Q-school Day 2: Whee(eeee) Kim fires 63 and moves to the head of the class
By Stephanie Wei under Q-School


20-year-old South Korean Meen Whee Kim rolled in a tricky 15-footer to save par after he pushed his 7-iron into the greenside bunker on the 9th at the Stadium Course (he started on no. 10) to cap off a bogey free nine-under 63 in the second round of PGA Tour Q-School.

Kim tied the course record and set a personal best, his lowest score in competition. Which he admitted crossed his mind as he stood over his putt for par. He said he knew what it meant, and as expected, he felt some nerves, but made the putt which wasn’t exactly the easiest in the world because of the pin placement and green contour.

Some of you may have seen the video of his swing I posted yesterday (which is re-posted below for your convenience, along with a few more), and avid readers followers know I’ve been high on the kid since coming across him at second stage in Plantation, Florida, where he shot 17-under and placed second. Long way to go, you said? Well, sure, there are six rounds at finals of Q-school, but this kid fits right in the PGA Tour.

First of all, he loves Chipotle. OK, that’s kind of an inside baseball reference, but for some reason, Tour players all — I’m generalizing but you get the point– LOVE Chipotle. After any given round at any given event, you’ll find a line of pros at the Mexican fast-food joint. It’s funny. I mean, I like it, but these guys are obsessed and practically have it for dinner every day.

Here’s the background on Kim’s career and I’ll save the most intriguing part of his story for last.

*He turned pro two years ago after the 2010 Asian Games where he won the gold. The victory came with an added perk. Korean males are required to serve the military for 22 months, with two exceptions — a handicap or serving your country in a different way, like winning a medal in the Asia Games or the Olympics.

*In 2011 Kim finished third at the Korea Open, behind world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and winner Rickie Fowler.

*Just a few months ago, Whee outlasted Kevin Na in a playoff at the Shinhan Donghae Open. He also beat out a bunch of PGA Tour players in the field, including Charlie Wi, Paul Casey, John Huh, among others.

*Heading to the U.S. for PGA Tour Q-school to earn his card was naturally the next move in his journey. He won medalist honors at first stage, and as I mentioned earlier, he was the runner-up at second stage.

*Besides playing in the now 10 rounds of Q-school, Kim had never competed in the U.S. So far, it seems to suit him, but with his game, he would be successful anywhere. Well, except perhaps the Japan Tour, which Kim told me at second stage that the courses weren’t conducive to his style of golf. He said he played in Q-school for the Japan Tour last year and missed the cut. He jokingly said the fairways were too narrow — but it’s not like he sprays it off the tee.

*Why did he decide to sign up for PGA Tour Q-school? Easy. “Last chance.” By that, he means it’s the last year that players have a direct route to the PGA Tour before the powers-that-be put into place the new system that would require guys without status to spend a year (at least) on the Tour.

*He’s also gotten good advice from veterans like K.J. Choi, who told him to go for his PGA Tour card. because “the difference between the U.S. and Korean Tour is that it’s so much different over there that I need to play the PGA Tour and it was much better all-around than the Asian Tours.”

In regards to Q-school, Choi simply said it was very difficult but gave him some tips about the courses and what to expect.

*Not only does he have a sweet swing, he’s a solid putter from *that* range. From what I’ve seen, he makes a lot of those key putts from 5-15 feet. His caddie Tom Borwick says he’s an amazing green reader (listen to our conversation while I film Whee’s swing in the video at the very bottom of the post).

*Raise your hand if you have spent a small fortune on instructional books by the game’s experts. Well, my step-dad has a pile collecting dust in the house somewhere. Growing up, I used to chuckle at the idea of guys geeking out over these books and magazines.

I mean, I’m sorry but you can’t replicate the pros moves as hard as you try. I still laugh at the thousands of people who pour over instructional manuals to improve their games. (I’m also a feel player, so looking at pictures printed on paper never really translated for me.)

Well, I’m sure many have taught themselves by reading, say, Tiger’s book, “How I Play Golf,” but how many of them have actually been able to emulate Tiger’s swing perfectly and repeatedly? So far, one.

Kim learned the game by studying Tiger’s books and watching videos of the 14-time major champ’s swing on YouTube. No joke. When he went to the range, his dad would take video, which Whee would then review as he learned to swing like Tiger.

He’s never had an instructor besides himself and a video camera. I looked at him bewildered when I asked him about it and repeated myself several times to make sure I heard him correctly.

I thought his swing was more Adam Scott or Charl Schwartzel depending on the angle of the video, but the one from the front looks identical to Tiger’s.

Sure, there are several players on Tour who never had an instructor, most notably 2012 Masters champ Bubba Watson. Thing is, you can tell Watson hasn’t. What makes Whee’s case so fascinating is that his mechanics are incredibly sound.

More golf porn:

After his round Thursday, he was asked which of Tiger’s swings did he choose to emulate. “Butch’s swing, Hank’s swing, Foley’s swing, any of them, it doesn’t matter,” Whee said jokingly. “I just like Tiger.”

How’s his putting? Oh, it’s solid. He’s an amazing green reader, apparently. Here’s more golf porn, along with a funny/fun/interesting anecdote about Whee that his caddie Tom told me while I was filming, so I recommend turning up the volume.

Well, two down, four to go. As they say, THERE’S A LOT OF GOLF LEFT.

He admits to feeling nerves and pressure because “it’s Q-school.” He aid the same thing at second stage, but managed to handle himself pretty well. And of course he’s nervous! Which is completely OK! — I’d be concerned if he weren’t.

Whee has that X-factor. If you’ve been around competitive golf your entire life, then you know what I’m talking about. All the guys at finals are really, really good, but there are a few who have “it” — difference in skill and talent is generally minimal but players like Kim have that slight edge, separating him from the rest of the pack.