Pro records a scoring mark that hasn’t been done in at least 41 years

Sungjae Im

Sungjae Im hits his tee shot on Sunday on the 1st hole at East Lake Golf Club.

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Sungjae Im first set a PGA Tour record. Then, he maybe carded another personal one. 

Im, on the par-3 2nd at East Lake Golf Club, hit his tee shot to 21 feet, hit his putt, then watched as his ball fell over the front of the cup during Sunday’s final round of the Tour Championship. He pumped his fist three times. 

No player, in 41 years of tracking, had now made as many birdies as Im had in a PGA Tour season. To celebrate, the normally stoic Im did something he likely hadn’t done in his 23 years of living. Three fist pumps from Im? Though Labor Day weekend doesn’t traditionally have fireworks, consider this an explosion. 

Im would tack on birdies on 10, 12, 14 and 18, and he’d finish with 498 birdies, five more than Steve Flesch’s previous mark, set in 2000. Since the Tour began tracking birdie totals in 1980, only three players have had 480 birdies or more in a season — Im this year, Flesch, Vijay Singh in 2004 (484) and Im in 2019 (480).

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Im, no doubt, was helped both by the fact that this is the first — and likely only — PGA Tour “super season,” with 50 events, starting with the U.S. Open last September, and the fact that Im is a super workhorse — he’s played 127 rounds over 35v tournaments. Still, one does not make birdies just by entering an event.  

“Who knows if that’ll be the Joe DiMaggio record on the PGA Tour,” announcer Dan Hicks said on NBC’s broadcast, referencing baseball’s record 56-game hitting streak. 

A look at the birdie leaders on the PGA Tour since tracking began in 1980:

1980: Andy Bean, 388 birdies, 104 rounds
1981: Vance Heafner, 388 birdies, 126 rounds 
1982: Andy Bean, 392 birdies, 109 rounds
1983: Hal Sutton, 399 birdies, 113 rounds
1984: Mark O’Meara, 419 birdies, 111 rounds
1985: Joey Sindelar, 411 birdies, 120 rounds
1986: Joey Sindelar, 415 birdies, 117 rounds
1987: Dan Forsman, 409 birdies, 121 rounds
1988: Dan Forsman, 465 birdies, 122 rounds
1989: Ted Schulz, 415 birdies, 114 rounds
1990: Mike Donald, 401 birdies, 114 rounds
1991: Scott Hoch, 446 birdies, 115 rounds
1992: Jeff Sluman, 417 birdies, 111 rounds
1993: John Huston, 426 birdies, 112 rounds
1994: Brad Bryant, 397 birdies, 109 rounds
1995: Steve Lowery, 410 birdies, 107 rounds
1996: Woody Austin, 422 birdies, 117 rounds
1997: Kelly Gibson, 424 birdies, 123 rounds
1998: Chris Perry, 404 birdies, 111 rounds
1999: Chris Perry, 468 birdies, 124 rounds
2000: Steve Flesch, 493 birdies, 123 rounds
2001: Brian Gay, 441 birdies, 114 rounds
2002: John Rollins, 463 birdies, 124 rounds
2003: Robert Gamez, 466 birdies, 114 rounds
2004: Vijay Singh, 484 birdies, 112 rounds
2005: Ted Purdy, 437 birdies, 122 rounds
2006: Daniel Chopra, 435 birdies, 110 rounds
2007: Briny Baird, 411 birdies, 115 rounds
2008: Steve Marino, 440 birdies, 119 rounds
2009: Bo Van Pelt, 395 birdies, 100 rounds
2010: Brendon de Jonge, 429 birdies, 114 rounds
2011: Blake Adams, 433 birdies, 116 rounds
2012: Brendon de Jonge, 425 birdies, 115 rounds
2013: Brendon de Jonge, 399 birdies, 110 rounds
2014: Jimmy Walker, 401 birdies, 98 rounds
2015: Danny Lee, 475 birdies, 120 rounds
2016: Si Woo Kim, 400 birdies, 113 rounds
2017: Charley Hoffman, 423 birdies, 112 rounds
2018: Austin Cook, 419 birdies, 107 rounds
2019: Sungjae Im, 480 birdies, 122 rounds
2020: Sungjae Im, 390 birdies, 94 rounds
2021: Sungjae Im, 498 birdies, 127 rounds

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor