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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2008 > PGA Tour > Wachovia Championship > Round 4
 

WACHOVIA CHAMPIONSHIP RELATED STORIES





Anthony Kim coasts to maiden victory

There was a familiar sense of helplessness for many golfers in the final round at the Wachovia Championship on Sunday. They marveled at the swing, the skills and the mental toughness of the leader, while acknowledging they were “playing for second place.”

No, Tiger Woods didn’t make a miraculous recovery from knee surgery to defend his title at Quail Hollow Club. The players were talking about 22-year-old Anthony Kim, whose domination in a star-studded field made for Tiger-like comparisons.

Kim became the youngest winner on the PGA Tour in six years, showing off all parts of his well-honed game during a 3-under 69 to cruise to a five-shot win over Ben Curtis.

Kim broke Woods’ 72-hole tournament record by three shots with a 16-under 272 total despite two late bogeys on the difficult, tree-lined course with tricky greens.

“I looked on the 17th tee and said, ‘He’s 18-under par? Holy cow!”’ said Jason Bohn, who finished alone in third place at 10 under after a 71. “I really had to ask, ‘Am I reading that wrong?’ But I mean, take your hat off, that’s outstanding golf right there.”

The former NCAA freshman of the year at Oklahoma won’t turn 23 until next month. In a payoff from a decision to get serious about his game after a winless rookie year in 2007, Kim soaked it all in as he walked up the 18th fairway with the largest margin of victory in the tournament’s six-year history.

“That walk up 18 was the best feeling of my entire life,” Kim said. “I’ll never forget that feeling. I had chills going up and down my spine. I want to recreate that as many times as possible now, so I’m really going to work hard.”

Kim earned $1,134,000 and became the youngest winner since Sergio Garcia’s third PGA Tour title in the 2002 Mercedes Championship.

“I feel like an old man compared to him, and I’m only 36, but I’m still a lot older than him,” said Robert Allenby, whose 66 was good for only fourth place at 9 under. “But yeah, he has a lot of talent. He’s got a great swing. That’s the thing, when you’re that young, you’ve got to make the most of it because once you get a little bit older, that’s when the brain starts thinking too much, and that’s when you get in the way of yourself.”

Kim said he wasn’t as nervous as he thought he’d be when he walked to the first tee Sunday with a four-shot lead after Saturday’s 66. Unlike Garcia, who blew a six-shot lead here in 2005 and lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh, Kim got off to a great start.

He birdied the first and fifth holes to pull away from playing partner Heath Slocum, who shot a 73 and finished at 8 under.

“From the get-go he put his foot on the gas and never let off,” Slocum said. “That was very, very impressive.”

Kim reached 18 under after a birdie at 15, as his giant belt buckle reading “AK” sparkled in the bright sunshine.

He finished bogey-bogey-par, pumping his fist as his last putt dropped while lapping a field that included 18 of the world’s top 25 golfers.

“I knew my life was changing on the 18th green when I was lining that putt up,” said Kim, while wearing the winner’s blue jacket. “It was just so special. I’ll never forget that feeling. All these emotions were starting to run through and I realized what I had done and all the hard work had paid off.”

Curtis’ 65 was the best round of the day and the best final round in the tournament’s six years. None of the big names lurking near the top of the leaderboard could make Kim look over his shoulder.

Jim Furyk (7 under) and Phil Mickelson (5 under) shot 72s. Singh was out of it before he hit two tee shots in the water on No. 17 and chipped in for triple bogey. His 74 left him at 4 under.

After leaving Oklahoma following his junior year, Kim tied for second in his PGA Tour debut at the 2006 Texas Open. He earned his tour card that winter and was the youngest rookie in 2007 when he had four top-10s finishes.

But Kim didn’t come close to winning and struggled with his temper and his decision-making. He decided he had to practice more and not take as many unnecessary gambles on the course.

“I think if I had won last year my practicing would have gone down even less—and there wasn’t much to go down,” Kim joked. “I might have been playing on the Hooters Tour. It might have been the best thing for me, just to get slapped in the face and realize that I can’t win out here without practicing, giving it my all on every golf shot, every practice round.”

After three missed cuts earlier in the year, Kim played in the final group at the Verizon Heritage two weeks ago, but never threatened for the win. Things changed at Quail Hollow, where Kim finished tied for seventh behind Woods last year.

“I was an immature kid last year,” Kim said. “I feel like I’ve grown up quite a bit and I think that helped me so much this week, so much this year and hopefully in the future.”

 

 

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