Korean star Im counting the days until golf’s return

JUNE 1 ― As everyone knows, I like to play in a lot of events. I made 35 starts on the PGA TOUR last season and was at 14 of the 16 tournaments to start this year. So, it’s been disappointing for me to not be able to compete these last couple of months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Actually, as I look back at my career, I think this may be the longest break from competition I’ve ever had.

Given that, there is going to be so much anticipation for golf’s return this month at the Charles Schwab Challenge (June 11-14). I know I’ll be incredibly excited to be at the first tournament back, and my goal is to make it to the weekend at Colonial Country Club.

I’m thankful the players will have a chance to compete. Even though there won’t be fans in attendance at the first four events, I’m looking forward to our first tournament back. I hope to play as many events as I can, but I’ll probably take a week off somewhere around the halfway point. Obviously, my ultimate goal is to make it to the TOUR Championship.

I would, of course, like to win the FedExCup, but there are so many strong competitors on the PGA TOUR. It’s easy to forget that I’ll actually be leading in the season-long standings when play resumes. I was playing well before the season was delayed, winning my first career Tour event at The Honda Classic, before finishing third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.

If I were to win the FedExCup, I don’t think I could even put into words what it would mean to me. It would definitely be a turning point in my career, and it motivates me to have a strong season. Even though we still have a long way to go, I try not to be too greedy and rather, focus on the task at hand.

As everyone knows, you can’t be too greedy in this game. I just want to take it one tournament at a time and give it my best to let the results speak for my game. I know that if I stick to my usual game plan and the way I play, I’ll have a chance. 

During this unexpected downtime, I’ve been trying to practice the areas of my game that lacked during the first half of the 2019-20 season. My game was in great shape until this break, so I fortunately didn’t have to make too many changes in my swing or my game. I just stuck to my usual practice routine and played every day.

Golfer Sungjae Im is seen here with Hyun Jin Ryu. ― Picture via Getty Images
Golfer Sungjae Im is seen here with Hyun Jin Ryu. ― Picture via Getty Images

I’ve been in Tampa staying with a friend since THE PLAYERS Championship was cancelled (on March 13), which was only two hours away. My parents have been here with me, too. Parents Day in Korea was in May, and the United States celebrates Father’s Day in June, so it’s been particularly nice to have my dad here beside me. He’s supported me tremendously over the years and followed me to almost every tournament when I was a junior golfer. He paved the way for me to be a successful golfer, never pushed me too hard and allowed me to really enjoy the game of golf growing up. He’s always there for me and I know he made a lot of sacrifices to help me get to where I am today. I am very thankful for that.

My coach, Hyun Choi, also flew into Tampa from Korea and helped me with my game. I’m not the type to make too many swing changes, so he came over mainly to help me keep what I already have. We’re very close, and he’s been working with me since I was in high school. Even though he’s a great mentor, he’s also a great friend. So, I had a lot of fun when he was here. His mere presence made me feel more at ease.

I wouldn’t say it has been difficult to adjust to this new lifestyle, but every day eventually became rather repetitive. I would wake up, eat breakfast, shower, stretch, practice, then go play nine holes. Just doing this on a daily basis became old after a while and it really made me miss competition.

Sungjae Im says his goal is to make it to the weekend at Colonial Country Club. ― Picture via Getty Images
Sungjae Im says his goal is to make it to the weekend at Colonial Country Club. ― Picture via Getty Images

I’ve gone fishing a few times when I’m not indoors or at the golf course, and the last drama I saw was Itaewon Class. And I also ran into Toronto Blue Jay pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu at TPC Tampa Bay. He noticed me and asked to take a picture together and play golf sometime. It was really cool that an accomplished athlete noticed who I was.

As nice as all that is, I still I can’t wait to play this game again with all of my fellow PGA TOUR competitors, and I can’t wait until we can see the fans out on the golf course again. I know everyone around the world is struggling with the coronavirus, and I hope for a speedy recovery to all the patients in hospitals right now. I want to thank all of the volunteers and medical staff that have been working day and night during this difficult time.

Let’s all fight this virus together and get back onto the golf course together! I can’t wait to see everyone soon.

* Note: Korea’s Sungjae Im is the 2019 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year and currently leading the FedExCup points list. You can watch him and the PGA TOUR on Astro Golf Channel and GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR.

** This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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