MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – AUGUST 12: Byeong Hun An of South Korea plays his shot from the seventh tee during the third round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind on August 12, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong Hun An of Korea face battles for survival in this week’s BMW Championship, the penultimate event in the FedExCup Playoffs, as they fight for prized spots in the TOUR Championship where US$18 million awaits the new FedExCup champion.

Matsuyama, 31, has qualified for the Playoffs Finale at East Lake, Atlanta for the past nine seasons which is a record for an active PGA TOUR member while a resurgent An is hoping to punch his ticket into the top-30 showpiece for the first time to put the icing on the cake following a stellar season.

Korea’s Si Woo Kim, who enters the BMW Championship in 17th place in the FedExCup standings, is virtually safe for a long-awaited return to the TOUR Championship since his rookie season in 2016 while Tom Kim, ranked 18th, is tipped to tee up in Playoffs Finale as well. Sungjae Im, who posted a runner-up finish at the TOUR Championship last season for Asia’s best ever finish FedExCup history, has work to do to get into his fifth straight TOUR Championship as he is ranked 28th entering the week in Olympia Fields, Illinois.

“I have faith that I can make it to the TOUR Championship, and I know if I play my game, I can do it. So that’s my goal. I think if I keep this good form and continue to putt like this, it’s possible,” said the 31-year-old An, who is featuring in the Playoffs for the first time since 2020.

An, who is ranked 38th in the FedExCup standings, is projected to require at least a two-way tie for 10th place to have a chance of advancing into the Playoffs Finale. A return to Olympia Fields will provide some confidence too as he finished T12 when the BMW Championship was last played at the venue. His putting has also been solid, having changed recently to the broomstick putter on the advice of Adam Scott and Si Woo Kim. “It’s a good decision to change the putter as a result,” An said.

Matsuyama, ranked 47th, brilliantly played his way into the BMW Championship after a rousing finish at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship where he made an eagle and birdie in his last three holes to squeeze into this week’s top-50 field. To extend his streak of having played in every TOUR Championship since 2014, the eight-time PGA TOUR winner needs to finish no lower than a three-way tie for fourth place and be reliant on other players’ finishes as well. In 2020, Matsuyama finished joint third at Olympia Fields.

“I’ve got to play better in order to make it to East Lake. I’m just going to give it my best shot,” said the 2021 Masters champion.

After finishing tied sixth last week, smooth-swinging Im hopes to ride on his momentum to get into the TOUR Championship in Atlanta again, which is his U.S. base. “I was in the TOUR Championship for four consecutive years, so it will be my fifth if I can get in again this year. That is my goal,” said the two-time PGA TOUR winner.

Since the inauguration of the FedExCup in 2007, the highest number of Asian golfers who have made it all the way to the TOUR Championship was three players last season when Im, Matsuyama and K.H. Lee qualified amongst the top-30. Im is counting on all four Koreans and Matsuyama to rewrite a small slice of golf history this week.

“Si Woo and Tom are kind of safe, while me and Ben are not. I hope we play well and get into the TOUR Championship together,” he said.

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