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2011-04-08

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Kim shoots first-round 76 at The Masters

Kevin Raftery/Daily
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By Kevin Raftery, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 7, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. — At the start of his first round on Thursday, Michigan senior Lion Kim stood behind the first tee at Augusta National and watched two-time Masters Champion Jose Maria Olazabal and 20-time PGA Tour Champion Davis Love III both push their drives to the right and into trouble.

The miscues of two of the PGA Tour’s best golfers left Kim unfazed.

“I was confident, there’s no question,” Kim said after the round.

Kim teed up his ball and took three steps back. He took three practice swings, pointed his club at the fairway, closing one eye to get the best possible angle of where he envisioned hitting the ball. One deep breath, and he walked up to the ball — it was the same routine at every tee box.

With the weight of the golfing world on his shoulders, he pulled the trigger and striped his drive right down the middle.

Two strokes later, Kim secured his first career birdie at the Masters after sticking a seven iron to eight feet and draining the putt, center-cup.

“It doesn’t get any better (than that),” Kim said. “It’s the best start you could ask for as an amateur.”

After one hole, the board following the 12:31 p.m. starting time group read: Kim 1-under, Love III 1-over, Olazabal 1-over.

But eventually, Kim’s inexperience caught up to him en route to a first round 4-over, 76.

“You have to learn your way around the course,” said Love III, who shot 3-over par. “I saw (Kim) do a couple things where I was just like, ‘Don’t lay up over there. Lay up on the other side of the fairway.’

“I think that experience is worth a few shots, and probably the difference for the first timers.”

Kim’s first miscue came on the fourth hole, a 240-yard par 3, when Kim yanked a hybrid club into the left bunker.

“My game plan there all week was just to try to hit the left side of the green,” Kim said, “I got greedy and overcooked it a bit.”

He hit the bunker shot to about 10 feet from the hole but couldn’t convert the putt, resulting in his first bogey of the day.

And that was just the beginning of his troubles with controlling the draw he had been practicing all week.

After taking a bogey on the sixth hole by overshooting the green on the 180-yard par 3, Kim pulled his second shot to the left again on the 570-yard par 5.

He was left with a nearly impossible third shot, having to contend with eight trees that lied between him and the green.

He muffed the shot and advanced the ball only about 10 yards, leaving him with a fourth shot from the brush.

He made a 10-foot putt to save bogey and drop to 2-over on the day.

After an impressive birdie on the 460-yard No. 9, in which he hit a long iron to land two feet from the hole, Kim’s troubles with the draw came back on the second nine.

He bogeyed the 10th hole, a par four, after hitting his second shot left of the green. And on No. 11 — the first of three holes on “Amen Corner” — he hit arguably the worst shot of his day.

After a nice drive that left him about 200 yards from the green, Kim was faced with the daunting task of hitting a hybrid into a green lined with water on the left side.

“I was not committed (to that shot),” he said. “I had to cut that shot a little bit, and I came right over it.”

The mistake left Kim’s ball in the pond, and it led Kim to his first and only double bogey of the day.

But two holes later, Kim earned a stroke back on the 510-yard, par-5 thirteenth hole with a birdie after sinking a 5-foot left-to-right putt.

He parred the next three holes, but ran into some bad luck on No. 17.

“I thought I hit a good drive, and then it hit a tree branch and just kicked way left,” Kim said.

The unfortunate break left Kim 214 yards from with two trees directly in his path, leading to his fourth and final bogey of the day.

While Kim may have been disappointed with his score, the experience today — playing in front of a national television audience and thousands of people at Augusta National — is something that can’t be given a score.

And with a solid round tomorrow — probably with a score of par or better — Kim still has a good chance of making the cut.

“It was unbelievable playing with Davis Love III and Olazabal,” he said. “Obviously, individually, I’m not pleased with how I played, but overall it was a great experience. I can’t complain.”