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Shriners Children’s Open champ weighed down by expectations

Everything came easy to Tom Kim in 2022.

In a two-month stretch, he played a starring role for the International squad at the Presidents Cup and won twice on the PGA Tour, including the Shriners Children’s Open, all at age 20.

Expectations were high, but none higher than the internal ones from Kim. That’s what made his 2023 struggles difficult, he said.

“I think those two wins, I was playing my game,” he said Sunday after successfully defending at TPC Summerlin. “I wasn’t thinking about, ‘OK, I need to win this event, I need to do this.’ No, I played, and it happened. It happened very naturally. It happened very quick.

“I think by the end of last year, two wins on the PGA Tour all of a sudden, ranked 13th in the world. Suddenly you feel like you’re right there and you need to do something extra.”

That led to his early-season struggles, he said.

“I felt like I almost added a lot of pressure toward myself to perform really well this year,” he said. “But really it’s been a very big learning curve for me, and it’s very humbling to be able to experience what I’ve experienced this year. That’s why I feel like this third one is even sweeter.”

Struggles, of course, are relative. With his win Sunday, Kim is at a personal-best of 11th in the world rankings and joined Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen and Horton Smith as the only men with three PGA Tour victories at his age.

And many more to come, said Adam Hadwin, who finished second and had a close-up view of Kim for the final round in Las Vegas.

“Tom is just so steady,” Hadwin said. “Fairways and greens. He never gets out of rhythm, out of pace.”

Ticking clock

Four events remain in the PGA Tour season, and a handful of Las Vegas golfers continue to have plenty to play for in the Fall Series.

Following the Shriners Children’s Open, Taylor Montgomery held his position at No. 56 in the FedEx Cup standings. Players that finish between 51 and 60 at the end of the season gain entry into the first two signature events in 2024 — Pebble Beach and Riviera — and their $20 million purses.

After a missed cut at TPC Summerlin, Doug Ghim slipped to No. 123, leaving him in a precarious position. Ghim needs to stay within the top 125 to keep his full playing privileges for 2024.

A strong week at the Shriners moved veteran Ryan Moore up 10 spots to No. 139 as he seeks to crack the 125 barrier. If Moore were to fall short, he would have limited status in 2024 based on his past champion status and finishing within the top 150. Moore said he plans on playing the final three events to try to get into the top 125.

SNGA Player of the Year

Two events remain to determine the SNGA Players of the Year, starting this week with the Las Vegas City Amateur at Las Vegas Golf Club, and the Clark County Amateur at Boulder Creek Golf Club in mid-November.

Josh Goldstein holds the top spot by a comfortable margin over Daren Johnson. Each has one win in nine starts.

Todd Roberts, who was inducted into the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame last week, has a wide lead in the Senior division thanks to four wins in 10 starts. Gary Carpendale controls the Silver division with five wins in five starts.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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