Kim leads Texas Open after near-miss on second ace

KIm Si Woo of Korea plays his shot from the second tee during the third round of the 2019 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio Oaks Course on April 6, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (AFP pic)

NORTH CAROLINA: South Korean Kim Si Woo almost aced the same hole for the second day running en route to a one-stroke lead over Canadian Corey Conners in the third round of the Texas Open on Saturday.

A day after holing a nine-iron from 167 yards at the par-three 16th on Friday, Kim took dead aim with a seven-iron at the same hole, which measured 190 yards on Saturday.

His ball landed a couple of yards in front of the cup and nearly went in on the second bounce before settling four feet away.

Kim threw his club into the air and placed his hands on his head upon narrowly failing to pull off what would have been an astronomically unlikely feat.

“I saw that first bounce and then right at it. I thought going in for sure this time,” Kim told Golf Channel. “Just missed it.”

He also missed the birdie putt, but made amends by sinking a birdie from similar distance at the last for a three-under-par 69 at TPC San Antonio.

Conners shot 66 to jump into second place on 14-under while American Charley Hoffman carded 64, the best round of the day, to vault within two shots of the lead on an afternoon that started rainy before clearing up by the back nine.

Kim, seeking to lead wire-to-wire, has two victories on the PGA Tour, notably the 2017 Players Championship. The 23-year-old is not the most consistent performer, but has shown he can beat anyone when on his game.

Conners has yet to win at the highest level, and is so low on the tour’s pecking order that he had to run the gauntlet of a Monday qualifier – competing for four spots – just to get into the Texas Open.

Victory on Sunday would earn him the last spot in next week’s Masters.

“I’ve managed my game really well,” Conners said.

“I’ve struck the ball really solidly and I was able to roll in a few putts today. Gave myself a ton of chances, hit a lot of quality iron shots set up by some good tee balls.”

Hoffman has four PGA Tour wins, including the 2016 Texas Open.

His 64 included seven birdies, along with an eagle at the par-five 18th, where he struck a superb three-wood from 290 yards that had an eye on the pin the entire way.

“Flushed it,” said the laid-back Californian. “It landed way softer than I anticipated. Very lucky to leave myself an uphill 10-footer.”