SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Stanford senior Sihwan Kim always likes to have one swing thought during a tournament. At this week’s Gifford Collegiate Invitational at CordeValle, he’s focusing on staying “on top” of the ball. His club was falling too far under plane on the downswing, which led to inconsistent ballstriking.
Kim is getting his swing thoughts from a new instructor, Gary Gilchrist, who also teaches Yani Tseng, a three-time major winner on the LPGA, and Oklahoma State All-American Morgan Hoffmann. Kim started working with Gilchrist in late September.
“I think if I have some kind of swing thought, I feel like I hit it better,” Kim said.
Combine a new instructor and a familiar location, and you have a recipe for success. In three previous starts at CordeValle, Kim has finished first, fourth and second. He shot 68 Tuesday to move into third place, helping Stanford take a commanding lead in the team competition with one round remaining.
David Chung, the U.S. Amateur runner-up, matched Kim’s 68. Chung is making his season debut for Stanford.
Chung and Kim played in the final of the 2004 U.S. Junior at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, just 90 minutes north of CordeValle. Kim prevailed.
One player had to lose that match. But both Kim and Chung could walk away with trophies Wednesday. They led the Cardinal to a tournament-low, 7-under 348 Tuesday. Stanford is at 6-over 716 after two rounds, 11 shots ahead of host UCLA (360). USC (351) is another two shots back. Northwestern (360) is fourth at 21 over par.
Stanford closed in style, picking up four shots on UCLA on the final hole. Andrew Yun hit 5-wood to 20 feet on the par-5 18th and made the eagle putt. Chung got up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie. He hit 6-iron to 10 feet for a birdie on the previous hole, as well.
Yun and Chung played in the final foursome with UCLA’s Pontus Widegren and Pedro Figueiredo. Widegren made bogey on the final hole. Figueiredo made his second consecutive birdie, but his 77 didn’t count toward the team total.
The Gifford uses a play-six-count-five format (most college events are five-count-four). Stanford would be 10 shots ahead of USC in the traditional format, and 11 ahead of UCLA.
UCLA freshman Patrick Cantlay is at 6-under 136, and has a one-shot lead over Chung in the individual race. Cantlay, a semifinalist at this year’s U.S. Amateur, shot 69 Tuesday. Stanford’s Kim is three shots back. Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander (73) is at 1-under 141.
Norlander shared the 2007 CordeValle title with Kim, and former UCLA player James Lee.
Cantlay made birdie on his final two holes Tuesday to take the lead. He hit 7-iron to 5 feet on No. 17, then hit hybrid onto the 18th green and two-putted.
“I didn’t hit it very well today,” said Cantlay, who shot a bogey-free 67 in high winds Monday. “I definitely had to scramble.”
Stanford’s 7-under 348 was the low round of the day by three shots. The Cardinal was the only team that didn’t have to count an over-par round Tuesday.
Stanford is No. 16 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, while UCLA holds the top spot. The Cardinal have yet to play at full strength this season, though. When it has all five starters on the course, it’s likely the nation’s best team.
Chung, No. 3 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com World Rankings, is playing his first collegiate event of the season. He returned to the United States from Argentina, where last week he was represented the United States in the World Amateur Team Championship.
Chung finished ninth at the WATC. This summer he won the Porter Cup and Western Amateur, two of the nation’s top amateur events, in consecutive weeks.
“Playing well has given me a lot of confidence,” Chung said. “My memory bank is full of good thoughts.”
Kim can relate when he’s at CordeValle. Those vibes could lead to a title for the Cardinal.