The South Korean made a big impression in his PGA TOUR debut, finishing his opening round at The Genesis Invitational with at 2-under 70, good enough to tie for 19th place overall. American Sam Burns leads the field at 7-under 64.
Kim’s big moment came on the par 3 16th when he used a 7-iron from 168 yards out to land mere feet from the pin. Two bounces and a short roll later, Kim had a hole-in-one for eagle and a 2021 Genesis G80.
It’s not the first time he has brought home a new Genesis in the last five months.
Last October, Kim won the 2020 Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour, earning him a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s elite field in addition to a GV80, his first Genesis vehicle. It was his only win of the 2020 season, first victory on the Korean Tour since 2018 and his fourth overall win. The following month, the 36-year old brought home a GV70 after capturing the Korean Tour’s order of merit for the 2020 season.
“The first two cars he got, he gave those to his parents and he has not decided yet on the new one,” Kim said through a translator.
Kim’s debut round on the PGA TOUR got off to a fast start, as he opened with a birdie and eagle on Nos. 10 and No. 11, respectively, to start the day. After a bogey at 14, Kim recorded his ace on No. 16 to move to 4-under through nine holes.
Countryman K.H. Lee, who finished runner-up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago, shot a 70 while Si Woo Kim, Sung Kang, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan carded 71s. Xinjun Zhang of China posted a 76.
Kim’s two eagles through the first seven holes made him the fourth player on record (since 1983) to make two eagles on the back nine at the Riviera Country Club in the same round. The others are Scott McCarron (1997), Sergio Garcia (2012) and Phil Mickelson (2017).
That momentum appeared like it might continue as he made the turn, with Kim adding another birdie on the first to move to 5-under. It was an impressive start for a player who hasn’t spent much time on the course since the Korean Tour ended in November.
“His first PGA TOUR tournament and actually he's not ready for the tournament because the Korean Tour was ended last year and he didn't prepare that much, but right now, so he kind of enjoying the round,” Kim said through a translator.
Kim’s early momentum disappeared soon after, though, as he shot a combined 4-over over the next three holes to drop back to 1-under. But he rallied late with a 13-foot birdie at the 8th, pulling him even with 15 others, including defending champion Adam Scott.
“So he started with a good eagle and made a hole-in-one, but in the middle of the game he kind of lose some score, but he came back and then he enjoy the game,” Kim said through a translator.
Kim will begin his second round at 8:19 a.m. PST on Friday.
First-Round Notes – Thursday, February 18, 2021
Weather: Sunny. High of 68. Wind NE 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph.
Sam Burns 64 (-7)
Matthew Fitzpatrick 66 (-5)
Max Homa 66 (-5)
Eight players 67 (-4)