Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Korean star Tom Kim underlined his major pedigree with a career-best joint-second finish at The Open Championship on Sunday, becoming the youngest player to finish runner-up since Seve Ballesteros in 1976.

A final round 4-under 67 for the day’s joint low score at Royal Liverpool under treacherous conditions propelled the 21-year-old to back-to-back top-10s in the majors following his joint eighth at the U.S. Open last month. The late Ballesteros was 19 when he finished tied second to Johnny Miller.

Kim, who is a two-time PGA TOUR winner, was amongst a group of four players including Jon Rahm (70), Jason Day (69) and Sepp Straka (69), who finished on 7-under 277 and six shots behind champion, Brian Harman. The American cruised to a stylish victory following a closing 70 as he became only the fifth left-hander to win a major title.

There were other Asian milestones with Shubhankar Sharma finishing an impressive tied eighth after a fine bogey-free 70 to deliver India’s first ever top-10 at The Open while Korea’s Sungjae Im and Byeong Hun An, who punched his ticket to Royal Liverpool with a top-3 finish at the Genesis Scottish Open in the previous week, enjoyed career-best outings in the event by finishing T20 and T23 respectively.

Asia’s best finish at The Open remains a solo second by Chinese Taipei’s “Mr.” Lu Liang-huan in 1971.

Kim was thrilled with his strong week, especially after injuring his right left ankle following a slip in his rented home after an opening 74. “Played great this week,” he said. “It’s very, very satisfying. It (ankle) actually lasted better today. I took off my cast and it got a lot better. Obviously coming down the stretch of a major when you’re playing well, the adrenaline kind of hits. It was nice to almost forget about it a little bit, because when you’re in the moment, you don’t really think about it. I think today was probably the best it’s been out of the three days, so kind of relieved.”

The outstanding finish moved Kim up to 14th place in the FedExCup points list on the PGA TOUR with the lucrative Playoffs looming. It was his second successive top-10 following a T6 at the Genesis Scottish Open and delivered back-to-back top-10s in the majors where he was T8 at the U.S. Open last month. Kim also became the youngest since Rory McIlroy in 2010 to post back-to-back top-10s in the majors.

As hard as Kim tried, he didn’t quite get close to Harman as the Korean youngster fought to finish as high as he could in only his second Open appearance. He opened with two bogeys in the rain and winds but fought back with two birdies and one eagle to turn in 33. Two more birdies coming home ensured he eclipsed K.J. Choi’s T8 in 2007 as Korea’s previous-best finish in the Open.

“I mean, Brian was five shots ahead at the start of the day. In a major championship when you have a five-shot lead and you shoot anywhere even to under par, it’s really hard to catch,” said Kim

“I was just trying to have a good finish because I’m trying to stack up those kind of good weeks and give myself confidence again. I wasn’t trying to look at the leaderboard too much, but I think I took a glimpse after nine and I thought I was inside the top 10. But I forgot about it really quickly and kind of tried to keep my foot on the gas.”

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