SOUTHPORT, England – Jordan Spieth is leading the 146th British Open at 6 under through 36 holes at Royal Birkdale. Just six shots back, though, is his former alternate-shot partner in junior golf.
Chan Kim paired with Spieth in foursomes at the 2008 Canon Cup, the AJGA’s annual Ryder Cup-style event that is now called the Wyndham Cup. Kim and Spieth beat Wesley Graham and William Sjaichudin, 3 and 2, en route to helping the West team top the East, 30-20, at The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn.
“He was an awesome partner to have for an alternate shot, obviously, for how accurate he hits it,” Kim said of Spieth. “It took the pressure off of me, so it was a good time.”
Nine years later, Kim is no longer Spieth’s teammate. Instead, the 27-year-old Kim will look to chase down the two-time major winner on the weekend at Royal Birkdale.
Kim teed off late Friday afternoon as the wind howled and heavy rain pushed through the Southport area. As players made big numbers left and right, Kim managed to best his opening-round 72 by four shots with a 2-under 68, one of just four under-par rounds in the second half of Friday’s tee times.
The rain didn’t faze Kim, who made four birdies and was bogey-free until the 13th hole. About a month and a half ago, the former Arizona State golfer played in a dust storm back home in Gilbert, Ariz. The winds were high, though there was no rain.
“But at least in the rain you can see,” Kim said.
Kim can certainly see himself contending this week. He’s a two-time winner this season on the Japan Tour. His victory at the Mizuno Open earned him his spot in this week’s Open field. Six days before that win he sectional-qualified for the U.S. Open. He missed the cut at Erin Hills, though he learned a great deal about how to manage major-championship golf courses and know when to be aggressive.
“You can pick conservative lines, you just have to be aggressive toward those target lines,” Kim said.
And so Kim will be sticking around the weekend at Royal Birkdale. And he’ll get a chance to make a run at his ol’ junior-golf buddy.
“I’ve played some junior golf with Jordan, but obviously this is a whole different stage,” Kim said. “These guys are good and if I want a chance to win then I’m going to need to make quite a few birdies. … I’m gonna give it my best.”