Korea’s Sungjae Im is preaching patience ahead of his quest to land the PGA TOUR’s ultimate prize while compatriot Si Woo Kim believes he has nothing to lose at the FedExCup Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship this week.
Im, 25, continues to prove he belongs amongst the world’s elite by qualifying for his fifth successive appearance in the 30-man showpiece at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Last season, he finished runner-up behind Rory McIlroy for Asia’s best ever finish in the FedExCup.
“Last year, even though I was slightly at a disadvantage, I played hard until the final round. I don’t know how Scottie Scheffler will play this week but East Lake is a place where you have to be patient. I hope to play well for four days and enjoy each day rather than thinking about the title,” said Im, who has posted nine top-10s this season including T6 and 7th place finishes in the first two Playoffs event.
Si Woo is making a long-awaited second appearance following his debut as a rookie in 2016 and together with phenom Tom Kim, it is the first time in history that three Koreans are teeing up in the TOUR Championship where the FedExCup champion will be crowned on Sunday. The trio will start the first round at 2-under, and eight strokes back of top-ranked Scottie Scheffler in the staggered-start finale based on FedExCup rankings.
“I’m like eight behind, so nothing to lose. I’ll try to be aggressive until Sunday. Not much pressure,” said Si Woo, whose season includes one victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January and four other top-10s.
Sleeping in his own bed, where Atlanta is his U.S. base, has its many perks including home-cooked Korean food, and the smooth-swinging Im cannot help but feel he has a legitimate shot again at challenging for the FedExCup, and the US$18 million bonus money. He enters the week in good form as he has fired 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s, which is a first in his burgeoning career.
“It would be a career highlight to win,” said Im, who is a two-time PGA TOUR winner. “It would be a great feeling because it will determine the best player of the season. I don’t think winning will change me, I’ll just work on my golf and try to do well. With the prize money, I’ll look at my bank account and be excited. I’m very happy to make it to the TOUR Championship for the fifth year in a row. It’s hard to make it to the top-30 every year. I feel I have accomplished what I wanted to do this season,” added Im, who has already earned US$6.4 million this season.
Si Woo, who finished tied 10th in the 2016 TOUR Championship, was thrilled to walk through the doors at historic East Lake again and believes he is now a different player. He remembers shaking with nerves during his debut.
“I was a rookie here in 2016, everything was kind of nervous. I never watched these guys and see them only on TV. I was too nervous to play but now, I’m getting used to the top players being around. I can play more comfortable, can play aggressive,” said the 28-year-old Si Woo, who is a four-time TOUR winner.
“I’ve made the cut pretty much this year, and that helps me to be patient and I have more chances to compete on Sundays. Everything was consistent and my game feels strong right now. My goal for the season is always one win and get to the TOUR Championship, which I finally did it. I think it’s been a successful year. Hopefully we can finish good.”
Im is also happy to have the company of Si Woo and Tom in the season’s final event, saying it augurs well for the future of Asian golf. “Last year, there were only me and K.H. Lee. This is the first time three Korean players are in the field. It shows we are doing really well and we are not behind in terms of mental and technical skills,” he said.
“I think I played well, even though I didn’t win. Winning is important but I don’t think it’s good if you win and then keep getting up and downs. I think players are more recognized if they consistently record top 10s.”