Korea’s Sungjae Im secured solo third place at the BMW Championship on Sunday to qualify for his third successive TOUR Championship as compatriot K.H. Lee suffered a final-hole mishap which dashed his dream of getting into the FedExCup Playoffs Finale.
Im fired a workman-like 5-under 67 to finish four shots behind the playoff duo of Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau at Caves Valley Golf Club, with Cantlay driving off with his third title of the season and fifth career PGA TOUR win by prevailing with a birdie on the sixth extra hole following a breath-taking battle.
The 24-year-old Im, who was chasing his second PGA TOUR victory, will now head to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta in 12th position on the FedExCup standings. Through the staggered-start format, the Korean star will begin the first round at 3-under, seven shots behind Cantlay who starts at 10-under by virtue of being the new FedExCup leader in the elite 30-man field starting Thursday.
Lee agonizingly bogeyed the 18th hole from the middle of the fairway en route to a 67 and a share of 12th position. It left him in 31st place on the FedExCup standings, one shy of getting into the TOUR Championship. Needing a par at the last, the 29-year-old sprayed his approach from 195 yards into a waste area and failed to get his recovery shot on the putting surface. His fourth trickled past the hole, ending hopes of getting to East Lake.
A closing 66 by Si Woo Kim for a share of 29th position saw him end his season in 34th on the FedExCup. He needed a top-15 finish to extend his season while Japan’s Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama qualified for his eighth straight TOUR Championship despite finishing tied 46th at Caves Valley. He will start the Playoffs Finale in 22nd place.
Im was delighted with his fifth top-10 of the season, especially after finding his range with the flatsick. He ranked fourth in Strokes Gained: Putting and gained 6.15 strokes over the field on the greens.
“The last couple tournaments, my putting was not right, but this week my putter improved. So this week I feel – compared to other tournaments, I feel comfortable to play,” said Im.
For the second straight day, he made crucial birdies on 17 and 18 from 10 and five feet respectively which helped secure solo third ahead of Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
“When I got to 17 and 18, my feeling was so comfortable. I played a little bit aggressive there,” said Im, who made six birdies on the day all from inside of 12 feet.
After starting the final round tied for the lead, Cantlay and DeChambeau fought toe-to-toe and were still locked on 27-under 261 following matching 66s in the final round which had the fans in raptures. It took six additional holes for Cantlay to become the first player this season to win three times, and take pole position for the season’s ultimate prize, the FedExCup.
“I’m a little tired but very happy. I played really well all week. At the beginning of the week I didn’t realize it would take that many under par to just force a playoff. But I hit a lot of good shots today, and it was just enough,” said Cantlay, who holed a 17-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for his victory.
“You know, I think the bogey save on 17 (in regulation) was a tricky little putt. Obviously not the way I wanted to play that hole, but that kept me in the golf tournament, and it was a tricky putt, and saving just a bogey there and keeping me just one shot going into 18, that was a really big putt. And then obviously the one on 18 in regulation. But they all mattered, I guess, the same. I needed all of them. We traded blows pretty much all day.”
Final-Round Notes – Sunday, August 29, 2021
Weather: Mostly cloudy. High of 85. Wind ENE 4-8 mph.
Patrick Cantlay 66-63-66-66—261 (-27)*
Bryson DeChambeau 68-60-67-66—261 (-27)
Sungjae Im 67-65-66-67—265 (-23)
Rory McIlroy 64-70-65-67—266 (-22)
Erik van Rooyen 67-68-67-65—267 (-21)
*won with a birdie on the sixth hole of sudden death