Kim's hot streak continues in Finland

8/1/2013 6:22:00 PM
Sihwan Kim (golfari.fi/Kai Kilappa)  (EuropeanTour)
Sihwan Kim (golfari.fi/Kai Kilappa) (EuropeanTour)
Sihwan Kim’s incredible run of form on the European Challenge Tour continued at the Finnish Challenge as the Korean carded an eight under par opening round of 64 to move into a share of the lead, alongside Sweden’s Niklas Lemke.

Kim’s runner-up finish at the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge last week, where he was leading after the second and third rounds, rounded off a stunning July for the 24 year old as he added a third top five finish in four tournaments, finishing top 20 in the other.

And the Orlando-based player’s purple patch showed no sign of slowing in August as he carded two eagles - including one at the par four sixth, where he holed out from 150 yards - and six birdies en route to a shared one-shot lead on eight under at Kytäjä Golf, in Hyvinkää near Helsinki.

“I had a great month last month and I just want to keep it going,” he said. “I’ve been playing a lot so I'm getting used to the courses out here and getting used to playing regularly, not worrying too much about how my swing looks and just trying to find something.

“The biggest difference has been my putting. I've been holing a lot more putts than any other time of the year so it’s been good. 

“I didn’t hit it too well today but I kept it near the hole and made some putts. Then I had the two at the sixth, with an eight iron, and that helped me out quite a bit. I'm getting used to seeing the ball dropping in the hole and that helps me visualise my putts so it’s a big help.”

Kim is one of many young stars to have come from the collegiate circuit in the USA and begin professional life on the Challenge Tour. Having watched the likes of Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein make the breakthrough onto The European Tour this year, the former Stanford University man is even more determined to make his mark in 2013.

“I see those guys with their names pretty high up on the leaderboard on The European Tour and it definitely motivates me to push a little harder,” said Kim. “It’s just good to see my buddies play at that level too.”

Lemke joined Kim at the summit much later in the day as he also signed for an eight under par round. The 29 year old racked up eight birdies without dropping a single shot, but he admitted afterwards that he had not even played to the best of his ability.

“I played pretty good from the start but to be honest I never really hit it great,” said the Gothenburg man, who claimed his first top ten of the Challenge Tour season at the Mugello Tuscany Open two weeks ago. “I just putted well and everything just seemed to work out for me.

“It was nice to get one of those rounds where everything goes your way. My game has been going in the right direction in recent weeks, I think it was just work paying off and I am looking forward to the rest of the week.”

On a day of low scoring in benign and soft conditions at the beautiful Kytäjä Golf, Challenge Tour debutant Brandon Stone was among the five players just a shot off the lead on seven under par.

The South African, who is widely tipped for big things after an impressive college career in the USA, got his first appearance on the tour off to a perfect start as he opened with three birdies on the trot.

The 20 year old carded four more birdies in a bogey-free round of 65 to move into tied second place, alongside Englishman Tyrrell Hatton - who also signed for a flawless seven under par round - Welshman Stuart Manley, Scotland’s Duncan Stewart and Jens Fahrbring of Sweden.

 “It was really good today,” said Stone. “The weather was perfect so the way the course was set up in the morning and with the rain, it made the iron play just target practice early on. I felt like I was swinging nicely and made some really good putts early on which gave me some momentum and a few birdies.

“There’s a lot to play for this week for me. That’s the reason this tour is so good, the players are phenomenal and they grind through the good and bad weather. It’s a bit of an adjustment for me having to play with some many good players.”