Records tumbled in Tiger Woods’ wake when the prodigious amateur turned pro in 1996 in one of the most breakneck accelerations to the top golf has ever seen.
So if, 26 years later, a 20-year-old equals the early performance of the 15-time big winner, it’s probably worth keeping an eye out.
Kim “Tom” Joo-hyung accelerated his meteoric rise with victory at the Shriners Children’s Open on Sunday, becoming the first golfer since Woods to win twice on the PGA Tour before turning 21. The duo is the only player to have achieved this feat since World War II, according to ESPN Statistics and Information.
The South Korean carded an impeccable 24-under 260 to secure a three-stroke triumph over Patrick Cantlay in Las Vegas, making him just the third player since 1974 to win a stroke play event without making a single bogey .
After his first win at the Wyndham Championship in August, it marks Kim’s second Tour win in his last four appearances – and in between the two titles was a hugely impressive performance at the Presidents Cup in September.
He has played nine Tour events since July, but Kim has dismissed any suggestion of burnout.
“I’m a five-year-old at Disneyland,” he told reporters, “it’s hard to get tired of this.”
“A few months ago I had no status in the US, and now that I am a two-time winner of the Tour and have that place at Tiger, it’s an incredible feeling for me.
“It’s an honor for me, and it’s definitely a dream come true.”
At age 20, three months and 18 days, Kim recorded his second win six months ahead of Woods, who was less than three months before his 21st birthday when he won the Walt Disney World Golf Classic in October 1996, two weeks after his first. Tour win at the Las Vegas Invitational – now the Shriners Children’s Open.
In April of the following year, Woods reached his ascension to new heights by becoming the youngest-ever Masters winner at Augusta. While a 23rd place finish at the US Open in June marked an impressive performance in Kim’s fourth major appearance ever, the South Korean is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“Hopefully I can have a long career and have to work very hard – I can’t be satisfied at all,” he said.
“I just have to keep playing better because there are a lot of guys who work really hard and have achieved a lot more than me.
“I’m not even close to Tiger. Be it Tiger, Rory [McIlroy]Justin [Thomas]Jordan [Spieth]those guys, I still have a long way to go, so I just have to keep working hard.”
Kim’s winning card tied the record for lowest winning score at the event since TPC Summerlin changed to a par-71 course in 2009, according to the PGA tourbut the 20-year-old was level with Cantlay on his way to the final hole.
After shooting a tournament best 11-under 60 on Saturday, Cantlay saw his hopes for a ninth Tour win crushed by a disastrous triple bogey on the 18th. After finding the bushes off the tee, the American decided to try and play against a drop, but his escape shot only reached one meter.
The American’s misery was compounded when his next shot fell into the water as Kim parried to add some sparkle to what had been a hard-fought final day.
“When you have a two stroke lead and a guy like Patrick is coming at you, no lead is safe,” Kim said.
“I just stayed very patient. I played my game plan and I got really lucky on the last hole. Patrick has played so well this week and I have been really lucky.”
It marks Cantlay’s third runner-up finish in five starts at the event.
“After it was out there in the bush for a bit, I thought the only chance I had to stay in the tournament was to try and get it back into the fairway,” he told reporters.
“I played well all week for the most part, with one bad swing at the end. Of course I would have liked to close the deal today, but sometimes that’s golf… the last hole makes the whole week a bit sour.”