S. Korean youngster Kim Joo-hyung living the dream at Masters

April 5, 2023

Even before teeing off at the Masters for the first time in his burgeoning career, South Korean golfer Kim Joo-hyung is already living the dream.

The 20-year-old, better known as Tom Kim stateside, played a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club on Monday with Tiger Woods, a 15-time major winner; Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion; and Rory McIlroy, a four-time major champion.

Kim shot to instant stardom last fall when he became the first player since Woods to win twice on the PGA Tour before turning 21, but still, his playing resume pales in comparison to the aforementioned trio.

“It was a dream come true for me, really,” Kim said at a press conference Tuesday. He will play with McIlroy and Sam Burns of the United States in the first round Thursday. “I think my first memory of just watching golf was the (2005) Masters and Tiger winning it, and for me to be able to share my first official practice round with him was a dream come true, really. And to not just play with Tiger but to have Fred Couples and Rory join us, it was a dream.”

Kim has made 10 cuts in 11 starts this season, though he hasn’t had a top-25 finish since tying for eighth at the American Express in January. Still, the affable Kim remains one of the most popular young players on the tour.

And he said he will try to build on the lessons he learned from the practice round with Tiger.

“Just the amount of work he does around the greens, it was really cool to see,” Kim said. “To pick which chip shots he was hitting and stuff like that, the positions he put himself in … he has years and years of knowledge here, some success, so I’m pretty sure there’s a reason why he’s there.”

If Kim captures the Masters on Sunday, he will become the youngest winner ever of the famed green jacket, eclipsing the record of 21 years and 104 days set by Woods in 1997. Kim turns 21 on June 21.

“That would exceed expectations for sure,” Kim said. “Everyone wants to park in the champions parking lot. Everyone wants to go to the Champions Dinner. Everyone wants to fight for it. I’m the same way and hopefully, I’ll just be able to have a chance on Sunday.”

Kim will also try to become just the second Asian to win the Masters, after Hideki Matsuyama of Japan in 2021. South Korea has produced just one major champion, with Yang Yong-eun outdueling Woods for the 2009 PGA Championship.

“Every single golfer wants to win it, but for an Asian golfer to win the Masters is going to be a lot more impactful, I feel like, because of how far this tournament is away,” Kim said. “Hopefully this week, whether it’s me or any Asian golfer, (one) will have a chance to win on Sunday and hopefully inspire the generations coming up.”