MEMPHIS • South Korea's rising star Im Sung-jae will be gunning for a strong debut in the World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational, which starts today, to reignite his form in time for next month's lucrative FedEx Cup Playoffs.
The 23-year-old was among the best-performing golfers prior to the suspension of the PGA Tour due to the Covid-19 pandemic but has struggled for consistency since competition resumed last month.
He won the Honda Classic and finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. But aside from a tied-10th finish at last month's Charles Schwab Challenge, Im has disappointed with two missed cuts and lowly placings (t-58th, t-53rd and 63rd) in his last five starts.
He has lost his top spot on the FedEx Cup standings and enters this week's US$10.5 million (S$14.4 million) event in third place behind leader Justin Thomas and Webb Simpson.
Im remained a picture of optimism though.
"It's starting to get better," said last year's PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
"I would, of course, like to win the FedEx Cup but there are so many strong competitors on Tour. If I were to win, I don't think I could even put into words what it would mean to me."
Compatriots An Byeong-hun and Kang Sung are also competing at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.
The former, who featured in the Presidents Cup alongside Im last December, has not hit full stride, with a joint-46th his best finish in five starts that include three missed cuts.
The former US Amateur champion started working with putting guru Brad Faxon a couple of months ago to help improve his form on the greens.
An is eyeing a first appearance in the Tour Championship, which is limited to the top 30 on the FedEx Cup points list following the BMW Championship. He is ranked 36th and has set his goal on qualifying for the tournament as the "benefits that come with getting into it are great".
NO ROOM FOR ERRORS
I know I'm not there yet... to compete week in, week out with the best in the world, you need to step up in every part of your game. You can't make stupid mistakes.
JAZZ JANEWATTANANOND, Thai golfer, on the step up in standards on the PGA Tour.
Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond, who has based himself in Orlando since March, is looking forward to a debut appearance in Memphis. Despite missing the cut in his last four PGA starts, the 24-year-old is keeping his head up.
"You're playing against the best in the world and you put yourself there. It's good gauging yourself and knowing how much more to improve and how far I'm away from them," said Jazz, the reigning Asian Tour No. 1.
"I know I'm not there yet. People say, 'Jazz, you're so good, you're No. 1 on the Asian Tour', but to compete week in, week out with the best in the world, you need to step up in every part of your game. You can't make stupid mistakes."
Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who is in this week's field, remains the only Asian to have won two WGC tournaments. He captured the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational when it was played at Firestone Country Club in 2017.