PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Sungjae Im is tireless, and no longer winless.
A 21-year-old South Korean, Im started fast and finished stronger on Sunday, winning the Honda Classic by one shot over Mackenzie Hughes and Tommy Fleetwood for his first career PGA Tour victory in his 50th attempt.
Im shot four-under 66 on Sunday, finishing at six under to match the second-highest winning score since the Honda moved to PGA National in 2007. He was the tour’s rookie of the year last season, plus has played more tournaments and more rounds than anyone else since the 2018-19 season.
Im birdied four of his first five holes, then birdied two of the final four to finish off the victory and pick up $1.26 million.
Hughes, a Canadian who made the cut on the number Friday, shot his second consecutive 66. Playing alongside Im, he was a part of some serious fireworks on the last two holes and missed a birdie putt at the par-5 finishing hole that would have gotten him into a tie for the top spot.
Fleetwood, who is still seeking his first PGA Tour win, started Sunday one shot clear of the field and started with back-to-back birdies to get to seven under at that point — matching what was the low score in relation to par of the week.
Then PGA National did what it usually does, that being not let anyone run away from the pack.
Fleetwood made bogey on the par-4 sixth, and couldn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker on the par-4 eighth, giving back what was left of his lead at that point and sharing the top spot at five under with Im and Brendan Steele.
Moments after Im finished, Fleetwood made a 25-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th to get to five under. But Fleetwood’s second on the par-5 finishing hole leaked right and splashed into the water, and once his attempt at a miracle hole-out after a drop from 120 yards didn’t fall, Im could finally exhale as the winner.
Im hugged his caddie in the locker room, where he watched the last 20 minutes or so on a monitor.
“I’ve been in this spot many times,” Im said through a translator, adding, ”I just felt like the experience really helped.”
Some of Im’s best moments have come when no one has been looking.
He was third at the Zozo Championship in Japan in October, a finish overshadowed by Tiger Woods tying the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories. And in November, Im went 3-1-1 to tie for the best showing by a player on the International team at the Presidents Cup, but the U.S. team captained by Woods rallied in singles on the final day to win the trophy.
But this time, Im was on center stage and embraced the moment.
Hughes and Im went to the par-3 17th green — the end of the “Bear Trap” three-hole stretch — in wildly different spots. Im struck his tee ball to just inside of 8 feet, while Hughes had nearly 55 feet left from above the hole.
Hughes rolled in his most improbable birdie to an enormous roar, pulling into a tie with Im at five under.
If Im was worried, it didn’t show.
He took a couple looks at his downhill line, took his putter back just a couple of inches and watched the ball roll in for a birdie that allowed him to reclaim his lead at six under — this time, for good.