Rookie of Year Im eyes breakthrough win as PGA Tour season begins

Washington (AFP) –


South Korea's Im Sung-jae will make a quick turnaround from his Rookie of the Year campaign when he tees it up Thursday at The Greenbrier in the first event of the US PGA Tour's 2019-20 season.

The 21-year-old from Jeju learned Wednesday that he'd been voted Rookie of the Year after making 26 cuts in 35 starts. He posted seven top-10 finishes, including three top-fives, and was the only rookie to reach the Tour Championship.

"Being the first South Korean player, and even the first Asian player, to receive the award is pretty special," Im said Wednesday after his pro-am round at The Greenbrier.

"That's incredibly significant for me. This will give me a lot of confidence down the road."

Im said playing a whopping 35 tournaments in his rookie season "wasn't my initial goal.

"In your first year, you just want to get your card for the next year -- to survive, honestly."

Having done that in style he can set his sights on a first tour win, and The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, could offer a good opportunity.

The tournament, which disappeared from the schedule last season before landing in its new spot on the calendar, launches a fall swing that includes 11 tournaments before December.

After five events in the United States, the tour heads to Asia for a three-tournament swing that features the new Zozo Championship in Japan that is set to feature 15-time major champion Tiger Woods and newly minted PGA Tour Player of the Year Rory McIlroy among other top names.

Until the game's top players start to swing into action, youngsters and veterans on the comeback trail have a chance to shine.

This week sees 2018 US Amateur champion Viktor Hovland of Norway make his debut as a tour member after posting some impressive rounds after turning pro in June.

The next few weeks also offer players like Im and US veteran Bubba Watson a chance to prove themselves worthy of a Presidents Cup captain's pick.

International team captain Ernie Els and US captain Woods will make their four selections to complete their 12-man teams on November 4 for the December 9-15 matchplay showdown at Royal Melbourne.

- DeChambeau heads field -

For world number 10 Bryson DeChambeau, the highest-ranked player in the field, the event is an opportunity to follow Woods's instructions to his President's Cup players to keep sharp in the buildup to the event.

DeChambeau said he planned to play four tournaments before the Presidents Cup and will be hoping for the same kind of early-season success he had last year when he won his first tournament of the campaign at TPC Summerlin last November.

A season after changes to the global golf rules sparked debate and some controversy, a few more changes are in store.

The PGA Tour will begin random testing of players' drivers to ensure they conform to required specifications, something the tour hasn't done in the past.

The Tour said in August it was reviewing its pace-of-play policy after renewed complaints, although a new policy has yet to be outlined.

Also new, the tour this season has reduced the number of players who will make the cut from the top 70 players and those tied to the top 65 and ties.