Byeong Hun An has set himself a target of qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs finale, the TOUR Championship, this August and hopes to light up the International Team’s chat group along the way too with a maiden PGA TOUR victory.
The 28-year-old Korean rising star tees up at The American Express in California for the first time this week where he hopes to maintain his strong start to the 2019-20 PGA TOUR Season.
During the fall, he posted three top-10s and a T14 at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions and currently lies in 20th place on the FedExCup points list. As a late inclusion in the Presidents Cup last month, An featured in all five sessions and delivered two points in the International Team’s narrow 16-14 loss to the United States Team.
“Hopefully I can keep the momentum going from the Asian swing,” said An, who finished T6 at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in Korea, T8 at the inaugural ZOZO Championship in Japan and third at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Since playing full time on the PGA TOUR in 2017, An has flirted with qualifying for the TOUR Championship, which is exclusive to the top-30 from the FedExCup points list. His best FedExCup finish to date was 42nd place in 2017 while he was 53rd last season.
A former U.S. Amateur winner, An is hopeful a revised playing schedule will propel him to a first visit to East Lake in August. Over the last few years, he competed in the Middle East on the European Tour to begin a new year but he will feature in the West Coast over the next three weeks, including the Farmers Insurance Open and Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“It’s nice to have a good start (in fall) compared to the last two years where I didn’t play that many. I’m starting earlier in the West Coast as well and I hope to have a quick start and eventually get into the TOUR Championship … that’s my main goal this year.”
An took notice when Rory McIlroy talked about how tweaking his tournament schedule enabled the Irishman to lift the FedExCup for a second time last season. With An’s wife Jamie due to give birth to their first child next month, the Korean made the easy call to swap his travel plans.
“In the past, I would only start in Phoenix after the Middle East and I’ll be like in 100th place on the points list and it’s hard to chase the guys,” said An. “That’s why I added this week and the next two. I want to get my FedExCup ranking as high up as possible early on. I’ve been close (to the TOUR Championship) and I feel I need to play more and it seems to be working out.”
He is also fired up after watching Australia’s Cameron Smith secure a first individual PGA TOUR title at the Sony Open in Hawaii on Sunday and now dreams of emulating his International Team member. An said the International Team’s Whatsapp group chat has been buzzing recently as Adam Scott won the week after the Presidents Cup, Louis Oosthuizen came close at the South African Open (finishing second to former International teammate Branden Grace) and Jaoco Niemann contended at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
“It was incredible to see Cam win. Hopefully I can break through and win one day. Our group chat has been going crazy of late. Hopefully this week someone else can step up, hopefully me or Sungjae (Im) or someone else. It shows the Presidents Cup has helped us. The group chat is still running and it’s great,” said An.
Although the International Team came close to toppling the U.S. Team after leading into the final day’s Singles session, An believes the experience of playing for Captain Ernie Els earned him memories to last a lifetime.
“It was good because I got a late call from Ernie. I wasn’t expecting to play in all five matches which were incredible. I did lose a couple, won one and tied two matches which was fun. It was something I never experienced before and Ernie did a great job. Everyone trusted him and stuck to the game plan. No one had any say on who we wanted to play with and we just had faith in Ernie to pick the pairings. We got the points on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but lost in the end. On paper, the U.S. is a really good team and we were disappointed,” An said.
“We just didn’t play well enough in the Singles to beat them. But we showed we could play better in Foursomes and Four-Ball than previously. That’s a great takeaway from the week and it showed Ernie had the right formula. I enjoyed it as it had so much passion as we were playing as a team and not playing for ourselves. When Adam or Sungjae made a putt, I was probably happier than they were! I played for Ernie and I played for the International Team which was a difference and I guess that was why I showed the passion on the course.
“Of course I want to get back into the team … that’s another goal in two years’ time.”