The recent surge of Latin American winners on the PGA Tour continued at the Sanderson Farms Championship where Colombia’s Sebastian Muñoz defeated reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and fellow Presidents Cup hopeful Sungjae Im in a sudden-death playoff to earn his first career PGA Tour victory and draw some much-needed attention from International Team Captain Ernie Els.
The Presidents Cup will return to Melbourne, Australia, and The Royal Melbourne Golf Club for the third time, December 9-15, 2019, when the International Team, led by Captain Els, will take on the US Team led by Captain Woods.
It was a first in PGA Tour history that two players from Latin America won in back-to-back weeks. The 26-year-old, who joined Camilo Villegas as the only players from Colombia to win on Tour, admitted that seeing Joaquin Niemann win at The Greenbrier was the spark he needed.
“Yeah, him winning last week was kind of like the last piece of the puzzle that I needed to know that we're good enough, we're able to compete. That we're here, we're PGA Tour members, and we play to win,” Muñoz said. “Seeing him raise the trophy last week was just – I don't know – inspirational for a little bit.”
Muñoz made 17 starts on the PGA Tour during the 2016-17 season but finished 153rd in the final FedExCup standings and lost his card for the following season. After a year on the Korn Ferry Tour, Muñoz regained his PGA Tour status and made 26 starts during the 2018-19 season and finished 117th in the FedExCup after advancing to the first round of the FedExCup Playoffs.
After the top-eight automatic qualifiers for the International Team did not feature a player from Korea, Sungjae Im and Byeong Hun An are among those making a push to ensure Korea is represented on the International Team.
RIGHT: Muñoz has caught the attention of captain Els. PHOTO: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.
Im’s runner-up finish at the Sanderson Farms Championship was an encore to a stellar rookie season marked by 35 starts – the most on Tour last season – and a trip to the elite 30-player field at the Tour Championship, where he was the only rookie to qualify. Though he didn’t win during the 2018-19 campaign, the 21-year-old was officially announced as the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year on September 11 after nabbing seven top-10 finishes and finishing 11th in the Presidents Cup standings.
An, meanwhile, finished just behind his fellow countryman in third place and collected his second top-3 result in his last five starts. The 28-year-old, who is in search of his first Presidents Cup appearance, has three career runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour to go along with three other worldwide wins. In 2009, he became the youngest winner of the US Amateur Championship at 17 years old, surpassing 2008 champion and 2015 Presidents Cup participant Danny Lee.
Muñoz, An and Im are all scheduled to return to competition this week at the Safeway Open. Other players vying for an International Team captain’s pick in the field this week who finished inside the top 30 in the Presidents Cup standings include Corey Conners, Dylan Frittelli, Emiliano Grillo, Adam Hadwin, Sung Kang, Si Woo Kim, Jhonattan Vegas and Xinjun Zhang.
On the US side, those Presidents Cup hopefuls in the field who finished inside the top 30 in the Presidents Cup standings include Charles Howell III, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Scott Piercy, Chez Reavie, Brandt Snedeker and Kevin Tway. Captain Woods will also have his eye on Collin Morikawa, who won in just his sixth PGA Tour start as a professional at the 2019 Barracuda Championship.