There are few more dedicated golfers on the PGA Tour than Sungjae Im. The Korean is so devoted to playing in as many tournaments possible, that up until recently he didn’t even own a house in the US, content to simply go from hotel to hotel on his nomadic journey through golf’s biggest events.
Im’s talent is clear for all to see. In the 2018-19 season, he was named the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, and he has continued to improve since. However, there was a sense that he wasn’t delivering the titles his talent demanded — before the recent Shriners Hospitals for Children’s Open he only had the 2020 Honda Classic title on his CV in terms of PGA Tour wins.
However, that all changed earlier this month in Las Vegas, as Im reigned supreme to win the Shriners and claim an all-important second title. Finally, everything clicked into place for the 23-year-old, shooting a sensational nine-under-par 62 in the final round to leapfrog the rest of the field and take the trophy. In the end, he was four shots clear of second-place Matthew Wolff, in what was a dominant display.
Incredibly, it was Im’s 100th start on the PGA Tour, which is a remarkable statistic for a golfer as young as 23 years old. To mark it with a title is even more special, and having won the Honda Classic in what was his 50th start, Im is clearly a man who values milestones.
“I know I won my first win on my 50th start and to win my second PGA Tour win on my 100th start, that in itself is a pretty amazing stat,” Im said. “It was hard coming, but I think today how everything went, I think it was a gift from above.”
Casual golf fans will perhaps know I’m best from his sensational performance at the 2020 Masters, which was held in November due to the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc with the schedule that year. In his first appearance at Augusta, Im finished tied-for-second behind champion Dustin Johnson, and it’s fair to say that elevated his status in the golfing world.
Winning any major is a dream for every golfer, and that will be top of Im’s bucket list moving forward, but the PGA Tour events are the bread and butter. Often, it’s only when a player has got used to winning on the PGA Tour that he takes the next step and delivers a major championship title.
If he shows anything like the form displayed in the final round of the Shriners Children’s Open, then he could have a major say when the big tournaments come round in 2022 — every bet exchange will be on red alert. He started out like a man possessed, rolling in birdie after birdie en route to a memorable triumph, and while tougher tasks will lie ahead, it’s great for Im to get a title under his belt at this early stage of the 2021-22 season.
Sometimes, events in the early part of the PGA Tour campaign can be overlooked. Many of the top players prefer to take a rest, but there were plenty of strong players on show in Las Vegas, and to win any professional golf tournament takes a huge amount of talent and bottle.
The experience will make Im stronger — more confident too. He is one of the most talented young players on the circuit at the moment, and we’ll be hearing his name a lot more in the coming years.