With only two events remaining and the prestigious FedExCup still on the line, Korea’s Sungjae Im will be anxious to get his trademark straight-shooting game back into regular service at this week’s BMW Championship on the North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club.
The 22-year-old young gun has been misfiring in recent times, missing three cuts in his last five starts, including in the FedExCup Playoffs opener last week at THE NORTHERN TRUST.
Part of Im’s woes in recent weeks has been his inability to find fairways and greens in high percentage, a trait that has been his hallmark since he first burst onto the PGA TOUR last season with seven top-10s and a Rookie of the Year award.
When golf made its return from a three-month suspension in June, Im stood atop the FedExCup rankings following a career breakthrough win at The Honda Classic.
But some 11 weeks later, he now enters the 2019-20 season’s penultimate event in eighth place, with last week’s runaway winner Dustin Johnson in the driver’s seat in the race to the TOUR’s Ultimate Prize, the FedExCup, which comes with a US$15 million payout.
Im, one of three Asians in the field this week, will be channeling his inner competitive spirit to get his game back on track.
“When I was younger, I used to compete in a lot of tournaments. I would compete with a lot of kids my age and I think that’s when my competitiveness began,” said Im.
“Even though I won a lot as a child, I would always cry and throw a fit in the car if I finished second or third. I think that helped me get to where I am today. That’s definitely still in me.”
The Korean finished tied for 11th in this event last season, when it was played at Medinah Country Club.
This will be the first time in his young career that he will tackle Olympia Fields, an historic venue playing host to the BMW Championship for the fifth time.
With no 36-hole cut this week, Im has the perfect opportunity to find his groove again and set himself up to challenge at the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta next week, a place where he created fond memories as a rookie in 2019.
“I would like to enter the week inside the top-10 to give myself a good chance (next week),” said Im.
“I was able to enter the TOUR Championship as the only rookie last year and I finished the season 19th in the standings, so I was happy with how things finished, especially as a rookie.
“My initial goal was to finish inside the top-125, but I was able to enter the top-30, which gave me a lot of confidence and an unforgettable experience. Even a year later, the confidence has stuck with me and helped me a lot this season.
“The biggest thing is I know the course (East Lake) now. I know where to hit it, where not to miss it, so having that experience will play a big part this year.
“Hopefully I can use that to my advantage and play a little more relaxed. Of course, I would like to enter the week No. 1, but realistically, I would like to maintain my current position. I would be happy entering the week inside the top-10.”
Countryman Byeong Hun An enters the BMW Championship in 35th place on the FedExCup standings, knowing he needs a solid week to break into the top-30 and fulfill his goal of getting into his first TOUR Championship.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama also returns for another crack at the BMW title, where he was the second-round leader last year before eventually finishing third.
Ranked 18th on the FedExCup standings, he is poised to qualify for his seventh consecutive TOUR Championship appearance next week, a record which speaks highly of the five-time PGA TOUR winner.