American Michael Kim is headed to the British Open in Scotland this week, after winning his first PGA Tour event over the weekend with stunning dominance. Kim won the John Deere Classic by eight strokes, shooting 27-under par over four rounds at the TPC Deere Run course in Silvis, Illinois, both numbers breaking tournament records.
Along with the entry to Carnoustie, Kim earned a two-year exemption on tour after waiting a few years to earn his first win. He joined the Tour full-time in 2016, and this $1.044 million payday is by far the biggest financial windfall of his career. He posted 63-64-64-66 on the par-71 loop to distance himself from four other players who tied for second at 19-under, including recent Tour winner Francesco Molinari of Italy.
Kim took the lead in the second round and never looked back. He was one of several players were able to tame the TPC track with varying degrees of success. Overall, 49 golfers finished in double-digits under par, as mostly agreeable weather and accessible greens provided ample opportunity for low scores. Kim just did it much better than everyone else.
American Steve Wheatcroft shot 62 on Thursday to open as the first-round leader at 9-under par, although he was closely followed by Kim at 8-under. Four players were tied for third place after posting rounds of 64, and another quartet lurked in seventh place with their scorecards showing 65s. In total, 95 players broke par in the first round on the TPC Deere Run loop.
Kim built a three-stroke lead in the second round, shooting 64, as the leaderboard began to thin out a little bit behind his 15-under-par pace. However, the top was still packed with contenders: There was a four-way tie for second place at 12-under, and two more players tied at 11-under par. In total, 11 golfers were within five shots of each other at the top.
The third round was suspended and not complete until Sunday morning. But when it ended, Kim, who posted another 64 to come in at 22-under, had a five-stroke lead. Bronson Burgoon was the closest pursuer at 17-under par, followed closely by Matt Jones (16-under) and Harold Varner III (15-under). This was Kim’s tournament to lose in the final round, and he actually increased his lead with another brilliant round.
Burgoon ended up in the second-place tie with Molinari and Americans Joel Dahmen and Sam Ryder, each of them earning almost $383,000 in the process. Varner finished alone in sixth place at 18-under, one week after finishing fifth at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
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Next On The Tee: The Open Championship
The PGA Tour focus splits this week as those who have qualified for the British Open head to Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland, while the regular tour continues on to Nicholasville, Kentucky, for the Barbasol Championship. Jordan Spieth is the defending champion at the Open Championship, where the field is loaded with international stars and highly ranked players.
Several former Open winners are in the field, of course, including 2013 winner Phil Mickelson and 2014 victor Rory McIlroy. Throw in Dustin Johnson (2015), Henrik Stenson (2016), and even Tiger Woods (2000, 2005, 2006), and it’s clear this year’s British Open will be just as exciting as always.
And then there is Carnoustie itself, hosting its eighth Open Championship and first since 2007, when Ireland’s Padraig Harrington emerged victorious. However, it’s the 1999 tournament most golf fans remember most now, when France’s Jean van de Velde blew a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole to eventually lose the Claret Jug in a playoff to Scotland’s Paul Lawrie. Anything can happen at Carnoustie, and it often does.
The Carnoustie Golf Links Championship course plays 7,402 yards long and is a par 71.
Favorites: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose
Players to Watch: Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.