A bromance that could unlock Kim's fullest potential
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A bromance that could unlock Kim's fullest potential

Korean golf legend KJ Choi once coined a phrase that would become his life's mantra and drive other dreamers from his native country and across Asia to follow his trail in search of sporting greatness.

"To be the best, you've got to play with the best" was the buzz line that spurred Choi into the unknown, where he arrived in America over two decades ago to chase for a PGA Tour card and subsequently won eight titles and US$32 million in prize earnings.

YE Yang followed closely in Choi's brazen footsteps and snared Asia's first major title in 2009, and many other Koreans would ensue -- Kang Sung, Bae Sang-Moon, An Byeong-Hun, Im Sung-Jae, Kim Si-Woo and KH Lee. Along with the likes of Japanese stars Shigeki Maruyama and Hideki Matsuyama, Chinese Taipei's CT Pan and Carl Yuan of China, Asia's glory-hunters understood the necessity of going toe-to-toe with the best, while pushing their own limits and boundaries.

Now, Tom Kim, a 22-year-old rising star, is embarking on a slightly different pathway in his dream to become the world's best golfer, and it is thanks to a growing bromance with World No.1 Scottie Scheffler.

Not only is Kim battling week in, week out on the toughest professional golf circuit, he practises regularly with Scheffler, gets to pick the brain of the current dominant golfer and hangs out with the likeable American as they live four minutes apart in Dallas.

They also share the same birthdate of June 21 -- Kim turned 22 while Scheffler celebrated his 28th birthday last month -- and hold the same Christian faith which have forged their friendship. Scheffler's wife Meredith is also teaching their new-born son to address Kim as "Uncle Tom".

"It's been big. He's a really good friend," said Kim, who is already a three-time PGA Tour winner. "I've learned a lot from him, obviously not just by watching him but by asking him a lot of things and he's been so kind to be able to share some stuff. Being as good as he is, I always want to pick his brain. I talk to him a lot about the mental aspects, about how he approaches the game more than the skill aspect. I've gotten to like Scottie more as a person than a golfer. He's one of the few people that when we're at home, we still hang out and play a lot of golf together."

The friendship began to flourish at The Open Championship last summer when Kim approached Scheffler for a practice round at Royal Liverpool. While the American has proven to be ruthless on the golf course -- he has already won six times this year -- he is as nice a person as it gets and offers Kim valuable nuggets of golf information.

"We were not as close as we are now and I went up to him and asked, hey, you want to play a practice round and we were a twosome for 18 holes. Things like that, he's such a humble human being," said Kim.

"I've asked him a million questions and he's given me a million answers. One of the best advice is you have to be able to kind of go through your processes and trust what you're doing. You want to contend, and I'm a very big competitor where I want to do those things, and for him to tell anybody, like just trust your process, do what you need to do, take care of what you need to do, those things have been a help for me."

This week, Kim returns to the Genesis Scottish Open, a joint sanctioned event by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, where a solo third finish at the Renaissance Club two years ago signalled his arrival on the big stage. He was tied sixth last year and went on to finish runner-up in The Open for his best major finish to date, despite playing with torn ligaments in his ankle.

Many believe it would be a matter of time before Kim challenges Scheffler for the World No.1 position. The young Korean had his first opportunity to go head-to-head with his good friend at the Travelers Championship recently where he forced a play-off with a gutsy 72nd hole birdie before losing on the first extra hole. Kim, who led the first three rounds at Travelers, said: "After he tapped out, he said some really nice words and it meant a lot to me."

Scheffler treats Kim like his little brother, and often gives him a hard time as how siblings would. He genuinely believes Kim will be successful on Tour for a long time. "He's a great player and a great champion. I think of a guy that young already winning three times out here and being the way that he is in the Presidents Cup. He's got the right attitude to play out here for a long time."

Note: The writer is senior director, marketing & communications -- APAC for the PGA TOUR.

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