An searches for elusive spark at happy hunting turf

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Byeong Hun An has a career best T8 at the Wells Fargo Championship. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

A return to Quail Hollow Club for this week’s Wells Fargo Championship could well be the impetus to spark a return to form for Korea’s Byeong Hun An.

The 29-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion holds a career best finish of tied eighth at the famed venue in Charlotte, North Carolina which will also host the Presidents Cup next year. Following his International Team debut against the United States two years ago, An is keen to jump on a strong run of form and play his way into a fifth successive FedExCup Playoffs and get on captain Trevor Immelman’s International Team as well in 2022.

The signs are slowly turning in his favour as last week, An snapped a frustrating five-tournament missed cut run on the PGA Tour.

“It’s a good golf course … there are a lot of hazards here and there, and some tough greens too. It’s not an easy course. There are some short holes and you have some tough par fours and drivable par fours. You can play around with the format and I think it’ll be great for a team competition,” said An.

This season has been An’s most challenging since his first full season on the PGA Tour in 2017. Changes made to his golf swing with new coach Sean Foley has been slow to set in and despite a top-10 early in January, the quality of his ball striking, so often his strength, has been below par. He currently ranks 144th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 131st in Approach to Green.

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Ever the optimist, An hopes to draw on some inner fire which he produced so gallantly during the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne to spur him on over the next few months as he chases for a Top-125 position to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs. He currently ranks 156th.

“It’s so fun that week,” recalled An of his first Presidents Cup experience. “I feel like I’m playing for something bigger than myself. Golf is such an individual sport as you’re always playing for yourself every week. Every two years we have the team format, it’s more fun and you’re playing for your country and the international team. It’s different and special. It’s always been my dream and goal to play in the Presidents Cup. Hopefully, I can show some form over the next couple of months till next year and qualify again, which is one of my biggest goals.”

Countryman Sungjae Im is also teeing up at the Wells Fargo Championship as he seeks to improve on his T31 finish in his lone appearance at Quail Hollow two years ago. He finished T29 at the Valspar Championship last week. “This course is very long, so big hitters will have an advantage from that perspective. But you still need accuracy to play well here. I think we need to prepare and set strategies based on this. Good tee shots and long, middle irons will be the key,” said Im.

Like An, he also made a memorable Presidents Cup debut at Royal Melbourne where he contributed 3.5 points in the International Team’s narrow defeat to the United States, which was then led by Tiger Woods. Naturally, he is also aiming to play his way back into the International Team.

“(Ernie) Els led our team so well in 2019 … we had a great team spirit and played as one team. I hope we will gather one more time and make a good team again in 2022. We led the competition until the Singles matches but lost because we did not get enough points. We were disappointed as we had a chance and we were so close. We believe that we can win the next time,” said Im.

Other Asians in this week’s field nclude Korea’s K.J. Choi, Sung Kang, Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan and China’s Xinjun Zhang who will face a stellar line-up which includes four of top-five players in Official World Golf Ranking: Justin Thomas (2), Jon Rahm (3), Xander Schauffele (4) and Bryson DeChambeau (5). Max Homa is the defending champion.

Text courtesy: PGA Tour

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