Kim romps to Illinois Women's Open victory

Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Here’s how Hannah Kim goes about her business: Head down. Ignorant of scoreboards. Talking about everything but golf with her caddie.

Oh, and making a crazy amount of birdies when her game is on, as it was this week at Mistwood Golf Club.

Kim’s 5-under-par 67 in the final round, following rounds of 68 and 65, brought her a six-stroke victory and a scoring record in the 24th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open. The Santa Ana, Calif., total of 16-under-par 200 obliterated the previous record by seven strokes and allowed her to coast to a six-stroke victory over amateur Tristyn Nowlin – who actually surpassed the old mark, held jointly by Annika Welander and Stephanie Miller, about 30 seconds before Kim sank her winning putt.

For Kim, the outcome was not too shabby for someone in her third start as a professional, following the Ohio Open and California Open. Not that Kim had any idea records were falling like autumn leaves, either.

“I was really trying not to look (at the scoreboards),” Kim said. “I was glad my friend Kylie was along. We talked about random stuff, like what’s my favorite food.”

Over the ball, Kim was all business. She plundered Mistwood for 17 birdies in 54 holes, had only one bogey – on the seventh hole in the first round, making her last 47 holes bogey-free – and nearly aced the par-3 17th in the final round, dropping a 7-iron two feet behind the cup from 133 yards. That set up birdie No. 17.

Kim tied for third two years ago and was second last year. Now she’s won, and collected $5,000 from the $25,000 purse for doing so. She’s 26-under-par in nine rounds on a golf course that isn’t easy, unless you play like she did.

Nowlin’s aggregate of 206 would have won every other Illinois Women’s Open, but the Richmond, Ky., resident – entering her senior year on Illinois’ golf team – could only match Kim’s 67 in the final round and thus settled for low amateur honors. She needed a 60 thanks to Kim, who never wandered into Mistwood’s ever-present fescue. Considering everything, Nowlin was cool with her second runner-up playing of the summer at Mistwood. She was also second in the Women’s Western Amateur.

“This was my last tournament of the summer, so it feels good to end it like this,” Nowlin said. “We were just out there having fun. If somebody’s making putts, I’m not going to affect them or left them affect me.”

Sarah Burnham of Maple Grove, Minn., took third, with a 4-under 68 for 6-under 210. Like Kim, Burnham recently turned pro after earning Big Ten player of the year honors at Michigan State.

LPGA veteran Nicole Jeray of Berwyn was fourth following a 1-under 71 for 4-under 212. She made two early birdies, bogeyed the par-3 seventh, and parred in.

Defending champion Alexandra Farnsworth of Nashville, and Vanderbilt University, tied for sixth, scoring 3-over 75 for 1-under 215 despite tendinitis in her right wrist.

Around Mistwood

Bobbi Stricker was a surprise late withdrawal in the morning. That dropped the final field to 29 players. Had she withdrawn on Tuesday, before the final pairings were made, the four players who tied at 8-over 152 would have been tied for 30th, rather then 31st, and made the final round. Instead, pros Allison Finney and Stacey Miller and amateurs Nikki Marquardt and Reena Sulkar were on the outside looking in. ... The final round scoring average was 74.966.

Tim Cronin


Kim leads by 6 in Illinois Women's Open

Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hannah Kim tied for third in the Illinois Women’s Open two years ago.

She was solo second last year.

She leads by six strokes at Mistwood Golf Club going into the final round of the 24th edition.

Detect a trend?

Kim, recently graduated from Northwestern and newly professional, matched the tournament and women’s course record with a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 on Tuesday. That earned her a 36-hole record total of 11-under 133, three strokes better than the old mark established by Sara Brown and Jenna Pearson in 2006.

“It’s the same as yesterday, just hitting one shot at a time,” Kim said. “I wasn’t paying attention to how many birdies I was getting. I just wanted to finish.

“I keep it simple. I sing a song. If I hit a good shot, I hit a good shot. If I hit a bad one, I’ll just walk up to it and hit another good one. There’s really not much to it.”

Kim’s musical tastes run to Christian music, so she had Tauren Wells in her ears while warming up Tuesday. That inspired her to birdie the first two holes by rolling in 30-foot-plus putts from the fringe.

“Unexpected,” Kim said of those. “I was really surprised with that. It was a weird start.”

