Korean star Sungjae Im steps into the New Year with some very clear goals in mind and his heart contented now that he has a place to call home in the United States.
The 22-year-old Im will make his debut at this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, which features an elite 42-man field comprising of tournament winners and the top-30 finishers from last season’s FedExCup final points standings.
Since bursting onto the PGA TOUR following a successful Korn Ferry Tour campaign in 2018 where he secured two wins, Im’s career has skyrocketed and led to a breakthrough 2020 where he won The Honda Classic for his first PGA TOUR title in March.
He further stamped his mark with an outstanding runner-up finish in his first Masters Tournament appearance in November and was also a member of the International Team in the 2019 Presidents Cup where he contributed 3.5 points at Royal Melbourne.
“As it’s the first time in this event, I’m very excited to play this week. Since only winners (and the top-30) get to play here, I’m going to have to play my best and aim for a high finish.,” said Im on Tuesday.
Much of Im’s winter break was spent on settling down in his new home in Atlanta, which he picked the location due to the variety of delectable Korean restaurants within the vicinity, practice facilities at TPC Sugarloaf and connectivity from the Atlanta airport, which includes a direct flight home to Korea. Over the past three years, Im made a name for himself as a golfing nomad, having travelled from hotel to hotel with his suitcases and parents in tow.
“Since we moved to Atlanta, I spent my off season in the States. I stayed at home during Christmas since it was best to do so due to COVID-19. I also used the time to work on many areas to improve my game,” he said.
Im’s meteoric rise has earned the admiration of his peers and the sheer consistency in producing top golf every week – Im has recorded 15 top-10s and 30 top-25s from 71 starts to date – has no doubt cemented his stature on the PGA TOUR.
“I’m mostly trying to keep the flow of my game from the start of the PGA TOUR from two years ago,” said Im, who was the 2019 Rookie of the Year.
“I want to win several more tournaments this year. 2020 was good as I got my first win, and I finished second in the Masters. It was definitely a year for me. It’s very memorable.”
Im’s quest for glory at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii sees him taking on the likes of reigning FedExCup champion Dustin Johnson and defending champion Justin Thomas. Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama is the other Asian golfer in this week’s field.
After enjoying practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday, Im feels confident he can produce a good week. “If there is a lot of wind, it will give me a hard time. The course is not too long so if there are no winds, I think I can finish well,” he said.
He will remain on the world-famous holiday isle for the Sony Open in Hawaii next week before featuring in the West Coast swing, beginning with The American Express in California.
Once he is ready to take a break, Im can certainly look forward to returning to his new home base in Atlanta.