By Kevin Raftery, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 8, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. — There aren’t many people in the world who have beaten a former Masters champion. There are even fewer who have beaten nine past Masters champions in one tournament.
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Now, Michigan senior Lion Kim is one of them.
After posting an even par 72 in the second round on Friday, the Lake Mary, Fla. native rounded out the weekend at 4-over, two strokes in front of two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and four strokes ahead 20-time PGA Tour Champion Davis Love III, who were his playing partners.
He also beat former Masters champions Mark O’Meara (+6), Larry Mize (+6), Tom Watson (+7), Craig Stadler (+8), Sandy Lyle (+9), Vijay Singh (+10), Ben Crenshaw (+11) and Mike Weir (+11).
“He played really well for his first Masters,” Love III said after the round. “He made some nice putts that kept him in it. He played real nice and hung in there.”
Unfortunately for Kim, his 4-over score wasn’t quite enough to make it through the weekend.
But there were several times on Friday where Kim looked like someone who belonged.
After a solid par to start off the round, Kim stuck his third shot on the 575 par 5 second hole to about six inches, tapping in for his first birdie of the day.
“That helped calm me down a little bit,” Kim said. “But I kept telling myself it’s too early to get excited — just keep plugging along and take it one hole at a time.”
And for the first time this week, Kim showed some emotion on the course.
After an errant second shot on the par 3 sixth, Kim was left with about an eight-foot putt for par — his first real test of the day.
He drained the putt, center cup, and responded with a fist pump and a wave to the crowd.
Following a bogey on the seventh hole and a birdie on the par 5 eighth hole, Kim was faced with another test for par on No. 9.
With thousands of people gathered around the 460 par four, Kim nailed a ten footer to save par and head into the second nine at one-under par for the day (35) and 3-over overall.
“I knew I that if I shot something under par on the back, I’d have a good chance of playing through the weekend,” Kim said. “I had a number in mind.”
And the opportunities were there on the back nine.
After laying up on his second shot on the par 3 13th, Kim stuck his third shot to about 10 feet.
Everybody thought the putt was going in, as the crowd gasped when the ball hung on the lip of the hole, refusing to cooperate. Kim stared in disbelief before tapping in for par.
Kim barely missed birdie putts on No. 14 and 15 as well, before draining a seven foot tester for par on No. 16.
And on No. 17, Kim had what was probably his best opportunity for birdie on the back nine. He got a fortunate bounce after his drive hit a tree and bounced back into the fairway — and he took advantage of it, stroking a long iron shot to inside ten feet.
But then Kim committed the cardinal sin of golf, leaving his birdie putt short by about a foot.
“He composed himself well,,” Michigan coach Andrew Sapp said. “He just couldn’t get any birdies to fall on the back nine.”
More miscues around the green followed on the 18th. With chairs lined 10 rows deep around the green and fans watching several yards behind, Kim stared down a nearly impossible 30 foot putt.
As he tried to play the severe left to right break — the ball would have to travel the shape of a horse shoe in order to be anywhere near the hole — the ball got stuck in the fringe at what would be the pinnacle of the horseshoe, leaving Kim with a 25 foot downhill slider for par.
“That putt is one we practiced all the time,” caddie Louis Laurence said. “If that putt comes off (the fringe), it comes right to the hole.
“That’s just one of those things where you play the right shot, but it just doesn’t work out.”
Kim missed the par putt by about two feet, and capped his first Masters experience with a tap-in bogey.
At the time, it appeared the putt could cost Kim a chance at playing through the weekend as the cut line hovered around 3-over, but by the end of the day, the line was at even.
“It meant everything (to play at the Masters),” Kim said. “I learned so much about myself — I learned that my game is good enough to compete out there.”
Added Sapp: “I’m convinced he can make it to the PGA Tour after watching him this week.”