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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Four Korean golfers head to Memphis for FedExCup Playoffs

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From left: Im Sung-jae, Kim Joo-hyung, Lee Kyoung-hoon and Kim Si-woo
From left: Im Sung-jae, Kim Joo-hyung, Lee Kyoung-hoon and Kim Si-woo

Four Korean golfers have earned the right to compete at the 2022 FedExCup Playoffs starting this Thursday at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

Im Sung-jae, Kim Joo-hyung, Lee Kyoung-hoon, and Kim Si-woo all finished within the top 50 in the FedExCup standings this season, earning their spot in the FedEx St. Jude Championship this week.

The top 125 golfers on the FedExCup standings are eligible to compete at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first stage in the FedExCup playoffs.

That field then drops to the top 70 on the FedExCup standings for the BMW Championship next week, with only the top 30 advancing to the final Tour Championship, where the FedExCup Champion is crowned. Advancement is based on FedExCup ranking, not on a golfer’s position in each individual tournament. 

Im enters the playoffs as the highest ranked Korea in 10th place, with his path to the Tour Championship looking very secure.  

There are 2,000 FedExCup points available for the winner of each playoff, with second-place taking 1,200 points and third taking 760 points.  

Im currently has 1,733, 795 points above No. 30 Luke List. While big changes are possible during the FedExCup playoffs due to a large number of points available, it is highly unlikely for Im to be knocked all the way out of contention.

Kim Joo-hyung, at No. 34, faces a far tougher path to the Tour Championship.

Kim Joo-hyung only earned the right to compete in the FedExCup Playoffs last week when he won the Wyndham Championship to secure his PGA Tour card. Only PGA golfers are included on the FedExCup ranking, although if a player earns his Tour card during the season, previously-earned points are added to his tally.

That allowed Kim Joo-hyung to jump straight to No. 34 with three top 10 finishes so far this season.

If the 20-year-old can continue his current momentum into the weekend, he has a chance of racking up some more FedExCup points and jumping up into the top 30 in time for the Tour Championship. As well as winning the Wyndham Championship last week, Kim finished seventh at the Rocket Mortgage Classic the week before and third at the Scottish Open last month.

“Honestly, I didn’t think that I would be playing next week [at the FedEx Cup Playoffs],” Kim said after his win last week. “It’s all so sudden, but I want to do well on my first-ever FedEx Cup Playoffs and maybe even reach my dreams of playing in the Tour Championship too.”

That win also took Kim up to fifth on the International Team ranking for the 2022 Presidents Cup, alongside Im who sits at No. 3. Eight of the 12 Presidents Cup International Team spots are given to the top eight players on the Presidents Cup International Team Points List, with the remaining four players picked by the captain.

With the Presidents Cup set to be played next month, a good performance over the playoffs could secure Kim’s spot on the team. 

Lee enters the tournament at No. 40 on the FedExCup rankings with just one top 10 finish this season, having successfully defended his title at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Kim Si-woo trails in at No. 48 with no wins, one top 10 finish, and 10 top 25 finishes this season.

For the golfers, the FedExCup Playoffs round off a busy 2021-22 season that has seen occasional disruptions due to the lingering impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including interrupting Im’s season when he tested positive while competing in Korea.

The long slog of the three-tournament FedExCup Playoffs comes with a significant prize at the end of the road for whoever is left standing after the final stroke of the Tour Championship — the winner takes home $18 million.

Taking their first step toward that prize pot, Im, Kim Joo-hyung, Lee and Kim Si-woo will tee off Thursday at the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

Kim Si-woo will tee off first on the first hole at 7:48 a.m. alongside Mackenzie Hughes of Canada and Tyrrell Hatton of England. 

The other three Korean golfers follow in the afternoon, with Lee teeing off at 12:33 p.m. on the tenth hole with Scott Stallings and Denny McCarthy, both of the United States. Im and Kim Joo-hyung follow at 12:55 p.m. on different holes — Im on the first hole with Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Will Zalatoris of the United States and Kim Joo-hyung on the tenth hole with Sepp Straka of Austria and Kevin Kisner of the United States.  

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]

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