Kim has birdied 11 of her last 27 holes, including a converting a 7-iron to five feet on the par-3 17th, and had only one bogey in 36.

That’s brought her a commanding lead entering the final round. Chasing is amateur Tristyn Nowlin of Richmond, Ky., the runner-up in the recent Women’s Western Amateur at Mistwood. She added a 4-under 68 to her opening 71 and is solo second at 5-under 139.

“I hit a lot of greens and hit a few putts,” Nowlin said. “Minimized mistakes, mainly. The main thing for me is to stay relaxed.”

Lexi Harkins of Crystal Lake and Samantha Postillion of Burr Ridge share third place at 4-under 140, with two-time winner Nicole Jeray fifth at 3-under 141 after a second-round 73.

“I couldn’t have shot 65 today,” Jeray said, glancing at the scoreboard. “I could have shot 69.”

A pair of three-putts, a missed up-and-down and a return of a swing that occasionally fires balls to the left for no apparent reason accounted for the 73, she explained.

“I’m playing way better than I have been, so I’m happy about that,” Jeray said. “But when I stuck it close, I didn’t make the birdies.”

Around Mistwood

Kim and the other pros are bidding to become the first professional to win since Emily Collins in 2014. ... Bobbi Stricker scored 3-over 75 with a birdie at the last to play the first 36 holes in 7-over 151 to make the cut on the number. Daddy caddie Steve Stricker gave her a solid read on the 8-footer she sank on the 18th. “I’m doing all right,” Steve said of his push-the-cart caddie duties. He may play in the Canadian Open next week, and plans to concentrate on the PGA Tour in an effort to make the playoffs rather than cavort on the Champions Tour. ... Defending champion Alexandra Farnsworth added a 71 to her opening 72 and is tied for seventh at 1-under 143. ... Mokena’s Brianne Bolden is the low high-school player after a 71 for even-par 144. ... Allison Finney of Winnetka was in line to make the cut until a bogey at the par-3 17th. She finished at 8-over 152, a stroke above the trim to the low 30 and ties.

Tim Cronin


Four-way tie in Illinois Women's Open

IG 2018/ 7/16 Illinois Women’s Open R1 Gamer


Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Monday, July 16, 2018

There’s not much elbow room at the top in the Illinois Women’s Open. Not with a four-way tie for the lead at 4-under-par 68, with three newly-minted pros and a veteran campaigner the protagonists.

Meet the leaders after one round of the 24th edition at Mistwood Golf Club:

• Lexi Harkins of Crystal Lake, just graduated from Wisconsin after spending three years at North Carolina, and the winner of the 2014 Illinois Amateur;

• Hannah Kim, just graduated from Northwestern after four distinguished years with the Wildcats;

• Sarah Burnham, just graduated from Michigan State, where she was the Big Ten player of the year;

• and Nicole Jeray, a two-time IWO winner who is doing more teaching than playing these days, but put together a bogey-free round and held the lead along until Burnham, Kim and Harkins joined her at the top.

They have a three-stroke advantage of a trio at 1-under 71: Grace Kil, Jenna Peters and amateur Tristyn Nowlin, the runner-up in the recent Women’s Western Amateur at Mistwood. Five players, including defending champion Alexandra Farnsworth of Nashville and Vanderbilt University, are at even-par 72. The others are amateurs Angela Aung, Roshannah Gaur, Jessica Reinecke and pro Samantha Postillion.

“I’m comfortable out here,” Jeray said. “When you’re comfortable you’re more confident, and that’s very helpful. And I putted better.”

Long practice sessions with the short stick paid off in a four-birdie outburst, including a 30-footer from the collar on the par-5 18th that tumbled into the cup on the last turn. Jeray considered her birdie on the par-4 13th, a 35-footer set up by a 6-iron punch shot under the wind, as the key to the round.

“It’s fun to finally play good golf,” Jeray said. “I haven’t been playing much. So it’s been very hard to compete.”

Burnham would have been the sole leader but for a double-bogey 7 at the last. She opened with a birdie, ran three birdies together to start the back nine and tapped-in for birdie on the par-5 15th. That and more made her 6-under through 17 holes and aiming for the tournament record of 7-under 65, set by Aimee Neff in 2008. A tee shot into the trees nixed that idea.

