Korea’s Sungjae Im played his way into the record books on the PGA Tour by making the most birdies in a season with his haul of 498 following the conclusion of the Tour Championship on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Im tied the record of 493 birdies held by American Steve Flesch after the third round of the FedExCup Playoffs Finale at East Lake Golf Club and he duly established a new mark by adding five more birds en route to a closing two-under 68 to finish the week in tied 20th position.
American Patrick Cantlay claimed the Tour’s ultimate prize, the FedExCup, by one stroke from Jon Rahm after a composed final round of 69, taking home a whopping US$15 million prize along the way for his fourth victory of the season.
Asia’s other representative in the field, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, settled for tied 26th place after signing off his season with a 70 in what was his eighth straight appearance in the Tour Championship. His year will be remembered for his historic Masters Tournament win in April.
“I didn’t recognise this record until I heard it on the TV broadcast yesterday. So I thought that I would wish to break that record today." - Sungjae Im.
Im rolled in a 22-foot birdie putt on his second hole to break the record and let out a fist pump after the ball disappeared into the hole. Following three consecutive bogeys from the seventh to ninth holes, he made four more birdies on 10, 12, 14 and 18 to end his third season on the PGA Tour as the highest ranked Asian in the final FedExCup ranking for the second straight year. He holed putts of 17 feet and 26 feet on the 10th and 14th holes.
“I didn’t recognise this record until I heard it on the TV broadcast yesterday. So I thought that I would wish to break that record today. Then I made a birdie on the second hole. I am very happy with this and hope keep this record for a long time,” said Im.
In 35 starts this season which featured 339 rounds, Im failed to make birdie in only five rounds. He enjoyed five top-10s including a tied second finish at the Masters Tournament last November, made over US$4 million in prize money and the only regret was that he failed to add a second victory to his name.
“I had many chances early in the season but I didn’t take them. There are some disappointments. However, I managed to get into the Tour Championship, so this is the good part of my season. I am happy with that,” said Im, who won the 2020 The Honda Classic.
He sees himself keeping a busy schedule ahead of the new 2021-22 Season as he chases for more silverware. “It was my childhood dream to play on the PGA Tour. I try to take some breaks as much as I can, but I have played most events again this season,” said Im, who plans to play the Sanderson Farms Championship as his first tournament at the end of this month.
“We have tournaments throughout the year, so even I take a break for a while, I can play as many events as I want to. I am very happy and so grateful to just be able to play on the PGA Tour.”