Kim, 20, continues to impress as he leads Q-School

By Rex HoggardDecember 1, 2012, 2:00 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – On his official PGA Tour profile Meen Whee Kim listed his dream foursome as Ironman, James Bond and the Terminator, which prompted his manager Andy Chong to ask about Tiger Woods, his idol and unrequited swing coach?

'Do they allow fivesomes?' the soft-spoken 20-year-old beamed.

No, at least not at PGA Tour Q-School, but then Kim already seems adrift in a dream that many outside of his inner circle couldn’t have imagined a month ago.

The square-shouldered prodigy is a stroke clear of the field and cruising to a PGA Tour card, part of an Asian invasion at this year’s Fall Classic that was at least partially sparked by the Tour’s transition to a new qualifying process which makes this week’s finale the last Q-School with direct access to the Big Leagues.

'More players from Korea tried (Q-School) because it was the last,' said Chong, pointing out that Kim will play next year in the United States even if that means he has to ply his trade on the secondary Tour.

But through three rounds at PGA West that seems about as likely as a snow storm in the Coachella Valley. He scorched the Stadium layout with a course-record tying 63 on Thursday and followed that with a 67 on Friday to move clear of the field at 18 under.

Not bad for a player who is 20 events into his professional career and in his second year at Yonsei University in Korea. But then the guy who modeled his swing frame-by-frame off of Woods’ action has been playing like his red-shirted idol of late.

Following his maiden victory at October’s Shinhan Donghae Open on the Korean Tour – a playoff bout over Tour staples Kevin Na, Paul Casey and Charlie Wi – Kim took medalist honors at the first stage of Q-School and was runner-up at second stage.

We see where this is heading, but then a third-place showing at PGA West may be underestimating Kim, who is following in the footsteps of John Huh, the only rookie on Tour this season to advance to the Tour Championship and the front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors.

For Kim, one of seven players in this week’s field from Korea, the capriciousness of final stage seems lost on him, be it via youthful sensibilities or a golf IQ that transcends his inexperience. The current consensus, however, is on the latter.

This is, after all, the same steely-eyed young man who forged his way to a gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games, an accomplishment that exempted him from pre-qualifying for this year’s Q-School, an additional hurdle that may have nixed his maiden trip to America, and Korea’s mandatory 22-months of military service.

All one needs to know about Kim’s accelerated learning curve came on Friday when he gave his unique take on the six-day Q-School slugfest that has dropped players with much more experience. When asked how he was pacing himself at final stage he flashed a toothy grin and explained, 'First two (rounds) were just practice.'

'That was the plan,” Chong said. “Mentally everybody gets drained. All you hear is six rounds, six rounds, six rounds, so to stay fresh he decided to view the first two days as practice rounds.'

It’s not surprising then that Q-School has become his personal introduction to the golf world.

Kim arrived in the United States for the first time on Oct. 15, preparing for first stage at nearby Desert Falls Country Club where Chong holds a winter clinic for Korean golfers. Since then he hasn’t stop impressing observers, and that includes Chong.

'He is so mature for his age, both on and off the golf course, and has such a subtle sense of humor,' Chong said. 'That’s what was so exciting about working with him. He’s a great talent but it’s really how he is able to absorb things so quickly.'

Yeah, like conventional wisdom that suggests 20-year-old phenoms making their first push through Q-School aren’t supposed to manhandle what was once billed as the toughest golf course in the world during the game’s most grueling tournament.

Or that his potential dream pairing, at least with Woods, is closer than he could have ever imagined. And no, Meen Whee, they don’t play fivesomes on the PGA Tour.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”