“I hit it well today and made a couple putts,” Burnham said of her initial excursion – she played nary a practice round – around Mistwood. “I had a lot of wedges today. You have play smart and play aggressive when you can. Say, when the pins are in the middle of the greens.”

Kim said patience, along with birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16, all from within 20 feet, were the keys to her 68.

“The course got windier towards the end, so it was one shot at a time,” Kim said.

Harkins called her round “stress-free,” which is unusual at Mistwood, where fescue and water lurk at every corner, making five birdies, including the par-3s on the back, offset by one bogey.

“I like it a lot,” Harkins said of Mistwood, where she has a pair of top-10 finishes. “I was aggressive when I was within 100 yards. Same strategy tomorrow.”

Around Mistwood

Amateur Brianne Bolden of Mokena opened with a 1-over 73 which included a 9 on the par-5 15th thanks to a pair of tee balls in the water. ... Bobbi Stricker, daughter of Steve Stricker, scored 4-over 76 with dad on her bag. ... There were three withdrawals from the field of 74. ... It's the first four-way tie in the IWO through one round.

Tim Cronin


Kim dominates record-setting Deere

Writing from Silvis, Illinois

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The numbers are staggering. Four trips around TPC Deere Run in 257 strokes. Thirty birdies. Over 400 feet of putts holed. A finish at 27-under-par. An eight-stroke victory.

Consider each a record for the 48 playings of the John Deere Classic, and consider this: Michael Kim, author of all of the above, is only now finding his game after five years as a professional.

No wonder he couldn’t get back to sleep after waking up at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, finding it difficult to sleep on a five-stroke lead.

“I went on the Internet to see how to slow my heartbeat down, and everything said, ‘Take deep breaths,’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve been taking deep breaths for 30 minutes!’ ” Kim said.

That didn’t work, and watching the Wimbledon men’s final and part of the World Cup final proved only minor distractions. Instead, Kim’s mind worked overtime.

“I probably went through a million different scenarios,” Kim said. “Making birdies out of the gate, losing the lead after a few holes. It wasn’t all confidence with the season I’ve had. It would have been weird if I was 100 percent confident.”

Kim, who turned 25 on Saturday, had made the cut in only eight of 22 previous starts this season. Now, by virtue of steamrolling the field, he was off to Carnoustie for the British Open, will get an invitation to next year’s Masters, has an exemption through the 2019-20 season on the PGA Tour, and is a lock for at least the first tournament in this year’s playoffs.

Not bad for a South Korean-born American who grew up in San Diego watching Tiger Woods win week after week on television.

“As a kid you don’t really know how hard that is, how much work that takes,” Kim said. “To be sitting here with the trophy, I’m at a loss for words.

“I think I made the right career choice.”

Bronson Burgoon (closing 69), Joel Dahmen (65), Francesco Molinari (64) and Sam Ryder (66) deadlocked for second at 19-under 265. That would have won 10 of the previous 18 tournaments at Deere Run. Instead, Kim’s nine-stroke victory matched the total margin of victory for the previous 10 John Deere Classics.

Said Burgoon, who played with Kim, “He just was rolling them in from everywhere and hit a couple of really good iron shots. He did what he had to do. Going into the back nine, unless he had a torrential meltdown, we were all playing for second.”

A recent coaching change has Kim hitting more fairways than before – 46 of 56 this week – and his new mental trigger for putting is worth a about million bucks: the $1,044,000 he earned for winning. That’s 

The most settling factor for Kim on Sunday was one of the first he considered: making birdies out of the gate. He birdied the first three holes – a run of seven straight adding him his final four holes on Saturday – and stretched his lead to an eventual nine strokes at mid-round.

“I expected a lot of the guys like Harold and Francesco and Matt and Bronson – they weren’t going to just let me ease my way into the trophy,” Kim said. “I felt I needed to make birdies on the front nine just to show I’m still playing well. Seeing that ball drop on No. 1 for birdie was great. To see it drop (on No. 2) really, really calmed me down. On 3, I don’t know. As soon as I lined it up it felt like it was going to go in.”

The putts went in from 12, 15 and 24 feet, and like that, he was 25-under and threatening Steve Stricker’s record of 26-under 258, set in 2010. He matched it with a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and surpassed it with a 20-foot putt for a deuce on the par-3 16th.

