Why $15 million wouldn’t be enough to buy Sungjae Im a weekend off

sungjae im holds scorecard

Sungjae Im is one of golf's brightest (and most inexhaustible) young stars.

Getty Images

Fifteen million dollars might buy Sungjae Im a new house, but it decidedly won’t buy the 22-year-old phenom a new attitude.

Im, who entered Sunday’s third round one stroke off the lead at the Tour Championship, is one of golf’s brightest (and most indefatigable) young stars. At East Lake this week, Sungjae finds himself firmly in the mix for the Championship’s $15 million first prize — a sum roughly twice his current career earnings.

The gargantuan winner’s check is the largest in golf by a significant margin. Fifteen million is a ton of coin for established stars with comfortable bank accounts, let alone a second-year pro who still travels to events with his parents.

Yet when he was asked Saturday about how $15 million might change his burgeoning career, Im offered a curt response: it wouldn’t, at least not right now.

Q. What would you do with the $15 million?

Sungjae Im: I would buy a house in the United States and save so that I can live a comfortable life in the future.

Q. Would you play less if you had $15 million or keep playing more?

Im: Keep playing more.

sungjae im
Sungjae Im, in the middle of his rookie season, is already making waves on the PGA Tour
By: Alan Shipnuck

For those who have followed his career thus far, Im’s response came as no surprise. In just his second year on the PGA Tour, Sungjae has already earned a reputation for two (fine, three) things: ball-striking, authentic Korean barbeque and attendance.

Including this week’s FedEx Cup playoff finale at East Lake, Im has registered a whopping 25 starts during the Covid-shortened 2020 season. And at the quarter-century mark, the results are pretty good — seven top-10 finishes and one win, his first-career PGA Tour victory at the Honda Classic in February.

His 2020 comes on the heels of last year’s even more jam-packed rookie season, in which Im led everyone on Tour with 35 starts (a number that would have been higher had he qualified for either the Masters or U.S. Open).

Still, the fact remains, he’s everywhere and, more often than not, he’s in contention.

Sungjae Im is hoping for a medal at the Olympic Games.
The uncertainty of Sungjae Im: Why this layoff means more for Korea’s top Tour star
By: Dylan Dethier

There are any number of theories behind Sungjae’s preternatural commitment. One says it’s born naturally from his love for competition. Another surmises he’s simply gettin’ while the gettin’s good, particularly considering the professional complications that could arise from his forthcoming 21-month military service obligation as a South Korean citizen.

Whether you view his schedule as the makings of a sub-human competitive machine or simply a 22-year-old bubbling over with youthful zeal, you can rest assured: Sungjae Im isn’t in it for the money.

“I’m aware of the $15 million on the line, but I try not to think about it when I play,” he said. “I know if I play my best the next two days, the opportunity will come. It all seems like a dream. Just thinking about it now makes me pretty happy.”

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James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.