Ironman vital cog in Immelman's quest for victory

Ironman vital cog in Immelman's quest for victory

True genius in golf is often rare and few superlatives accurately describe South Korea's Im Sung-Jae.

The 24-year-old has morphed from a prodigious talent into a world-class golfer and two-time PGA Tour winner and will inevitably be one of the vital cogs in captain Trevor Immelman's underdogs International Team, who will be determined to dethrone a powerful United States side in the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, from tomorrow to Sunday.

Three years ago, Im was a captain's pick by Ernie Els and he stood out like a seasoned campaigner.

He used Royal Melbourne as a playground to cement his rising star status by delivering an impressive 3.5 points in his team's narrow 16-14 loss.

Im has earned his team's place on merit this time around and Immelman, who was one of Els' assistants, knows exactly the kind of firepower and influence the "Korean Ironman" can deliver at Quail Hollow.

More importantly, Im has also proven he can team up with any player, having played with three different partners in the fourball and foursomes sessions at Royal Melbourne.

Aside from being well known for his ball-striking prowess, Im is also a mean birdie machine, an attribute that is vital in match play.

He established a new PGA Tour record in 2021 for most birdies in a season with his haul of 494, breaking a 21-year-old record along the way.

Im grew up playing golf on Jeju island, thanks to his parents' encouragement, and his rise in the professional ranks has no doubt been meteoric.

After representing the South Korean national team, he played on the Korean Tour and Japan Golf Tour during his teens before finding instant success on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018 where he was named player and rookie of the year, thanks to two victories and multiple top-10s.

His transition onto the PGA Tour was as smooth as his full-flowing golf swing as he made it into the top-30 Tour Championship in 2019, earned rookie of the year honours and also a wild card for the Presidents Cup.

His first team experience has since stirred the fire in Im's belly in his attempt to help the Internationals secure what would only be a second win in the series since 1994.

"If we can win the Cup, this will become part of my career," said Im, who finished tied second in the recent FedEx Cup final standings.

"There is only one time when the International Team won, so if I could be part of the team when we win the next time, it will mean a lot. I will make sure we try our best."

The Korean intends to use the bitter defeat at Royal Melbourne to fire him up instead.

"It was my first Presidents Cup and it was a pretty impressive week for me and a great experience," the South Korean said.

"Quail Hollow is not easy but our International Team will try their best and I will try my best.

"We have become much closer and comfortable with one another."

Chuah Choo Chiang is senior director, marketing and communications, APAC for the PGA Tour and is based in Kuala Lumpur.

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