After that one, he cupped his left hand to his ear to better enjoy the cheers of the crowd, one which usually enjoys a battle down the stretch but this time roared for a rout.

“Did Patrick Reed do something like that at the Ryder Cup? I felt I got it from him,” Kim said. “Once I got past 15, I felt I could do whatever the last three holes and still get away with the trophy. I think I got a little excited.”

Hardy finishes with a run

Nick Hardy came into the final round stuck in 55th place, having played the first 54 holes in 5-under-par 208. That’s good but not great.

Sunday, he fired a 5-under-par 66, including seven birdies in the last 10 holes, which jumped him to 43rd on 10-under 274, a spot he shared with, among others, former Illinois teammate Dylan Meyer and fellow alum Steve Stricker. It also earned him $18,096.

It could have been better. He missed a 23-inch par putt on the second hole and later bladed a wedge. Fix those two shots and the payday is around $36,000.

“Obviously I had stuff out there that doesn’t happen too much,” Meyer said. “I tried to keep a good attitude and finish as well as I could. I put together a really good final 10 holes, which feels good.”

Hardy is six weeks into a pro career that started at the Rust-Oleum Championship. So far, he’s made the cut in all four tournaments – two on the web. com Tour – and earned $36,951. That’s promising, but guarantees nothing. After Monday’s Rockford Pro-Am, that’s what his schedule has on it. Nothing.

“I’ve played well the past four tournaments but I haven’t played as well as I could,” Hardy said. “This last 10 holes, moving on to the rest of the summer, is going to give me some confidence for sure.”

Around Deere Run

The field averaged 68.254 strokes on Sunday and 69.185 for the week. The 64s of Molinari and local favorite Zach Johnson were the rounds of the day. ... Steve Stricker, after his 67 for 274 on Sunday, will take three days off and root for his daughter Bobbi in the Illinois Women’s Open at Mistwood Golf Club. ... Burgoon on his plans for the trip to Carnoustie: “I’m going to have a glass of red wine and I’m going to pass out.” ... Kim ran his career earnings to $3,008,729 on the PGA Tour, plus $318,637 on his Tour play.

Tim Cronin


Kim up 5 on Burgoon in John Deere Classic

Writing from Silvis, Illinois

Friday, July 14, 2018

Birthday boy Michael Kim, the leader of the 48th John Deere Classic through 54 holes, said Friday he doesn’t mind delays. He’s loving this stop-and-start weekend so far. Some 3.1 inches of rain at the course has not only given him extra chances to warm up on the range, but has made the greens softer than usual. Think lawn darts.

He did, making birdies on five of his last six holes – including the last four, played after the final delay of the day – on his 25th birthday to race to a five-stroke lead over Brunson Burgoon going into the final round. Only a handful of the gallery of perhaps 12,500 remained when the last four birdies fell, but they were big.

Kim fired his second straight 7-under 64 to go with an opening 63 and stands at 22-under 191 entering Sunday’s finale at TPC Deere Run. Burgoon’s 5-under 66 for 17-under 199 seemed almost shabby by comparison, but it got him to solo second in front of Matt Jones (66 for 16-under 200), Harold Varner III (66 for 15-under 201) and Andres Romero and Sam Ryder (14-under 202).

Such an advantage might make some players nervous, but Kim seems cool about it all.

“Try and stay aggressive, stick to the game plan,” Kim said. “It’s been working so far. I’ve got a decent-sized lead but a lot can happen in 18 holes.”

There have been 21 first-time PGA Tour winners in the first 47 playings of the Deere, and Kim’s in a prime spot to become No. 22.

Of those close behind, Romero, the Argentine who stands nine back after a 7-under 64, may have the most motivation to win beyond the thrill of it all. In 2007, Romero shot a final-round 67 in the British Open at Carnoustie and missed the Padraig Harrington-Sergio Garcia playoff by a stroke – with a double-bogey, bogey finish, blowing a two-stroke lead after 70 holes despite a 10-birdie day.

“I always have the dream of going back to Carnoustie,” Romero said. “It’s going to be a little bit of pressure, but I think I’m going to handle it.”

He’d have to climb past Burgoon, Jones and Varner before he got to Kim, and there’s no reason to think Kim, whose new mental putting mantra has seen him make 25 birdies and sink a football field worth of putts (371 feet 6 inches) so far this week – including a curling 10-footer at the last for his final birdie of eight in the round – is going to back up. The others may feel like Sisyphus by the end of the tournament.

