Updated October 15, 2023 - 7:33 pm
With about an hour left to play in the final round of the Shriners Children’s Open, 12 golfers were within a shot of the lead at TPC Summerlin.
Over that final stretch, count on the guy that’s been there, done that.
Tom Kim played steady golf on the back nine to successfully defend his title, shooting a final-round 66 to finish at 20-under 264, one shot better than Adam Hadwin. The dogfight finish wasn’t lost on the champion.
“It was probably the most emotional final round I’ve experienced win-wise the last year and a half,” he said.
The day started with a packed leaderboard, but Kim looked like he was going to separate quickly with birdies on three of his first four holes. But he gave two strokes back on Nos. 5 and 6 with what he called “really soft bogeys.”
“I kind of told myself it was fine because there were plenty of birdie opportunities. I knew if I just stuck to my own game, really didn’t want to force anything,” he said.
Pressure came from many directions, but Kim said he felt when he got to the 14th hole, it became more of a match-play situation with Hadwin.
“It was just him and me. It was whether I wanted it or he wants it, and we both just see what happens,” he said.
Hadwin’s chances slipped away when his second shot failed to clear the front pond on the par-5 16th, the second-easiest hole on the course for the week. It led to a bogey and left him two behind Kim with two to play.
“Finishing second on tour is never a terrible thing, obviously. Would like one swing back? For sure. But a couple putts drop here or there, and I’m right there,” said Hadwin, who had a top-10 finish in this event last year as well.
The other contenders all got close but couldn’t capitalize on the closing holes. J.T. Poston, Eric Cole, Alex Noren and Taylor Pendrith all finished at 18 under, while six others were another shot back.
The win makes Kim the fourth player to successfully defend a PGA Tour title this season, joining a heavyweight list that includes Rory McIlroy (CJ Cup), Scottie Scheffler (Phoenix) and Max Homa (Fortinet).
Kim embraced the idea of defending his title throughout the week, making Las Vegas his only planned start on the fall schedule. Part of that came from the desire to win again, and part from his inability to even attempt a repeat earlier this year at the Wyndham Championship due to an ankle injury.
“It was so hard for me to be, the week of Wyndham, to just be at home. It was so hard for me to just sit on my couch and not really be able to do anything,” he said. “It was very frustrating personally as a player because it was my first win, and I was so determined to come back to Shriners at least being healthy and at least have a chance to win as a defending champion.”
And now he gets the opportunity to do it again in 2024, something he’s already looking forward to and penciling in on his calendar.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said of returning next October. “Three-peat sounds nice.”
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.