GREENSBORO, N.C. – With rookies like Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa earning victories, and with reigning U.S. Amateur champ Viktor Hovland seemingly not far behind, the youngest crop of PGA Tour players has gotten plenty of attention in recent weeks. But don’t forget about Sungjae Im, the ironman of the group who just might play his way to East Lake with a big result this week at the Wyndham Championship.
Im is just 21 years old, younger than Hovland and Morikawa and just one year older than Wolff. He turned pro at 17, led the Korn Ferry Tour money list wire-to-wire last year and has barely skipped a beat while transitioning to the big leagues this season.
Im is currently 25th in the points race, and he’s a notable outlier among the top playoff contenders. While no other player in the top 50 has made more than 25 starts this season, the Wyndham is start No. 32 for Im, who has yet to establish a permanent residence in the U.S. and instead simply travels from tournament to tournament.
“Playing as a rookie this year, I wanted to play as many tournaments as I can,” Im said through a translator. “I honestly feel like I can play a lot better when I play more tournaments. I feel like it gives me an advantage for next year, because I don’t know a lot of these courses.”
Im employed a similar strategy last year on the then-Web.com circuit. Even though he had a PGA Tour card wrapped up after going 1-2 in the first two events of the year, he still played 22 of 23 regular-season tournaments. The one he skipped? That was because he qualified for the PGA Championship at Bellerive the same week, where he finished T-42.
Im has six top-10 finishes this season, highlighted by a T-3 result at Bay Hill. While his consistent campaign has lacked the dramatics of some of his peers, that could all change this week at Sedgefield Country Club, where he grabbed a share of the opening-round lead with a 62 and heads into the weekend at 11 under.
A victory this week, three years after countryman Si Woo Kim made this the site of his maiden win at age 19, would wrap up a Tour Championship appearance for Im. It would also move him to ninth in the Wyndham Rewards, adding a $550,000 bonus to an already hefty payday.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the third or fourth round, but it’s definitely motivating me to have me land inside the top 10 for that bonus money,” Im said.