Sungjae Im is at Narashino Country Club for the third time. He’s finished in the top half of the field in his first two trips, taking T-3rd (71-64-67-65) in 2019 and T-29th (71-68-70-66) in 2022.
He was the low man over the last 54 holes in 2019 but didn’t quite have enough to catch champion Tiger Woods.
"“Yeah, very excited to return to Japan,” Im was transcribed by ASAP Sports in 2022. “I remember I finished solo third there at the inaugural event, so I’m happy to go back to Japan.”"
Im could have an advantage on the field by already being over in Asia. Not only will he avoid some of the jet lag of guys coming over from the United States, but he’s in fine form.
Im played well on the Korean Tour last week, finishing second and making a playoff at the Genesis Championship.
The South Korean has spent significant time in his home continent this fall. He and Si Woo Kim were part of a four-man team that took gold in the team portion of the Asian Games. This was like winning a major for this quartet as it exempted them from serving their two-year mandatory military service required by the country’s government.
Im also earned silver in the individual competition and was one shot off of the gold medal pace.
The 25-year-old has had a solid 2023. He won this spring on the Korean Tour and has eight top-10s worldwide. Im has yet to win this season on the PGA Tour, though he did have a solid season resulting in another appearance at East Lake.
Im ranked 15th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Total (1.049 per round) and was in the positive in every SG category.
He’s got a well-rounded game and is not wayward, which can be a problem at Narashino. Im is not a long ball hitter, but that’s A-OK this week.