SMBC Singapore Open 2020

Golf: Young Kim learns to go with flow of the game

South Korean Kim Joo-hyung is just one shot off the lead after firing a five-under 66 in the second round of the SMBC Singapore Open yesterday. At 17, he is already a winner on the Asian Tour.
South Korean Kim Joo-hyung is just one shot off the lead after firing a five-under 66 in the second round of the SMBC Singapore Open yesterday. At 17, he is already a winner on the Asian Tour. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Just a few years ago, Kim Joo-hyung was watching Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar on television.

Yesterday, the trio all had to look above them on the SMBC Singapore Open scoreboard to find the 17-year-old South Korean in joint-second, one shot behind defending champion Jazz Janewattananond.

Kim put together a blemish-free round of five-under 66 at the Serapong Course yesterday for a 133 total alongside Miguel Tabuena (65) of the Philippines.

"To be in the same field (as Rose, Stenson and Kuchar) this week is a big honour," said the Seoul native, who admitted that he is having more fun on the golf course in recent times.

He once lamented in a June 16 tweet last year that was punctuated with an emoji of a facepalm: "golf why you gotta be so hard???"

Yesterday, he said: "Golf is a very hard game. This course is very tough, but golf is a game where some weeks you play really well and golf is really easy, but there are some weeks golf is just so hard."

He made the game look effortless at times, hitting 16 of 18 greens in regulation. After sinking a birdie on the par-five 18th, he soaked in the applause from the crowd at the Sentosa Golf Club.

TWISTS AND TURNS

This course is very tough, but golf is a game where some weeks you play really well and golf is really easy, but there are some weeks golf is just so hard.

KIM JOO-HYUNG, South Korean golfer, after firing a five-under 66 to tie for second place on 133 yesterday.

"I'm just trying not to get ahead of myself," he said. "(I'm just going to) stick to the game plan, a lot of fairways and greens, and hopefully just keep playing solid and keep giving myself a chance."

He arrived at the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) event with one win and two top-10 finishes from just five starts on the Asian Tour.

In November, he became the second-youngest Asian Tour winner at 17 years and 149 days when he won the Panasonic Open India. Thailand's Chinnarat Phadungsil owns the record at 17 years and five days.

The breakthrough was a surprise to Kim himself. He said: "I've always believed that I was able to do it, I just didn't know when. And I kind of didn't know it was going to happen that fast last year, but the expectations that I have and that my team has are very high, we're just trying to take it step by step."

Kim hopes to take his career further. His other goals for the year are to qualify for the British Open and make his Major debut, get into the PGA Tour and break into the top 100 of the world golf ranking.

"I'd like to take it as far as some of these guys here, they're top 10, top 15, so I hope to be in that level soon," he said in reference to world No. 9 Rose.

If his second-round performance is anything to go by, Kim will be one to watch.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2020, with the headline 'Young Kim learns to go with flow of the game'. Print Edition | Subscribe