Any budding golfers out there wondering what their route to the top is – and how to win when they get there – could do worse than look at the weekend’s two main winners.
At the Honda Classic in Florida, 21-year-old Sungjae Im continued his amazing progress with a first PGA Tour title, outshining overnight leader Tommy Fleetwood in a fantastic display.
The South Korean only moved to the United States two years ago to play on the second-tier Web.com Tour. He led the money list from start to finish and progressed to the PGA Tour in 2019, where he earned the Rookie of the Year award. Now he is a winner at that level, too, and has climbed into the world’s top 25.
Im’s breakthrough victory came after a four-way tussle with Fleetwood, Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and Brendan Steele on Sunday.
Hughes, who had missed nine of his previous 11 cuts, practically became the favourite when playing partner Im found a bunker with his third shot at the par-five 18th.
But Im seems to have an old head on young shoulders and produced an exquisite bunker shot. He signed for a 66 and set a clubhouse target of six under par that would not be beaten.
Im’s swing is unusual in that it is very slow to begin with. But, like fellow PGA Tour youngster Matt Wolff, who also has a distinctive but very different action, after a certain point it is perfection.
It wasn’t Fleetwood’s day
It was a disappointing end to the week for Fleetwood, who led by three early in his final round and hit a few bad shots yet still went up the last knowing a birdie would ensure a play-off.
His hopes ended when an attempt to reach the green with his second shot at 18 found the water and he bogeyed, finishing third. In those circumstances it was almost an impossible pin to get close to.
So much can happen on those last four holes at PGA National and Fleetwood set himself up with a chance but it wasn’t his day. The way he’s playing, though, I can’t see that first US win being far away.
Ryder Cup record beckons for Westwood
The mercurial Lee Westwood was just one shot behind fellow Englishman Fleetwood in what was another good outing for the 46-year-old.
It won’t bring him huge money but the points on offer all count, not least now that a record-equalling 11th European Ryder Cup appearance has become a real possibility.
Westwood is such a great talent and currently on course to qualify for the team. While September is still a long way away, he is certainly going in the right direction.
Happy Vali makes memories in Oman
The other young man continuing his ascent at the weekend was 21-year-old Finn Sami Valimaki, who claimed his maiden European Tour title at just the sixth attempt at the Oman Open.
Valimaki won four times on the third-tier Pro Golf Tour last year and was phenomenal last week. He holed some fantastically brave putts, including in the play-off with Brandon Stone.
This will definitely serve him well in the future. Over the years, golfers retain all sorts of playing memories – mostly bad – but he will be able to draw on this success for years to come.
With Salimaki and Im joining the likes of Viktor Hovland and Rasmus Hojgaard in making breakthroughs this season, there is no shortage of talent coming through.