Korean stars enjoy solid starts at BMW Championship

Byeong Hun An Presidents CupMedinah, Illinois: Korea’s Sung Kang rode a hot start for a 3-under 69 in the opening round of the BMW Championship  on Thursday, keeping alive his hopes in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup Playoffs.

Kang, who won his maiden PGA TOUR event at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, birdied four of his opening six holes at Medinah Country Club’s Course No. 3 before taking his foot off the pedal with his lone bogey on 15. He ended the day in a share of 25th place.

Countrymen Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim opened their campaigns in the second of three FedExCup Playoffs events with matching 70s to lie in joint 36th position while Byeong Hun An was a further stroke back with a 71.

Kang requires a projected 10th place finish in this week’s elite 70-man field to qualify for Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship which is limited to the top-30 players who will have a chance of winning the FedExCup through a unique strokeplay format. The FedExCup champion will pocket US$15 million.

“There’s no cut this week, so three rounds to go and I need to go low one day. Need to concentrate hard and you’ll never know, I can get hot on a birdie run here. The course is pretty hard and I played pretty solid today,” said Kang, who is currently ranked 42nd on the FedExCup points list.

“I don’t care about projections. If I shoot 20 under and everyone matches the score, I still won’t make it. I just have to stick to my game plan and see what the field does. Just keep trying to play solid and I need a few more putts to drop. I know I can go low.”

Rookie Im, 23, needs to finish a projected 28th in Medinah to get to Atlanta. After carding a 70, he knows he must improve on his current position to ensure his dream season on the PGA TOUR extends to the Playoffs Finale.

The  23-year-old Im, who has seven top-10s this season, made an eagle on five and three birdies on 10, 13 and 18 but dropped three bogeys on the card to ensure a nervous next three days.

“On the first hole, I hit a bad drive and hit the trees. My tee shot wasn’t good and I didn’t start well. And it kind of went backwards a bit. I made eagle after holing a good shot from the greenside bunker,” said Im, who missed five fairways in his first round and is currently ranked 26th on the FedExCup points list.

“I just have to keep my focus, keep playing hard and hope for things to go my way.”

Im is also trying to qualify as the first top eight players for the International Team in the Presidents Cup, which qualifying ends on Sunday. Currently 12th on the standings, he needs a projected top-four finish and other results to go his way to have a chance of making it to Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December.

Kim traded five birdies against three bogeys for his 70 while An had three birdies against two bogeys for his 71. Kim and An need a projected fourth place finish to advance to the TOUR Championship.