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Fresh off win, Tom Kim returns to Asia for first tourney in Japan

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The Tom Kim train just keeps chugging along.

After securing his second PGA Tour win at the Shriners Children’s Open, the 20-year-old rising star wasted no time hopping on a plane to Japan for his first appearance at the Zozo Championship, which will mark his first time ever playing in the country. It’s also the first time Kim has been close to home – just a short flight away from Seoul, South Korea – in a “long time.”

“I'm excited. I've heard so many great things about it, and I'm enjoying it,” Kim said Wednesday.

Full-field tee times from the Zozo Championship

When Kim tees it up Thursday, he’ll do so as the highest-ranked Asian in the world at No. 15 after jumping Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and fellow Korean Sungjae Im in the most recent ranking.

“It was one of the big goals that I've always wanted to accomplish, even [if just] for a couple months or a few weeks,” Kim said about his move into the top 20 this week. “I know Hideki is definitely one of those where he's a legend in Asia, and I've looked up to him for a long time… To be in this spot for a little bit is honorable.”

Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club favors a player like Kim; he’s not the longest on Tour, but he makes up for that with his accuracy and dynamic approach – two skills he’ll need with the course having small greens and a variety of challenging holes.

He’s not too familiar with the course, having only played some this week, including the pro-am. Adding to the mix is a bleak forecast of constant rain and chilly temperatures; the course will be soft and play long, especially Thursday and Friday.

“I really have to strategize my way around the golf course and pick fairways,” Kim said. “For me, I've been driving -- I hit a lot of fairways. I'm just not a Rory [McIlroy] or Dustin [Johnson], so I have to pick my spots, picking the wide spots in the fairways. That's kind of my strategy. Instead of trying to hit it really hard, it's kind of just hitting my fairways and picking spots that work for me.”

Zozo 5 things: Hideki, Tiger's 82nd and Xander

Baby steps into the new season, it's time for the PGA Tour to host its lone event in Japan — the Zozo Championship. 

Since his win Sunday, Kim has had a little more time to mull over the history behind the achievement, including becoming the first player since Tiger Woods to win twice on the PGA Tour before the age of 21. Woods and Kim are the only players since World War II to achieve the feat, likening the young star to the now-46-year-old legend.

“I'm not gonna lie, the second one is a little bit more special, because you have a lot of people [who] can do it once, but can you do it twice? I feel like doing it twice has a big meaning to it.”

But two wins isn’t the end of the line for Kim, who has goals that span far beyond hoisting two trophies in two months. Those are just baby steps to the big goals, steppingstones to glory.

“I haven't achieved the goals that I've wanted yet,” Kim said, when asked about resetting goals. “The two wins and playing on the PGA Tour is just one of those steps. There [are] always alternate goals that you want to achieve, and I'm just working towards that … I'm grateful for what I have now, but I still have a lot that I want to do and I want to accomplish.”