Sungjae Im played 35 events in the 2020-21 PGA TOUR season. He had 16 top-15 finishes, five top-10 finishes and two top-3 finishes. No one made more birdies (498), no one had more sub-par rounds (75) and no one made more cuts (29).
But Im didn’t win in 2020-21.
He doesn’t have to worry about that problem in 2021-22. Three tournaments into the season, he earned his second career PGA TOUR victory in commanding fashion at the Shriners Children’s Open, winning by four shots at 24-under.
Im co-led with Chad Ramey through two days at TPC at Summerlin after rounds of 63 and 65 (the first time in his career he started with two bogey-free rounds). A third-round 70 left Im at 15-under, three shots back of Saturday night leader Adam Schenk.
But the 23-year-old returned to form early on Sunday, firing off four birdies on his first seven holes. He then propelled himself to the top of the leaderboard with five straight birdies on holes 9-13. At 9-under through 13 holes, Im was on 59 watch, but his big lead allowed him to play conservatively. He made pars on his final five holes to settle for a 62 — still the low round of the day.
The win comes roughly 19 months after Im’s first career title, a one-shot victory at The Honda Classic. However, that was a much different test, as Im won with a score of 6-under at PGA National.
One other difference: The team around Im. Within the last year, Im has begun working with William Spencer as his new caddie and has also seeked a new fitness trainer.
“My caddie Billy, we started a couple weeks prior to the Olympic Games and he’s been a very good help to me,” Im says. “We’ve been a very good team working together, communicating. My trainer Andrew, we started Phoenix week. As I got to my second and third year on TOUR, I felt the importance of conditioning and keeping myself stronger and healthy, so we’ve been working really hard and I’m glad it all turned out well.”
Im, who had famously been a PGA TOUR nomad, going from hotel-to-hotel in his first couple seasons in the U.S., also purchased a home in Atlanta in late 2020, giving him a permanent base in the last year. He is now a bi-coastal PGA TOUR champion, winning in Palm Beach Gardens and Las Vegas.
This week was PGA TOUR start No. 100 for Im, and he now has 79 made cuts and 20 top-10 finishes, along with his two career wins. The victory at TPC at Summerlin jumps Im to No. 2 in the current FedExCup standings, as he becomes the PGA TOUR’s first international winner this season.
Meanwhile, Matthew Wolff, who lost alongside Austin Cook in a three-way playoff to Martin Laird at the Shriners Children’s Open in 2020, earned his second consecutive runner-up finish at the event. Wolff played in the final group Sunday, starting one shot behind Schenk. Three front-nine birdies helped Wolff keep pace with Im, but while Im burst forward on the back, Wolff bogeyed No. 10 and No. 13. He recovered with birdies on No. 15 and No. 16 to claim sole second.
Reigning champion Laird, a two-time winner at the Shriners Children’s Open, finished with a 66 to get to 16-under and T11. All four of Laird’s scores this week were 68 or better and he now has nine straight rounds in the 60s at TPC at Summerlin.
Sam Burns, last week’s winner at the Sanderson Farms Championship, who held a two-shot lead at one point Saturday, finished T14 at 15-under. A double-bogey six on his 18th hole Sunday cost him a top-10 finish.
Im will get right back after it next week in Las Vegas at THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT. This will be the fifth edition of THE CJ CUP, with the first three happening in Im’s native South Korea. His best finish is a T39 in 2019.