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Im just misses out on PGA victory

Sept 24,2019
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Im Sung-jae
Im Sung-jae has just missed out on his first career PGA Tour victory.

Im lost to Sebastian Munoz in a sudden-death playoff at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss., on Sunday, settling for his first runner-up finish instead.

Im, the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, started the final round in fifth place, four shots behind Munoz. The Korean picked up five birdies on the front nine and three more down the stretch for a round of 66 to force a playoff with the Colombian, all tied at 18-under 270.

The two went back to the par-4 18th, and Munoz clinched his title with a par, while Im could only manage a bogey.

This was Im’s second tournament of the 2019-2020 season. He finished tied for 19th at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier last week.

Im charged out to first place with three consecutive birdies from the 14th to 16th. After Im sank his 12-foot birdie putt, Munoz, playing in the final group, made a bogey to fall to second place.

It was Munoz’s first bogey since the 11th hole in the second round.

Im finished play first at 18-under, and he watched Munoz drain a 14-footer for a birdie that set up the playoff.

At the first playoff hole, Im missed the fairway to the left and landed his second shot well back of the green, near the grandstands. Munoz, who drove to the right of the fairway, left his second shot shy of the green.

Munoz, playing first, put his third shot to about 5 feet of the cup, while Im, who took a free drop, sent his about 11 feet away to the hole.

Im missed his par attempt, which opened the door for Munoz. And the Colombian didn’t miss, as he clinched his first career win.

Although Im failed to pick up a win, this was his best finish at a PGA Tour event. Having started the Web.com Tour, now the Korn Ferry Tour, without much fanfare, Im wasted no time in getting recognition on the Tour with his win in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic in January, the season opener. Im’s victory at the season opener allowed him to become the 16th player to win the event in their first appearance and the seventh Korean-born golfer to do so on the Web.com Tour.

He finished his season strong by winning the season finale, the WinCo Foods Portland Open. Although Im didn’t have a win between the first and last tournament of the season, he still managed to maintain the top spot in the Web.com Tour money ranking, the only player to do so in the tour’s history.

Following his successful season on the Web.com Tour, not only did Im earn his PGA Tour status card, he was named the Web.com Tour’s Player of the Year and the Rookie of the Year. Then during his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Im didn’t pick up a win but he was still named the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year. By doing so, Im became the first Asian-born golfer and the first golfer since Stewart Cink to be named the rookie of the year on both tours.

An Byeong-hun finished third at 17-under 271.

“It’s still a decent week,” An was quoted as saying on PGA Tour website. “There’s a lot of positives to take. I know I can compete out here. I know I can win.”

BY KANG YOO-RIM, YONHAP [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]