Im Sung-jae, Kim Si-woo look to break out at WGC Match Play
Im Sung-jae and Kim Si-woo teed off at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play on Wednesday as both golfers compete to become the first Asian competitor ever to win the gruelling tournament.
Unlike most other golf tournaments, the WGC Match Play follows the typical group stage, knockout stage format more commonly found in team sports.
The top 64 golfers in the world are invited to compete, and split into 16 groups of four. Over the first three of the tournament, the four golfers in each group face each other in a round-robin format, with the group winner qualifying for the knockout stage.
The knockout stage then follows the usual format — a round of 16 followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and a final, all taking place on Saturday and Sunday. All matches at every stage of the competition are played in an 18-hole match-play format, meaning that the winner of the tournament will have played at least 126 holes of golf by the end, possibly more if there are any tie-breakers.
Only two Korean golfers have ever reached the quarterfinals at the WGC Match Play — K. J. Choi in 2008 and Yang Yong-eun in 2011 — and no Asian golfer has ever won the tournament.
For Im, who set the PGA record for the most birdies in a single season last year at 498, the more aggressive style required for match play should come easily.
“For stroke play, it is like a long race, but match play is like a 100-meter sprint," Im said ahead of the tournament. "We can be more aggressive and change our game plan during a match especially when your opponent makes a mistake. We need to focus and make quick decisions on every hole. That is a huge pressure.
"I think I could play well this week and enjoy this tournament."
Kim is looking at the WGC Match Play as an opportunity to earn his way back into the international team for the upcoming Presidents Cup. The top eight at the tournament will automatically earn a spot.
“I really want to get back into the International Team. It was really fun in 2017 and I hope to play well this week and get my way back into the Presidents Cup. You get all the best players there,” said Kim.
Im will compete in Group 4 alongside Patrick Cantlay, Keith Mitchell and Seamus Power. As of press time, he was set to face Power on Wednesday to open the tournament. Kim is in Group 13, where he faces Daniel Berger on Wednesday, followed by Tyrell Hatton and Christian Bezuidenhout.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]