In-form S. Koreans chasing maiden major at PGA Championship

May 17, 2023

Two South Korean golfers fresh off strong performances will be in pursuit of their maiden major title this week in the state of New York.

Im Sung-jae and Kim Si-woo will be among five South Koreans in action at the PGA Championship, which tees off at the East Course of Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York, on Thursday. A total of 156 players will go after the coveted Wanamaker Trophy.

This will be the second major tournament of the PGA Tour season, following the Masters in April.

Im won the Woori Financial Group Championship on the Korean Tour on Sunday near Seoul, erasing a five-shot deficit in the final round for his first victory on home soil since October 2019. Ko Jin-young, the latest LPGA winner from South Korea, even said Sunday that she was inspired by Im’s comeback as she rallied from four shots back for her 15th career title in New Jersey.

It has been a whirlwind of May for Im. The two-time PGA Tour winner tied for eighth at the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour on May 7 and flew home the next day to play the Korean Tour event. Despite being jetlagged, Im won the tournament at home on Sunday and then flew back to the United States on Monday, with a practice round scheduled shortly after his arrival.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to feed off the energy from this win and play well at the PGA Championship, too,” Im said Sunday.

Kim stayed in the U.S. last week and finished tied for second place at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas, one shot behind the winner, Jason Day, for his second top-10 finish in three starts. Kim, who picked up his fourth career PGA Tour win at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, will also try to win his first career major.

“My confidence is running quite high,” Kim said after the Byron Nelson tournament. “I will prepare for the PGA Championship with a clean slate and a fresh mindset.”

Only one South Korean player has won a major in men’s golf: Yang Yong-eun at the 2009 PGA Championship. Yang, who famously defeated Tiger Woods for that stunning major victory, will be playing this week as a former champion.

Kim Joo-hyung and Lee Kyoung-hoon, both of them two-time PGA Tour winners, will round out the South Korean contingent.

Kim Joo-hyung, better known as Tom Kim in the U.S., has cooled off after claiming his second title in October last year. In 13 tournaments since the calendar turned to 2023, Kim has recorded three top-10s — two of them in January.

The par-70 East Course at Oak Hill will play 7,394 yards, 250 yards longer than the last PGA Championship it hosted in 2013. Its par-4s, in particular, will present a demanding test of driving and iron play, and two of the par-4 holes will play over 500 yards: the sixth (503 yards) and the 17th (502 yards).