CHARLOTTE — If you or I happened to split our pants in a very public manner, much less twice in one week, that would likely define our image for some time to come. But in the case of Tom Kim, the 20-year-old South Korean spark plug who has emerged as a kind of high-energy typhoon for the International team at the Presidents Cup, he's been bursting at the seams in so many other ways that it becomes just one more endearing detail. In the space of three days, he's been exciting and hilarious at the same time, and has quickly become a favorite of his teammates and fans. (Journalists, too; when Digest's Joel Beall got wind of this story, he insisted on being quoted on Kim: "He is a beautiful golden retriever of a human.")
On Friday evening, in the somber aftermath of a four-ball session that saw the Internationals fall behind the Americans, 8-2, Mito Pereira, Sebastian Munoz, and Christian Bezuidenhout were asked the following question:
"For each of you, give me one guy who you really didn't know on the team, but throughout this week now, you're like, man, I like this dude. He cracks me up or something about him that's … because everyone is going to have a different guy."
As it turned out, the premise of the question was wrong, and Pereira quickly corrected the record.
"I think we'll have the same one," he said. "Tom Kim."
After a hot summer that seemed to come out of nowhere, Kim secured his PGA Tour status for next season and his spot on the Presidents Cup team with a victory at the Wyndham Championship in August. There, fans were dazzled by his Sunday 61 and entertained by the trickle of details that emerged from his life, like the fact that he chose the name "Tom" because he liked the Thomas the Tank Engine cartoon as a child. (It was almost "Buzz," due to Buzz Lightyear.) He speaks three languages, and despite the comic relief that seems to come like clockwork, he's an intense, focused player with the kind of on-course poise at a young age that invites comparisons to Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa.
At the Presidents Cup, he started his campaign with two losses, running into the Cameron Young/Morikawa and Schauffele/Cantlay freight trains on Thursday and Friday. But even amidst that tough beginning, he managed to become one of the prominent characters in Charlotte.
One underrated moment came in a pre-tournament presser, when a reporter asked him if he had taken any inspiration from Y.E. Yang's win over Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship, and whether that formula of taking down a juggernaut might have echoes in the International Team's monumental task of beating the Americans.
Kim took the air out of that narrative quickly—he said he was a Tiger fan growing up and didn't want Yang to win. Later, he added that even as a seven-year-old, he was disappointed in Yang's win because he wanted to be the first Korean to win a major. That's swagger.
There was also the detail of how much the man eats. All his teammates pinpointed Kim as the most voracious eater on the squad, and Kim himself waxed poetic about fast food in a Tour video:
Then, on Friday, he pulled a Bubba Watson on the first tee, encouraging the fans to cheer while he took his opening drive...which he promptly hit into a fairway bunker:
Probably the most fun moment of his week thus far, though, came on the 11th hole in his foursomes match Saturday morning against Sam Burns and World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler. After making a birdie putt on the 10th to square the match, he faced this eagle putt after his teammate K.H. Lee drove the green:
The fire, the passion! And leaving the ball in the hole is an instant classic in the tour-sauce genre. That put his team 1 up, and will be the lingering memory from that match and probably from the entire session. Kim went on to make a clutch par putt to go dormie on 16, and a par on 17 finished the job. That gave Kim his first Presidents Cup point, and to watch his energy light up Quail Hollow, you get the sense there will be many more.
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