WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Sungjae Im is not one of the seven golfers in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking playing in this week’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
Yet Im, presently No. 56 in the world, received one of the highest possible honors Wednesday when he was selected 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
Tour members who played at least 15 official FedEx Cup events during the 2018-2019 season were eligible voters.
“It’s been on my mind for a while now and I’m so incredibly happy to win an award that you can only win once in your life,” Im said.
While becoming the first rookie in the FedEx Cup era to play 35 or more events, Im made 26 of 35 cuts and had seven top-10 finishes.
He was the only rookie to qualify for the Tour Championship and finished tied for 19th in the FedEx Cup standings.
“It helped a lot to play so many tournaments last season, because it allowed me to adjust to a bunch of different courses,” Im said. “Whether it’s the grass, or the rough around the greens, I’ve adjusted to it quite well.”
Im and Stewart Cink are the only players to earn Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in consecutive seasons, with Cink’s honors coming in 1996 and 1997.
“Being the first Asian player to receive the award is pretty special,” Im said. “That’s incredibly significant for me. This will give me a lot of confidence down the road. I’ll be reflecting on this day for a very long time.”
— — — —
Viktor Hovland is a likely candidate to contend for the 2020 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
Hovland, of Oklahoma State, recently earned his PGA Tour card for this season through his play in the Korn Ferry Tour.
While Thursday will mark Hovland’s debut in A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, the former Cowoboys’ standout is familiar with the venue after the Big 12 Conference held its golf championships at the Old White TPC Course from April 26-28.
Hovland finished 7-under par in the three-round event and runner-up by one stroke to TCU’s Hayden Springer.
“This is one of the coolest places we played at in college,” Hovland said. “It’s just so unique and the golf club is just really cool — it’s just a fun place to play and you can do so many other things around here.”
— — — —
The highest-ranked golfer in A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier this year is Bryson DeChambeau at No. 10.
Having already automatically qualified for the United States Presidents Cup team, DeChambeau is seeking a strong start to the PGA Tour season when he tees it up Thursday at 7:55 a.m. alongside Keegan Bradley and Scott Piercy.
DeChambeau did not play at The Greenbrier last year, but finished in a four-way tie for 14th at 8-under par back in 2017.
He’s excited to return to the Old White TPC Course this week.
“The driving aspect fits my eye really well,” DeChambeau said. “There is a lot of holes out there that you’ve got to hit it straight and I’m one of the straightest drivers on tour.”
— — — —
Defending champion Kevin Na returns to A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier this week looking to become the first two-time winner of the event.
In July 2018, Na shot 63, 65 and 64 in his final three rounds at Old White TPC to run away with a five-stroke victory.
Na, however, expects the tournament to be more of a challenge this year with its new September date.
“I thought it was going to be cooler. It’s not” Na said. “Last year I believe it rained Friday, but by Sunday it got really firm and played tough.
“Right now, it’s very firm and very fast. I was just walking in here and got asked, ‘how’s the golf course playing?’ I said, ‘it’s playing very difficult or I’m a terrible golfer.’ I think it’s playing very difficult and I don’t think the scores are going to be quite as low if it stays as firm as it is.”