the honor.
“To get to this point in my career and to have this validating of a season, yeah, words can’t describe how much it means and just how satisfying it is,” Gooch said.
LIV’s relegated four.
A quick primer on LIV’s relegation system: If you finish in the top 24 in the season-long standings, you’re locked in for 2024 on your same team. If you finish 25-44 in the standings you’re in what’s called the Open Zone, which means you can get re-signed by your LIV team or another LIV team but there are no guarantees. (Matthew Wolff, for instance, seems unlikely to return to Koepka’s Smash GC.) And then if you finish 45th or worse, you’re in what’s known as the Drop Zone (incidentally also the name of this beloved, award-winning golf podcast) and face mandatory relegation, which means you’re booted from LIV unless you play your way back through the league’s promotions tournament, which is expected before the end of 2023.
There’s one wrinkle: Team captains are immune from relegation.
So who got booted from LIV? That would be Jediah Morgan, James Piot, Chase Koepka and Sihwan Kim, who logged just one top-20 between them in 14 events each.
The captain exemption protected Lee Westwood (45th) and Martin Kaymer (49th), while Bernd Wiesberger played his way to safety with an 11th-place finish to ascend to 41st.
Who’s working with whom?
Just two notes from the carousel this week.
We’ve written here before about Chris Como and his partnership with Tom Kim, but it’s worth reheating just to say — wow. After the two started working together Kim went from a mini-slump to red-hot: T6 at the Genesis Scottish Open, T2 at the Open, then top-25s at all three playoff events, T18 and T6 in two DP World Tour starts and now a victory in the desert. He’s up to No. 11 in the world with no signs of slowing down.
The other note: Taylor Montgomery casually dropped early Shriners week that he’d been to see swing whisperer Butch Harmon. That’s worth noting because Harmon can have something of a Midas Touch and Montgomery seems a likely candidate for a turnaround; he has plenty of talent and found plenty of early success on Tour but has missed five of his last six cuts.
“I was just struggling and I kept doing the same thing and trying to fix basically the same thing. Never changed, so I’m, like, might as well change something and see what happens,” Montgomery said pre-tournament by way of explanation. He added that his 8-iron, which used to go 175 yards, had suddenly been flying about 20 yards shorter. Something was up.
“I’ve always always done short-game stuff, chipping, putting by myself and having my dad look at me every once in a while, but ball striking is the key. If I’m hitting it good I’m going to be right there most of the time,” he said.
Montgomery’s T35 was hardly perfect but felt like a giant step in the right direction.
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
I’m hopeful to head over the mountain pass and out of the Seattle fall drizzle (it’s arriving…) to get a peek this week at the much-heralded second course at Gamble Sands. For the uninitiated, Gamble is an epic golf destination in central Washington whose first course was designed by David McLay Kidd and has wowed basically everyone who’s made the trek to see it, including our team. I’ll report back on how Kidd’s second go at the property measures up.
3 things to watch this week.
1. Keegan’s back.
But is he back-to-back? We haven’t seen Bradley since his T9 finish at the Tour Championship nor since he was passed over for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Now he’ll be back in action at the site of last year’s glorious win at the Zozo Championship.
2. LIV’s future.
Will we get any hints in Miami this week about how LIV is feeling about its future — and how that future may or may not be linked to the PGA Tour?
3. Loaded LPGA field.
Thirty-nine of the top 50 LPGA pros will tee it up in South Korea for the BMW Ladies Championship, including defending champ Lydia Ko, World No. 1 Lilia Vu, Jin Young Ko, Nelly Korda and more.
We’ll see you next week!