It is fitting that the man who never takes a week off wins a tournament sponsored by a company known for longevity in its products. Sungjae Im won the 2020 Honda Classic on Sunday by one over Mackenzie Hughes after shooting a round-of-the-day, a 4-under 66 that finished in style.
Im, who was playing his 76th tournament since Jan. 1, 2018, birdied four of the first five to climb the leaderboard in a hurry. But then he played his next nine holes in 2 over before stepping to the daunting Bear Trap at PGA National.
Holes Nos. 15-17 were playing 0.6 strokes over par per round on the week, but Im played them in 2 under on Sunday, punctuated by his 8-foot birdie on the par-3 17th to get to 6 under, which turned out to be the winning number. His best shot came at the 15th though where he went right at an impossible pin. It's why he was No. 1 in the field in strokes gained from tee to green on the week.
After a bunker shot on 18 yielded par, he had to wait out Tommy Fleetwood behind him, but 6 under would eventually be enough after Fleetwood hit his 250-yard approach into the par-5 wide right and in the drink.
"I've been in this spot many times, and gaining experience throughout the weeks helped me stay in the moment," Im said through a translator. "The experience has really helped, especially on the last few holes."
Experience is something Im has plenty of in the last few years. He was the Player of the Year on the Korn Ferry Tour two seasons ago and the PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year last season. Despite not winning on the big circuit, Im did have three wins worldwide in 2018-19.
He had three top-three finishes on the PGA Tour in 2019, a terrific Presidents Cup performance at Royal Melbourne and has risen into the top 30 in the world with this trophy. He's 21-years-old, too. A potential star on this tour for a long, long time.
A win here in a not-great field won't reverberate in the broader golf world, but Im has officially arrived (if all you care about is winning), and he's going to be a menace to deal with for the next several years. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2020 Honda Classic.
Tommy Fleetwood (3rd): There's a lot going on here. He made a filthy birdie at No. 17 to give himself a chance before that putrid shot into No. 18. The film there seems to indicate that someone screamed in his backswing, which apparently didn't affect him hitting the ball but was appalling to watch in the moment. A note on Fleetwood for those hollering all day that he needs to win more on the PGA Tour: He also needs to just play more on the PGA Tour. I count 25 career events on this tour that weren't majors or WGCs, and he's come close several times. Nothing to get real worked up about ... yet. Grade: A
Lee Westwood (T4): My man. He crushes at PGA National, and he did again this week. The problem here is that he actually putted out of his mind, contrary to his normal statistical profile. Westwood finished second in that category, which would normally be good enough for something like a three-stroke win. But he didn't hit it as well as he usually does. Still, excited for the prospects of Augusta National and the Masters. Grade: A
Brooks Koepka (MC): Four doubles and four birdies in the first two rounds before an early exit for Koepka. I'm not saying I'm concerned about his play and his injury, but I'm not saying I'm not concerned either. Is he just going to MC all the way until the Masters and turn it on for that week? That feels improbable at best. Grade: F