LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tom Kim now has something in common with Byron Nelson as the only players to have won the same PGA Tour event twice in the same season.
Kim successfully defended his title Sunday in the Shriners Children’s Open when he closed with a 5-under 66 to emerge from a pack of a dozen players who had a chance in the final hour. Kim wound up winning by one shot over Adam Hadwin, who birded the final hole for a 67.
Kim now has three PGA Tour titles in the last 15 months, at 21 the youngest player since Tiger Woods in 1997 to have three tour wins.
“I really felt confident in myself,” Kim said. “I knew that if I did me I was going to be able to do it. I’m stoked to get this one.”
He won in Las Vegas a year ago, beating Patrick Cantlay in a playoff at the TPC Summerlin, when the Shiners Children’s Open was early in the season. Now, the Las Vegas event is still part of the same season because the PGA Tour goes to a calendar season starting in 2024.
Nelson won the San Francisco Open in January 1944, and the same tournament in December of 1944, both times at Harding Park.
This one was up for grabs until Kim seized control on the par-5 16th.
With an hour left in the tournament, there was a six-way tie for the lead and 12 players were separated by a single shot. The key stretch at the TPC Summerlin was holes No. 13 through No. 16, which ranked as four of the five easiest holes in the final round.
Taylor Pendrith was tied for the lead with a birdie on the 13th, but had to settle for pars the rest of that stretch. K.H. Lee made all pars.
Then, it became a two-man race between Kim and Hadwin, playing in the final group with Kim holding a one-shot advantage.
Both birdied the 13th, Hadwin with a 35-foot birdie putt that rimmed all the way around the cup before dropping. Both birdied the reachable par-4 15th, Kim with a tough up-and-down and birdie putt from 12 feet, Hadwin narrowly missing a 25-foot eagle attempt.
It turned on the par-5 16th. Kim hit to the fat of the green in two, 50 feet away for eagle. Hadwin knew he missed his shot right after contact and it came up well short and into the water. Hadwin missed a 6-foot par putt after his penalty drop, and Kim three-putted — he had to make a 5-footer on his third one — for par.
“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 said.
“I feel like you dump it in the water there on 16, and I certainly by no means gave the tournament, but I would have liked to have hit a more quality golf shot and put a little bit more pressure on Tom coming down the stretch.”
That gave Kim a two-shot lead with two to play, and he closed with solid pars. Kim finished at 20-under 264.
Eric Cole boosted his bid to be PGA Tour rookie of the year by closing with a 62 to finish two behind, along with Alex Noren (65), J.T. Poston (66) and Pendrith (67). Pendrith came into Las Vegas at No. 123 in the FedEx Cup and was projected to move to No. 90, all but assuring a full card for 2024.
Ludvig Aberg, who made his Ryder Cup debut two weeks ago, also shot 62 and tied for 13th.
Kim, born in South Korea and raised primarily in Australia, won for the first time in 2023. He had a hot run last summer that included victories in the Wyndham Championship and in Las Vegas, followed by a dynamic debut in the Presidents Cup.
But he said he felt the pressure to live up to the expectations, and it turned this year into a grind. He was a distant runner-up in the British Open, though he injured his ankle during the week that kept him from defending his title in the Wyndham Championship.
“It’s been a grind trying to figure it out,” Kim said. “My first full season, trying to live up to expectations of a great year. It’s been humbling sometimes.”
The victory moves Kim to No. 11 in the world ranking.
Isaiah Salinda, who got into Las Vegas as a Monday qualifier, had a 63-67 weekend and tied for seventh, which gets him into the next full PGA Tour event Nov. 2-5 in Mexico.
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