Among the youngest players ever to play in the Presidents Cup, International rookie Tom Kim has been among the brightest of stars for his team this week at Quail Hollow Club.
And under the most intense pressure he’s likely ever faced on a golf course, Kim etched his name among the most clutch performances in International team history.
The excitable 20-year-old with an effervescent personality drained a 10-foot, left-to-right bender on the 18th green to close out Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, 1-up, helping the International side stage a late-day rally to tighten things up considerably after the third day of competition.
“I had my team looking over,” Kim said. “I wanted that putt more than anything in the world.”
By winning five of the available eight points Saturday, an International team that once trailed 8-2 is now within four points of the United States, trailing 11-7 with 12 singles matches looming on Sunday.
Tom Kim and countryman Si Woo Kim waged a back-and-forth battle with Schauffele and Cantlay all afternoon Saturday, winning six holes of the 18 played, while the U.S. side won five holes, a striking contrast to the way most of the matches have transpired this week.
Tom Kim’s celebration on the 18th green wasn’t his first such celebration of the day, nor the match. In morning foursomes, Kim snaked in a 36-foot eagle putt to help him and partner K.H. Lee win the 11th hole. During his afternoon match alongside Si Woo Kim, the young Korean upstaged himself, sinking a 54-footer on 11, again for eagle, touching another of his now familiar celebrations.
“I’m trying to bring energy to the team,” Tom Kim said. “So I feel like that’s the least I can do for the team. I just want to get the crowd going. We’re on American soil, and it’s not easy for us Internationals. So I’m trying to use it as my motivation and definitely using it as my energy. I’ve thrown a lot of fist pumps. It’s amazing.”
That energy was infectious. Already in the clubhouse with a point courtesy of Sebastian Munoz and Sungjae Im, who won 3-and-2 over Tony Finau and Kevin Kisner, the Internationals flipped the final match of the day just as the Kim pairing was finishing. Adam Scott and Cam Davis posted eagle-birdie on 16 and 17 to snatch the lead from Billy Horschel and Sam Burns and take a 1-up lead into the final hole.
Scott, Davis, Horschel and Burns all threw darts at the pin on 18, and it was Davis who made his birdie after misses by the Americans to close out the match, 2-up.
“Great day for us, and a great afternoon to win that session,” Scott said. “And then for myself and Cam to win that match down the stretch, you know, it’s those moments why you work hard and see what you’ve got, and I was so impressed with Cam playing those last three holes like that.”
Davis said playing — and winning — Saturday was as exciting a moment as he’s had in golf.
“This is a dream come true to be in this scenario for me,” Davis said. “I don’t want Adam to feel old or anything, but he’s been a childhood hero of mine really right from when I started to taking golf seriously. To play with him is a dream come true. To play great golf alongside him is even better. I just, you know, can’t imagine — well, it was hard to imagine myself being in these shoes right now, and I’m loving every minute of it, because it’s been absolutely awesome.”
Elsewhere Saturday afternoon, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth have cemented themselves as the power couple in team golf play after a fourth win in as many sessions for the U.S.
After an inauspicious start — the dynamic duo lost the first hole as the second group out — Thomas and Spieth won the next three holes, added another win on the ninth and one more on the 15th to earn a 4-and-3 victory over Hideki Matsuyama and Taylor Pendrith, earning for the U.S. its fourth point as a pair in three days.
“We’ve talked about this since we were in junior golf and college golf and amateur golf,” Thomas said. “We’ve been very fortunate to where the captains have put us together. We’ve been even more fortunate that we play good golf together.”
Despite holding a four-shot advantage, U.S. team members said late Saturday they’ll be playing with plenty of fire Sunday.
“I wouldn’t pick any of their players to play against any of our players and take them by any means,” Spieth said. “You put any of our guys against any one of theirs, I’d still tell you I think our guy’s going to win. It’s one-on-one tomorrow ... and everybody will get ready to go.”
Sunday’s singles matches begin at 12:02 p.m.
12:02 p.m. - Justin Thomas (U.S.) vs. Si Woo Kim (Int’l)
12:14 p.m. - Jordan Spieth (U.S.) vs. Cam Davis (Int’l)
12:26 p.m. - Sam Burns (U.S.) vs. Hideki Matsuyama (Int’l)
12:38 p.m. - Patrick Cantlay (U.S.) vs. Adam Scott (Int’l)
12:50 p.m. - Scottie Scheffler (U.S.) vs. Sebastian Munoz (Int’l)
1:02 p.m. - Tony Finau (U.S.) vs. Taylor Pendrith (Int’l)
1:14 p.m. - Xander Schauffele (U.S.) vs. Corey Conners (Int’l)
1:26 p.m. - Cameron Young (U.S.) vs. Sungjae Im (Int’l)
1:38 p.m. - Billy Horschel (U.S.) vs. K.H. Lee (Int’l)
1:50 p.m. - Max Homa (U.S.) vs. Tom Kim (Int’l)
2:02 p.m. - Collin Morikawa (U.S.) vs. Mito Pereira (Int’l)
2:14 p.m. - Kevin Kisner (U.S.) vs. Christiaan Bezuidehout (Int’l)