Tour Championship marked 35th event this season for Sungjae Im

Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports

Tour Championship marked 35th event this season for Sungjae Im

PGA Tour

Tour Championship marked 35th event this season for Sungjae Im

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ATLANTA— The average number of PGA Tour events played this season by each golfer at East Lake is 22.8.

Sungjae Im played 35.

Out of his 29 competitors at the Tour Championship, the two who came closest to match that ridiculous number were Chez Reavie and Corey Conners, each with 27 Tour events played.

How does a rookie like Im have the stamina to play an average of 12 more events each season than his fellow competitors? That’s three more months and at least 24 more rounds worth of golf.

For one, it helps that he doesn’t have a permanent home.

“Usually if I have a tournament, the next week I go straight to the next tournament,” Im said Sunday through a translator. “And from Atlanta here, I’ll stay for two weeks and then go straight to the Greenbrier.”

A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier will be played Sept. 12-15, to open the 2019-20 PGA Tour season.

But before moving on to next season, Im is in contention for Rookie of the Year honors.

A nomadic life

Im, a 21-year-old from South Korea, said he’s exclusively been living at hotels throughout his first season on Tour. To many, traveling nomadically for a year would be an uncomfortable lifestyle, but for Im, it’s a footnote.

First coming to the United States in 2017 to compete in the second stage of Korn Ferry Q-School, he joined the Korn Ferry Tour last season before reaching the PGA Tour this season. Im wants to lay a solid foundation for his future in golf and to him, that means learning as much as possible and competing whenever he can.

Sungjae Im watches a putt on the ninth hole during the third round of the 2019 Wyndham Championship. Photo: Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports

“Being a rookie this season, I wanted to take all the opportunities I could to get to know the courses and I thought that would come to my advantage next year as a second-year pro and I honestly just wanted to play in as many tournaments as possible,” he said.

With seven top-10 finishes this season, Im’s best finishes on Tour were a T-3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T-4 at the Valspar Championship and Safeway Open. While he hasn’t won at this level yet, his most recent win came last August on the Korn Ferry Tour at the WinCo Foods Portland Open.

Heavy workload is nothing new

While he’s living his dream playing on the PGA Tour, Im’s strategy of playing whenever possible isn’t new. Last season on the Korn Ferry Tour, previously the Web.com Tour, Im played in 25 events plus the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

All his competing and practicing paid off as the rookie earned a spot in this year’s Tour Championship in Atlanta. Entering the tournament 24th in the FedExCup Ranking, Im finished his final round at East Lake with a 70 to sit even par for the week. He was pleased with that, although the course at East Lake enlightened him to some important aspects of his game including accuracy off the tee.

“To make my goal of making the Tour Championship has I think been the proudest moment for me this season,” Im said. “And I feel like I’ve had a really great season overall. I haven’t had a tournament that I was really disappointed with so overall I’m happy and proud of my rookie season on Tour.”

House or hotel next season?

After finishing his final Tour event of the season Sunday, Im was asked if he’ll take a few weeks to find a permanent home in the United States.

“It looks like I’ll be staying hotel to hotel until next year,” he said. “I don’t have any plans of buying a house anytime this season.”

But Im didn’t seem disappointed at the prospect of continuing to live in hotels. Entering the Tour Championship, he’d won $2,851,134 and could easily purchase a place to call home, but is more focused on playing.

“The PGA Tour (is) a dream tour and it’s something I’ve always wanted to compete in and I just wanted to compete as much as possible,” Im said.

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