“Obviously Michael is playing pretty well, but I’m playing pretty good myself,” Burgoon said.

Kim had been average on the PGA Tour before this week, playing 254 rounds before Thursday’s career low 63. To follow that with a pair of 64s is difficult for a veteran pro, much less someone seeking his first victory on the big circuit.

“I’m just feeling more confident over my tee shots, which have been a problem for me the last couple of years,” Kim said. “Any time I feel comfortable over my tee shots I’m pretty stress-free and can have a good time out there.”

Plus there’s the putting adjustment in his head, which he hasn’t explained completely but is clearly the difference this week. He needed 27 putts in the first and third rounds and 26 in the second. That works.

Burgoon, who collected his third eagle of the week with a 3 on the par-5 second hole, finished with three straight birdies on the softened course to get to 17-under, even though he was exhausted. He had to finish his second round at 8 a.m., playing three holes before his third round tee time was delayed by the first of two thunderstorm breaks.

“I was up at 5 o’clock, Starbucks at 5:15, and off we went,” Burgoon said after finishing at about 8:20 p.m. “Glad to be done and ready to get some sleep.”

That’s a good idea for everyone.

Duncan shines

Here’s how hard it is to move through the pack at the John Deere Classic: rookie Tyler Duncan scored 8-under 63 on Saturday and moved from a tie for 46th to a tied for 13th.

“I made a few putts to get me started, and there we were,” Duncan said. “I played awesome today.”

With six birdies in his first eight holes – and a 30 on his first nine holes, Deere Run’s back nine – he was playing so well he had time to think about firing a 59.

“I knew there were a lot of chances left,” Duncan said. “I hit a couple good shots, but it played a little tough coming in.”

He finished with a bogey on the par-4 ninth, missing out of the week’s third 62.

Second Round Wrapup

Michael Kim left TPC Deere Run Friday night with a four-stroke lead on the field, but failed to save par on the 18th hole Saturday morning, missing a 7-foot putt, and took a three-stroke advantage into the third round.

Still, his 63-64–127 start matched the second-best first 36 holes in John Deere Classic annals, equaling Paul Goydos’ 15-under start in 2010 and Tim Clark’s four years ago.

Conversely, Bronson Burgoon birdied the first of the three holes he needed to play to wrap up his second round, posting a 9-under 62 for 12-under 130, making it a four-way tie for second with David Hearn, Steve Wheatcroft and Johnson Wagner. Burgoon went crazy on Friday, two eagles on his scorecard, and finished with five birdies as well in his bogey-free round.

Nick Hardy made the cut on the number – 3-under 139 – and moved on to the weekend, but NCAA champion Broc Everett went the other way, making bogeys on the 16th and 18th to fall out of the weekend with a 141 finish.

The logjam of 82 players making the cut forced the PGA Tour to institute a second cut after the third round to the low 70 players and ties. Those who don’t play the final round still make last-place money.

The field averaged 69.841 strokes in the second round, compared to the record Round 2 low of 69.061 set at Oakwood Country Club in Coal Valley in 1999.

Around Deere Run

Recent Illinois graduate Dylan Meyer scored 1-over 72 on Saturday and wasn’t happy about it. “Didn’t hit it very well,” Meyer groused. “Just kind of struggled to get it around. Didn’t make any putts. Just unfortunate I had to do it today on a very soft and gettable day.” Asked if he planned any changes, Meyer said, “I’ve got to find something or else I’m going to get run over.” He’s tied for 55th at 5-under 208. ... 

Saturday’s field average was 68.988 strokes, bringing the week’s average to 69.584 strokes. ... The four weather delays totaling 4 hours 44 minutes across two days – and there could have been a fifth, given the thunder heard at 4:15 p.m. when a storm cell rumbled by – built on a great tradition of starting and stopping in the Deere. The culmination was in 2003, when a complete rainout of the third round forced a 36-hole finish on Sunday, and more delays pushed the final 13 holes to Monday. It didn’t bother winner Vijay Singh. ... The 2009 Deere also finished with a 36-hole finale, but Steve Stricker had the trophy in his hands on Sunday night.

Tim Cronin