Tom Kim thought about quitting this Open Championship. He finished second
HOYLAKE, England — Tom Kim arrived on the practice green on Sunday morning at Royal Liverpool with a jolt of positive energy.
He’d just taken the cast off of his injured right ankle, and it was, in his words, “actually a lot better.”
For the first time since Thursday, competing at the Open Championship might actually be less painful than the day before.
You see, Kim had just days earlier suffered the kind of injury that most golfers wouldn’t bother continuing to compete with. He had stepped outside of his rental house in Hoylake into a “half-yard of mud” and slipped. As his weight came down upon his right ankle, his foot “popped,” resulting in what doctors later determined to be a grade 1 tear in his ankle.
He awoke on Friday morning at three over for the tournament and hovering around the cutline. More problematic, though, was his ankle, which had ballooned in size and was barely capable of sustaining weight.
“I was thinking about pulling out after my second round and the third round,” he said, pausing for a second as he cracked a smile.
“But I’m kind of glad I didn’t.”
Glad for a couple of reasons. For one, his ankle, after a few days of heavy icing, casting and rehabbing, had actually improved considerably from the days before it. For another, he played exceptionally well, his seven-under total leading to the 21-year-old’s best-career major finish.
Yes, Kim shot the low round of the day on Sunday despite dreadful conditions at Royal Liverpool, a four-under 67 amplified by the fact that unlike the other 76 players in the weekend field, Kim’s performance came with the fear that even a single wrong step could be enough to turn things for the worse.
“Especially if it’s wet. You could slip really easily,” he said. “The last thing I need right now is another twist or another slip. Obviously being kind of chilly, if you’re not warm enough, it could — it tends to be a little bit more sore.”
When the dust settled Sunday, Kim had pushed himself all the way into a tie for second — knotted with a group of players including reigning Masters champ Jon Rahm. It was a brilliant effort, one of the finest of Kim’s young career, featuring four birdies and an eagle. It also very nearly didn’t happen.
“No [I wasn’t surprised],” he said of his play. “But at the same time, [I was] a little bit because of how my foot was feeling.”
Kim leaves the weekend at the Open not only with one of the steeliest runner-up finishes in recent memory but also as the first 21-year-old since Rory McIlroy to finish top-10 in back-to-back majors. It’s been a strange year for Kim, who burst onto the scene last fall but took a bit of a step backward as the season progressed. At the Open, though, he closed the major season on a definitive high note … and one bum ankle.
Here’s hoping his next appearance comes on better footing.