HOYLAKE, England — To hear Tom Kim tell it, he nearly missed out on a million-dollar payout.
After tearing ligaments in his right ankle earlier in the week, Kim considered dropping out of the Open Championship and going home. Instead, he decided to stick it out, put a cast on the ankle and keep playing.
It paid off. Kim took on the wind and rain at Royal Liverpool on Sunday and put together the best 18 holes of anyone on the course. His 4-under 67 was the best score on the day and pushed him into a tie for second place and a $1.084 million prize.
“I’m kind of glad I didn’t,” a grinning Kim said of nearly withdrawing.
After an opening round of 74, Kim was 3 over and 8 shots behind the leaders. But three straight rounds under 70 and being second in strokes gained made his unsatisfactory Thursday moot.
Kim played so well Sunday that he said he forgot about his ailing ankle. As the adrenaline rose, any pain he had subsided.
“It actually lasted better today,” Kim said. “I took off my cast and kind of saw and it actually got a lot better, which was really nice to see.”
For a 21-year-old in his first full year on the PGA Tour to become the youngest player to finish in the top two at The Open since Seve Ballesteros in 1976 is no small feat. Kim has already won twice on the PGA Tour and made a name for himself with his performance in last year’s Presidents Cup. Now he has a top-eight finish at the U.S. Open and a runner-up finish at the Open Championship to his name.
“It’s very, very satisfying,” he said. “It’s been tough at times this year. … Seeing golf courses that I haven’t been to, hitting a huge learning curve, it’s been kind of frustrating a little bit.”
Kim said the expectations he had for himself increased following his tour wins, and part of him felt like he needed to play that well all the time. Although he has struggled at times in 2023 (five missed cuts this season), he has had to keep reminding himself that the players he is facing have been doing this for a while. Not many of them were finishing this high in a major at his age.
“I really have to kind of put it into perspective and keep working hard to keep playing better,” Kim said. “I put a lot of work in this year trying to get back to that feeling of kind of contending in big events, and it’s kind of nice to see the fruits coming to life.”
As Brian Harman raised the Claret Jug on Sunday and Kim finally went home, the Georgia native, in some ways, presented a potential model for Kim. Both aren’t as long as some of the drivers on tour, but their iron play and accuracy fuel their game. A second-place finish for Kim at this tournament early in his career, as well as a tie for eighth at the Scottish Open last week, could portend well for his future at any links course.