Kim advances; Q-School success may dictate future
Thus was the afternoon for reigning Haskins Award and Jack Nicklaus Award winner Michael Kim, clicking the refresh button on the Web.com Tour Q-School second-stage leaderboard "at least a 100 times."
Would a trio of birdies on his back nine be enough to secure a spot in the Q-School finals? Would an ill-timed bogey on No. 17 cost him dearly?
Whew. The California junior made the cut – on the number.
A 1-over 73 left Kim at even par for the four rounds at the par-72 Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, Calif., sliding himself inside the top 20 and ties to advance.
"Barely. Made it barely," said Kim, who fired rounds of 71-66-78-73. "I played really well the second day to put myself in a really good position to cruise the last two days if I played fine. But the weather turned for the worst, with rain and the wind was picking up."
After the third-round 78 left him a single shot off the pace, Kim put himself in a deeper hole by going 3 over through his first 11 holes Friday afternoon.
But then he stuck a 4-iron to 12 feet on the par-3 12th and sunk the putt.
"A ray of hope," Kim called it.
He followed with a nice wedge shot on the short par-4 13th for another birdie, and then sunk another 12-footer for birdie on the par-5 13th to get his round back to even.
He'd stumble on 17, missing a short putt to pick up bogey and cause his emotions to be a bit raw until the final putt of the round dropped.
"I could have quit after 11, but I steadied the ship," said Kim, the third-ranked golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking after a stellar summer that included a 3-0-0 record on the U.S. Walker Cup team.
"I was 30th when I finished and thought I probably didn't have much of a chance unless I got some help. The weather helped me out a bit."
Kim, playing Q-School as an amateur, has enjoyed a standout season on the pro circuit, finishing 17th at the U.S. Open – including hovering in the top 10 for much of the weekend – and picking up a 38th at the PGA Tour's Greenbrier, receiving an exemption into the tournament due to his Haskins Award.
He pointed to his U.S. Open success as to why he was going through Q-School, with his finish allowing him to skip pre-qualifying and first stage.
"It didn't conflict with my college schedule and I wanted to get the experience of Q-School," said Kim. "It's good to prepare myself for the future."
But, what if that future includes a high finish at Q-School finals in December? Would Kim consider leaving the Golden Bears early, following in the footsteps of Walker Cup teammate and former Alabama star Justin Thomas?
"It depends on how I finish and what type of card. Full (status), conditional (status) . . . a bunch of questions about that," said Kim, who will join former Cal teammate Max Homa at the finals.
"I will worry about that after final stage. It is a waste of time to think about it now.
"It'd be difficult, but I'd be happy to have that decision."