South Korea's Im ready to defend at formidable PGA National

·3-min read
South Korea's Im Sung-jae will try to defend his title at this week's US PGA Honda Classic at PGA National

Im Sung-jae defends his first PGA Tour title at this week's Honda Classic, hoping to recapture the magic form he enjoyed before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the sport.

The 22-year-old South Korean tackles one of the toughest courses on the tour at PGA National, which features "The Bear Trap" -- the par-3 15th, par-4 16th and par-3 17th holes.

"This is one of the toughest courses," Im said Tuesday. "It tends to get really windy here.

"Even without winds the greens are always firm, and off the tee box there's so much water everywhere that it just gives a lot of pressure before you hit every shot."

But Im says he enjoys the most challenging courses the best.

"The greens are firm. There's a lot of water. I know all the players will be struggling, including myself," Im said. "But I try to have fun playing through the challenges. I tend to play well overall when the courses are more challenging."

Im, ranked 17th, was the 2019 rookie of the year, took his first tour title in 2020 and produced his best major finish with a runner-up effort at last November's Masters.

He won last year's Honda event by one stroke over Canada's Mackenzie Hughes and finished third the following week at Bay Hill before the virus shutdown struck.

"I went back to my hotel room and I just really couldn't not believe what just happened," Im said of last year's triumph. "So that memory in itself is the best memorable moment from last year."

Im played 12 of 13 weeks when the PGA returned from a three-month layoff last June, with a 10th at Colonial in his first event back and a ninth at Greensboro his best results.

"During the off time and coming back for the resumption, to my standard, I think I played mediocre," Im said.

"But my condition is slowly coming back up and I'm finding my game and it's great to be back here."

In the 2020-21 campaign, Im has made the cut in 15 of 16 starts.

"As far as preparation, nothing has changed," Im said. "I've played really consistently overall."

- 'Pin-seek it all day' -

Australia's Adam Scott, the 2016 Honda champion, expects the wind to play a major factor.

"This is a very demanding golf course," Scott said. "The wind makes this course extremely difficult. If there's a change in wind... it can change how the course plays drastically.

"The guy who is comfortable with the change is going to do well, and the guy who isn't is going to really struggle."

Scott is impressed with what he has seen of Presidents Cup teammate Im.

"He (Im) thinks he can just pin-seek it all day,| Scott said. "He has obviously got a lot of confidence and we've seen that in his consistent play the last couple of years now."

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