Kim poised to capture 2nd Stroke Play title
Chan Kim of Gilbert, shot an even par 70 to take a commanding six shot lead over Takuya Fuji of Tucson and Juan Fernandez of Phoenix going into the final round of the Arizona Stroke Play Championship at TPC Scottsdale-Champions Course. Kim, who captured the title in 2008, the first year the event was at TPC Scottsdale, is eight under-par 202 through 54 holes. Both Fuji and Fernandez carded one-under 69s to move into a tie for second place. Brandon Moore of Peoria, shot a two-under 68, the low round of the day to move into a tie for fourth place with Andrew Medley of Phoenix, who posted a three-over 73 and stands at one-under for the championship.
Chris Kessler of Scottsdale, who started the day just three strokes off the pace and was the runner up to Kim in 2008, shot six-over 76 and is tied with 2008 AGA Player of the Year, Paul Welle, of Scottsdale at 1-over 211.
Kim, who breezed through the first two days of competition had a very up and down round with four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.
“It was a struggle today,” Kim said. “It was an emotional round. On the front nine, I had good a good birdie on four and then three putted on five to give it away, but I came back and birdied six which is a tough hole, then bogeyed nine, which isn’t good on a par five.”
He finished the front nine at even-par 35.
Struggling off the tee most of the day, he drove into the right fairway bunker on the 446-yard par four 12th hole. His shot from the bunker hit the lip with the ball landing behind him in the rough. His third found the greenside bunker and he two putted for the rare double bogey.
With his lead over Kessler down to two strokes, Kim had to find his composure and not let the round get away from him.
“I was a bit worried and there were a lot of thoughts running through my head,” he said. “I knew there were some more birdie holes coming up and there was still 18 holes to play tomorrow, so that was comforting.”
Two holes later, Kim found himself in a similar predicament, this time under the lip of the bunker on the 429-yard par four. With an easier wedge shot to the green the result was a 12-footer for birdie, that he just missed, but was happy to take the par and potentially lose more ground.
The drivable 359-yard par four 15th hole could have had potential for a lead change. Kim, flew the green and landed in the hazard, but fortunately had a good lie, while Kessler in the front bunker knocked his sand wedge to within three feet.
With Kessler staring at a birdie putt, Kim says he just wanted to land the ball on the green and not have it roll back down the hill. Kessler missed his putt and Kim was able to two-putt from about 25 feet.
With Kessler’s bogey on the 16th, Kim increased his lead to three and then carded birdies on the 17th and 18th to finish the round.
“I didn’t expect to make birdies on the last two holes,” Kim said. “Just finishing even, I will take it, as long as I don’t lose strokes. Tomorrow, I just need to stay patient, the same strategy of playing conservative and be aggressive when I can. I sure would like to make a whole bunch more putts than I have the last three days, hopefully they’ll drop for me tomorrow.”
Medley, who regained his amateur status 18 months ago, said “it would take a miracle” to pull off an upset and win the championship after a disappointing round today.
“It was a circus out there today,” he said. “I don’t know where I was for the first 10 holes. I was five over after seven and didn’t know what was going on. I told myself when I was making the turn, if I could try to get a few down the stretch. It was unfortunate the start I got off with and it was nice to birdie three of the last five and to turn a really bad round into a mediocre round. If the course is set it up hard and they make it play challenging tomorrow anything can happen.”