ATLANTA (AP) — Chan Kim was making a comfortable living on the Japan Golf Tour, winning eight times over five seasons at tournaments like the Japan Open and the Dunlop Phoenix. He was sixth on the Order of Merit last year, making just short of $600,000.
But when the Official World Golf Ranking revamped its system, the 33-year-old from Hawaii decided to try a full season on the Korn Ferry Tour in an attempt to earn his PGA Tour card.
It paid off in a big way over the last two weeks.
Kim, who played his college golf at Arizona State, shot 64 in the final round to win the inaugural Magnit Challenge. A week later, Kim had a 64-64 weekend to win the Albertsons Boise Open. That moved him from No. 54 to No. 2 in the points standing, and he is assured of having a PGA Tour card next year.
“Definitely means the world to me. This is what I came here to do,” said Kim, who still lives in Arizona. “I took the risk of coming over here to play instead of just playing in Japan. To achieve this goal is great. Now I'd like to finish off strong in the last three.”
Kim already has played PGA Tour Canada and the Challenge Tour in Europe. His biggest scare was after his best season in 2017 when he won three times. A back injury kept him out all of 2018, and he wondered if he had much of a future.
“I went to eight different doctors both here and in Korea and got myself back in shape,” Kim said. “And I'm just fortunate to be playing golf right now.”
A month ago, his goal was to finish in the top 60 to at least secure a spot in the final stage of Q-school this year. Now he's trying to finish atop the Korn Ferry Tour points list, which would give him full access to PGA Tour events (except for $20 million signature events), along with a spot in The Players Championship and the U.S. Open.
HOLD THOSE BALLOTS
For the last nine years, the Tour Championship would end and ballots were sent to players within the week for them to vote on player of the year and rookie of the year.
But while the FedEx Cup season is over, the year is not. Still on the schedule are seven tournaments, and while they only determine who keeps full cards and which 10 can play their way into $20 million events early in 2024, the awards will have to wait.
Ballots don't go out until after the year-ending RSM Classic in November.
It won't change the candidates for player of the year — Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland would be the leading three, and nothing that happens in the fall would change that. But the fall will determine rookie of the year. And while this isn't a voting award, still to be determined is who wins the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average.
Scheffler would seem to have that locked up at 68.629 compared with 68.777 for Rory McIlroy, who isn't playing a PGA Tour event in the fall.
David Kocher closed with a 59 in the Albertsons Boise Open on the Korn Ferry Tour and set a new standard in golf. It was the sixth sub-60 in professional golf this year, the most 59s or lower in a single season.
The others were Bryson DeChambeau (58) at LIV Golf-Greenbrier; Casey Jarvis at the Stella Artois Players Championship on the Sunshine Tour; Lauri Ruuska in the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge on the Challenge Tour; and Mac Meissner in the Lecom Suncoast Classic and Michael Feagles in the BMW Charity Pro-Am, both on the Korn Ferry.
The previous mark was five sub-60 rounds in 2017, two of those in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour (Justin Thomas at the Sony Open, Adam Hadwin at the CareerBuilder Challenge).
Scores are coming down, as they've done for 100 years. And perhaps that's best illustrated by how often golf's “magic number” has been shot over the last decade.
From 1977 through 2013, there were 20 rounds of 59 or lower in professional golf worldwide. There have been 31 sub-60 rounds in the last 10 years.
Jon Rahm got one thing right about the FedEx Cup finale. He said before the Tour Championship that someone could be No. 1 and win every tournament going into East Lake, have a bad week and finish 30th.
“And now you'll forever be known as 30th in the FedEx Cup this season,” he said.
He was the No. 4 seed, had a bad week and finished in a tie for 18th. And he will forever be known this season as the Masters champion.
Besides, it's hard to shed a tear for the Spaniard on two fronts.
He's not the only one who had a bad week at East Lake that cost him a lot of money. It was only four years ago when Patrick Cantlay was the No. 2 seed at the Tour Championship and tied for 21st. Last year, Sam Burns was the No. 5 seed and tied for 24th.
Plus, he was rewarded for his excellent play this year. Rahm was No. 1 in the FedEx Cup for the regular season, which earned him a $4 million bonus from the Comcast Business Top 10 program. He'll be OK.
SPACING BUT STILL A SLOW PACE
One upside to the small fields in the FedEx Cup playoffs is that there wasn’t a lot of waiting around. PGA Tour rules officials long have argued slow play is mainly a product of large fields. This year, the field sizes went from 70 to 50 and 30.
That didn’t mean it went quicker. Twosomes still were approaching the four-hour range, and British Open champion Brian Harman knows why.
“On some golf courses, especially this one where the greens are so fast and you’re ending up with 3- and 4-footers, it’s going to be slow,” Harman said. “It doesn’t take much to bottleneck a golf course, even in twosomes. And then with the consequences ... you get a big tournament, it’s going to happen. Unless we’re tapping in for par ... and no one taps in here.”
Speed of greens, walks from greens to tees and mostly large fields are a far bigger issue than players using AimPoint for their putts. And thus, the notion of slow play won’t go away.
“I don’t know what to do,” Harman said. “If you want golfers to play faster, the courses have to be easier. And then guys are going to shoot lower.”
Lucas Glover was the only player at East Lake this year who also completed in the first FedEx Cup postseason in 2007. The other 29 players were not even on tour then, so the FedEx Cup is all they know. ... Anna Davis and U.S. Amateur champion Nick Dunlap were among six players chosen to represent the United States in the World Amateur Team Championship in October at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. The other men were David Ford and Gordon Sargent, while Rachel Kuehn and Megan Schofill will join Davis. ... Sargent won the Mark H. McCormack Medal for having the longest stint this year as No. 1 in the world amateur ranking. The award gets him into the U.S. Open and British Open next year. ... Xander Schauffele has won, had three runner-up finishes and has yet to finish worse than a tie for seventh in his seven years playing in the Tour Championship. ... Rory McIlroy is credited with his 10th consecutive top 10 on the PGA Tour, his longest such streak. But with a raw score at East Lake — not the staggered start, such as 7 under for him — McIlroy tied for 11th at the Tour Championship.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Adam Schenk made $4,862,291 this season, more than he made in his previous five years combined on the PGA Tour.
“We know the history. That’s all the past. We want to create new memories.” — Collin Morikawa on the United States losing every Ryder Cup held in Europe since 1993.
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