Celebrate Good Times
How well did Tom Kim celebrate his Shriners win? The C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.I.O.N. Scale is back!
For our third installment of the C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.I.O.N. Scale, we're going to take a deep, incisive look at one of golf's most exciting young players, 21-year-old Tom Kim. Expectations are high, of course; this is, after all, the man who lit up the Presidents Cup with what is genuinely one of the great celebrations of the last decade. (He also split his pants, twice, and was so popular that weekend that it only made people like him more.) Is there any way his win this past weekend at the Shriners Children's Open could compare?
Here's a quick reminder of how THE C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.I.O.N. SCALE works: Using 11 different criteria, each rated from 1-10, we come up with a comprehensive score that can be used as a measure of excellence and a comparison to past and future celebrations. The criteria:
Crowd Work - When you win, are you a man of the people?
Elation - How much did you let loose?
Looper Moment - That first hug/fist bump/whatever with the caddie is so important
Emotion - You know you get MASSIVE points for tears in this one.
Body Work - Separate from elation/emotion, how good was the sheer physicality?
Relations - Family? Friends? Agents?
Awkwardness - Golf can be an awkward sport, we love it, and here we reward it
Theatrics - A catch-all category for any other BIG elements of the celebration
Interview - The victory interview; how well did they execute?
Opponent interaction - Was there respect shown to the enemy? We love respect.
N-tangibles - Anything—and everything—else
With thanks to the PGA Tour, we'll refer to this video:
Let's get cracking!
1. Crowd Work
I'm not going to lie to you good people–we're on a bit of a cold streak with dramatic conclusions to tournaments. In this case, Kim came to the final hole leading by two, and though Adam Hadwin put some pressure on him with a birdie, Kim got on in two and, as you see, left little doubt with his birdie putt that he'd make an easy par. That meant he wasn't going to get a ton of energy from the gallery, and also wasn't going to give much back. In his celebratory moment, there was almost no crowd work, and he didn't really acknowledge them much afterward, even when George Savaricas gave him an opening with "this is your kind of town." I'm not going to give him a straight zero, because I can see an argument that some of the initial fist pumps might have been intended for the people. That's unclear, though, and the rest is nonexistent. Folks, you gotta give something to the people.
Again, pretty mild here, and even in the interview Kim said it was a "long day" and a "long season." I hate to say it, but this was no Presidents Cup. You gotta love Tom Kim, but I can't give him many points here.
3. Looper Moment
Kim goes immediately to Joe Skovron, no hesitation, no distraction, but a few fist pumps then right in for a very genuine hug, with a few back pats from the looper. Skovron doesn't even have time to put the flag back in. Was it the most dramatic or theatrical hug in world history? No. But the affection was clear, and then they share a laugh a few seconds later when Skovron gives him his ball back. Watching it, you like the dynamic immediately. Solid stuff.
Obviously we're watching like hawks for tears here, but Kim was never going to give us that. He did express a certain amount of sincere relief and fatigue, sent up some gratitude to the heavens, and happiness at considering his third Tour victory. Plus, there's a bit of reflection on the down periods he experienced this season after his 2022 breakthrough. All in all, considering he never came close to losing composure, he squeezed a lot into a short interview.
5. Body Work
I'm going to start to sound like a broken record, but this was pretty much standard stuff. Kim's celebratory movements include three distinct fist pumps, but the pumps are very muted, very stationary, increasing in vigor only slightly as he builds to the finale. Solid, short movements, low range of emotion, but still emphatic. (There may have been a fourth pump; his body was blocking us out, which means the mystery will endure.) I'm going to give him points for how quickly he unleashed the first of the three pumps, just a split second after the ball drops, and how he removes his hat at the 0:08 mark with the left hand that's holding the putter, and seamlessly transitions into the bro hug with Skovron, who is himself holding a hat and flagstick in his left hand, with a towel draped over his left shoulder for added difficulty. The choreography is so automatic that they must have practiced it. Respect. (I also kind of like the way he puts his hat on at 0:33 with his head thrown back in exhaustion.)
Kim walks alone. Too young to have a wife and kids running out to him, no parents in sight, no agents. Just Kim and Skovron, holding it down in isolation in Dirty Vegas. There's something noble about that, but unfortunately the scale rules all, and we must be harsh.
As alluded to above, Kim is a smooth operator. This too was a little disappointing from the man who split his pants—twice!—at the Presidents Cup. He even knows how to do the classic "golfer talking to media" stance, with both hands on the hips. The only thing I could pick out came at 1:42, when he says the word "mid year" as "m'dear," and it made me laugh to imagine him saying "m'dear" to Savaricas. But in terms of true awkwardness, I recognize this is thin gruel.
The fist pumps, the hat thing, maybe the little high-pitched laugh at 0:31 ... that's about all we got. Again, the prevailing feeling of relief detracted from all this a little. He's killed it in this category before, but this week it's an empty tank.
Even without his best stuff, Kim is charismatic and fun. He comes off super likable, at least to me, and a muted Kim is still a good Kim. I'm not going to pretend there's a ton of great meaty content here—there's rarely enough time for that, and these interviews run to the generic—but I did lean in a little when he talked about his struggle to find his form earlier in the year. It's kind of wild to hear about the long grinding journey from a guy who is still just 21 years old, but also golf is a battle for anyone of any age, and for a guy like Kim who has the "phenom" tag on him, and is already the top-ranked player from Korea and all of Asia while simultaneously trying to break through in the American market, there's probably almost more pressure on him. You got to see a little bit of that here from a guy who is Spieth-like in an "intelligent beyond his years" way, and clearly has a great perspective. It made me want to sit down with him for a longer chat, which says something for the interview itself.
10. Opponent Interaction
We need a proper word for the facial expression that players use when they greet a defeated opponent, where they kind of close their mouth and twist it to the side, half-shake their head, and express a limited amount of sympathy but without pouring it on too thick. It's kind of the perfect conciliatory face for those moments, and I personally always associate it with Rafa Nadal. Anyway, Kim nails it here with Hadwin and his caddie, gives them a sincere moment of conversation, and really just nails it.
A few things: I liked how he had his left leg back for the final putt, like he wasn't going to deign to square up for something so short—I also do this when I don't want to believe a putt is legitimately missable, just before I miss it. I appreciated the phrase "I'm not going to lie to you" at the start of the interview. Some people hate this—"I didn't expect you to lie to me, so why would you say it?"—but as far as language quirks go, I like it as a point of emphasis. I laughed at his name being emblazoned on the scoreboard behind him during the interview, like a free graphic for TV. And finally, I enjoyed the words, "I knew that if I did me, I was going to be able to do it." You do you, Tom Kim.
Overall Score: 52/110
Final Analysis: This is our lowest score yet on the C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.I.O.N. Scale, and I almost feel bad for Kim, since the low-key ending and his own obvious fatigue helped mute the electricity we know he has in him. That said, the Scale is blind, and totally objective, and no matter what the reason, Kim didn't quite bring it. But I have a feeling we'll see him here again, and when his time comes, a guy with this much celebratory is going to bring the heat.
Previously in the series: