After a dramatic title defense in Las Vegas, Tom Kim celebrated by heading straight back to his hotel room and treating himself to some chocolate. One of the game’s brightest rising stars, the 21-year-old South Korean phenom came out on top in a nail-biting final round duel with Adam Hadwin to retain the Shriners Children’s Open at TPC Summerlin on Sunday, edging the Canadian by a single stroke. Having shot a blistering nine-under 62 on Saturday, a final round 66 was just enough to clinch Kim the $1.512 million winner’s prize.
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Almost exactly a year on from easing to a three-shot victory at the same event , it makes Kim the first golfer to defend the Shriners Children’s Open since Jim Furyk in 1999, and the youngest to win three PGA Tour titles since Tiger Woods. Eschewing the delights of Vegas strip, instead Kim finished off a white chocolate Ferrero Rocher brought over from Europe, ordering room service and setting an alarm for 3 a.m. to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight home.
“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,” Kim told reporters. “I stay five minutes from the course where it’s really quiet and it’s really nice. Back-to-back is great, so Summerlin and I are bonded very well. “Hopefully it’s nice to me again next year, as well.”
Sunday’s success moves Kim, who clinched his maiden PGA Tour title at the Wyndham Championship in August 2022 , up five places to a career-high world No. 11 ranking.
The South Korean has enjoyed a meteoric rise since turning pro in 2018, adding stellar major performances to his resume this season. Having not placed inside the top-20 at a major before 2023, Kim came tied-16th at The Masters, improved to tied-eighth at the US Open before finishing joint-runner up behind Brian Harman at the Open Championship in July. It has further consolidated his status among golf’s most exciting young talents, a position that took on a special significance in Las Vegas. Shriners hospitals treat children for certain conditions at no charge regardless of their families’ ability to pay.
“I think because it’s sponsored by Shriners Children’s that’s even more special,” Kim said. “Certainly because I’m 21, I’m not the oldest guy out here, and the kids here are even younger than me. I feel like I’m kind of close in age with them, and if there’s anything I can do just to inspire one kid out there, it would mean the world. “They inspired me so much at the start of the week.
I’m just really glad that I kept the trophy in my hands this year again.”
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World No. 46 Hadwin had looked on course for a second PGA Tour title before disaster struck at the par-five 16th hole, his approach shot splashing into the water. The 35-year-old limited the damage with a bogey, but with Kim going unblemished through the back-nine, even a closing birdie was not enough to reel in the South Korean.
“I completely whiffed it, up and out of it, and unfortunately one of my worst swings of the day at the least opportune time,” Hadwin told reporters. “Tom is just so steady … fairways and greens, he never gets out of rhythm, out of pace. Five-under was seemingly the absolute worst he would have shot today.
I knew it was going to take a good round to compete and to win.”
Meanwhile, Lexi Thompson came close to becoming the first woman to make the cut at a PGA Tour event in 78 years, falling three strokes short of moving on to the the Shriners Children’s Open’s weekend rounds. The 11-time LPGA Tour winner teed off as just the seventh woman ever to compete in a PGA Tour tournament , looking to follow in the footsteps of US compatriot Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who made two cuts in 1945.
After opening with a two-over 73, Thompson roared back Friday with a much-improved showing to shoot 69, but saw her hopes of making the weekend dented by two costly bogeys across the final five holes. “It’s an amazing feeling not only to have my parents out here to support me but just to be able to come here and follow my dreams is something I have wanted to do since playing against my brothers growing up,” Thompson told reporters Friday. “All the guys were so welcoming.
It’s the best feeling just seeing the amount of kids out there screaming ‘Lexi, Lexi, go Lexi’. It makes me tear up sometimes because that is what I play for, to inspire these little kids. “No added pressure. Of course it was a goal making the cut but I knew I had to play my A-game.”
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