S. Korean Im Sung-jae looking to defend title in PGA Tour season debut

October 7, 2022

South Korean golfer Im Sung-jae will do something this week that he has never done before in his PGA Tour career: start a new season as a defending champion.

The third event of the 2022-2023 season, Shriners Children’s Open, will tee off Thursday at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. Im won the tournament last year for his second career PGA Tour win and will make his season debut on the familiar track this week.

Before winning it last year, Im had finished tied for 13th in 2020.

“I am happy to be back as the defending champion this week. I’ve done well on this course for the past there years, and I hope I can play just as well this time around,” Im said at a pretournament press conference Wednesday in Sin City. “The fall stretch is really important. I hope I can collect enough FedEx Cup points early in the season.”

At last year’s tournament, Im shot a blistering final round of 62, which featured five straight birdies starting on the ninth hole.

“I remember seeing the leaderboard after my five straight birdies and feeling quite nervous,” Im said. “This is a course where you have to pick up as many birdies as you can. That puts a lot of pressure on you but I always feel comfortable on this course.”

One other South Korean to keep an eye on this week will be Kim Joo-hyung, the 20-year-old sensation who goes by his English name, Tom, on the tour.

Kim earned his PGA Tour card last season by accumulating enough FedEx Cup points despite playing on a temporary status. He then capped off his memorable summer with his first career victory at the Wyndham Championship in August.

Kim also had a coming out party on the international stage last month, when he made his Presidents Cup debut. The viral video of Kim’s exuberant celebration after a clutch putt that sank the favored U.S. duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele turned the South Korean into an instant star.

“It was absolutely insane. I had so much fun,” Kim said. “I’ve never really experienced that big of team camaraderie before, and I can see why everyone wants to play in these team events. I can’t wait to have another try at it.”

Kim said more people have begun to recognize him after the Presidents Cup but he felt like nothing has really changed in his life. He just wants to build on his successful rookie campaign.

“I think for me, it’s just gaining the experience and learning more about myself, playing a full season on the PGA Tour,” Kim said when asked about his goal for this season. “I know I’m going to learn a lot, but I’m going to play with a lot of good players. Just getting to know myself a little bit more and know what works for me and things like that just get me really excited.”

Since he won once last season, Kim said “it would be great if I could win one more time this season.”