OLYMPIA (USA): Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong Hun An of Korea face battles for survival in this week’s BMW Championship, the penultimate event in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, as they fight for prized spots in the TOUR Championship where US$18 million awaits the new FedEx Cup champion.
Matsuyama, 31, has qualified for the Playoffs Finale at East Lake, Atlanta for the past nine seasons which is a record for an active PGA TOUR member while a resurgent An is hoping to punch his ticket into the top-30 showpiece for the first time to put the icing on the cake following a stellar season.
Korea’s Si Woo Kim, who enters the BMW Championship, formerly known as the Weston Open, in 17th place in the FedEx Cup standings, is virtually safe for a long-awaited return to the TOUR Championship since his rookie season in 2016 while Tom Kim, ranked 18th, is tipped to tee up in Playoffs Finale as well, the PGA TOUR informed.
Sungjae Im, who posted a runner-up finish at the TOUR Championship last season for Asia’s best-ever finish in FedExCup history, has work to do to get into his fifth straight TOUR Championship as he is ranked 28th entering the week in Olympia Fields, Illinois.
An, who is ranked 38th in the FedEx Cup standings, needs at least a two-way tie for 10th place to have a chance of advancing into the Playoffs Finale. A return to Olympia Fields will provide some confidence too as he finished T12 when the BMW Championship was last played at the venue. His putting has also been solid, having changed recently to the broomstick putter on the advice of Adam Scott and Si Woo Kim.
Matsuyama, ranked 47th, brilliantly played his way into the BMW Championship after a rousing finish at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship where he made an eagle and birdie in his last three holes to squeeze into this week’s top-50 field. To extend his streak of having played in every TOUR Championship since 2014, the eight-time PGA TOUR winner needs to finish no lower than a three-way tie for fourth place and be reliant on other players’ finishes as well. In 2020, Matsuyama finished joint third at Olympia Fields.
After finishing tied sixth last week, smooth-swinging Im hopes to ride on his momentum to get into the TOUR Championship in Atlanta again, which is his U.S. base.
Since the inauguration of the FedEx Cup in 2007, the highest number of Asian golfers who have made it to the TOUR Championship was three players last season when Im, Matsuyama and K.H. Lee qualified amongst the top 30. Im is counting on all four Koreans and Matsuyama to rewrite a small slice of golf history this week.