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Birthday boy Kim stays on track for career fourth win at Travelers Championship

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Birthday boy Kim stays on track for career fourth win at Travelers Championship
Tom Kim
Getty Images

Korea's Tom Kim celebrated his 22nd birthday in style by firing a 5-under 65 and remaining bogey-free for a second straight day at the $20-million Travelers Championship to retain his overnight two-stroke lead on Friday.

Seeking a fourth PGA Tour victory, the ultra-talented Kim continued his impressive form at TPC River Highlands to reach a career-low 36-hole score of 13-under 127 as he kept his nose ahead of close friend and World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (64), Collin Morikawa (63) and Akshay Bhatia (65), who sit in tied second place on 129.

Compatriot Sungjae Im hit a 64 to move up to tied sixth on nine-under, four back, in what is the eighth and final Signature event of the 2024 PGA Tour season.

"I've been playing really, really solid. It's not about this week, it's about keep building these momentum blocks for the rest of the season," explained Kim, who is competing in his eighth successive week on Tour.

His round was highlighted by five birdies over his first 10 holes, before his game cooled off down the home stretch. Not only was Kim's ball-striking laser-like where he missed only one fairway and one green, his putting was equally impressive where he nailed three birdie putts from between 13 to 16 feet. If Kim secures victory on Sunday, he will become the first Asian winner in the tournament's history, eclipsing K.J. Choi’s joint runner-up finish in 2014.

He attributed his strong run of form to the extra time spent on the range, even after his sublime first-round performance where he fired a season’s low of 62. "I'm a guy where I feel like if I'm kind of in a good spot I'll take my rest, go back. But because it's my eighth week, I just need to make sure everything's sharp and ready to go, and that range work just kind of helps keep my mind and my body in the right spot," said Kim, who was presented with a birthday cake after his round.

He is under no illusion that maintaining his advantage will be easy with the quality of the chasing pack, led by Scheffler who also celebrated his 28th birthday on Friday. After struggling for most of the season, with a tied fourth at the RBC Canadian Open being his only top-10 earlier this month, Kim stressed the importance of maintaining his form not just for this week, but for the remainder of the season with the FedExCup Playoffs looming, plus the Olympic Games and Presidents Cup on the horizon as well.

Part of Kim’s resurgence is due to his decision to start working again with a former coach. "My swing coach now is a good buddy of mine. And it was a few years back, and it was really before I got out on Tour, and just familiarity, I think. It's kind of nice to also have a guy with the same beliefs as me, have the same faith, and also at the same time just, we both kind of know each other really well, exactly what we need to do to kind of play well, and those things kind of help,” said Kim.

Compatriot Sungjae Im sparkled on Day 2, mixing seven birdies with a lone bogey for a 64 which propelled him to tied sixth place. Japan's Hideki Matsuyama carded a 69 to sit T21 at 135, while Korea's Si Woo Kim posted a 67 to tie for 24th at 136. "I think I hit some good shots overall, and I think I started off pretty well with a good mid-range putt that went in, and then I made some birdies on the holes that I needed to make birdies, and I think that's how I got to 6-under par without losing any strokes at the end," said Im, who is a two-time Tour winner.

"I am in a good position for the weekend, so I hope I can keep my focus on my game and stay on top this week."

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