Im Sung-jae charges into contention in WM Phoenix Open
Korea’s Im Sung-jae brilliantly birdied six of his opening eight holes to surge into contention at the $20 million WM Phoenix Open on Friday when the second round was suspended due to darkness.
The 24-year-old Im, chasing a third PGA Tour win, chipped in for birdie from 63 feet on the par-4 10th hole before making five more gains including a 34-footer at the famous par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course to sit on 6-under through 12 holes. Play was suspended due to darkness with the entire afternoon wave unable to compete their second rounds.
Im’s 7-under total left him in tied-fourth place and three shots behind clubhouse leader and defending champion Scottie Scheffler, who fired a superb 64 to reach the halfway mark at 10-under 132. The world No. 2 holds a two-shot lead over in-form Spaniard Jon Rahm (66) and Adam Hadwin of Canada, who was 3-under with eight holes remaining.
Im is looking to return to winning ways after he last lifted the Shriners Children’s Open in October 2021. This season, he finished top-10 twice including a T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago and holds a best finish of tied seventh in Phoenix in 2019.
Countryman Kim Joo-hyung was another impressive performer of the day as he registered a superb 66 to move up to T11 on 137. He was two-over par through his first four holes on Thursday but has since produced some sublime golf to move up the leaderboard.
Starting the day from the 10th tee, the 20-year-old rising star birdied Hole Nos. 11, 15, 1, 2, 7 and 9 to offset a sole blemish on the par-5 3rd hole and kept his hopes alive of winning a third PGA Tour title. Kim’s highlight was a monstrous birdie putt from 43-feet at No. 1.
“It was really cold in the morning. Greens were firm. Just freezing out there. But I feel like I managed it well. Finished even par with especially the way I was playing, even with the second round, just not feeling a hundred percent over the ball, “ said Kim, who became the first golfer since Tiger Woods in 1996 to win twice on the PGA Tour before turning 21.
“But I feel like on the back nine I really found something that kind of clicked well. Nice to always finish with a birdie.”
Another Korean Kim Si-woo, who was victorious at the Sony Open in Hawaii last month, sits T38 on 141 following a 69 and was joined by Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, a two-time winner at WM Phoenix Open, who was 4-under with five holes to finish on Saturday morning.
BY CHUAH CHOO CHIANG [email@example.com]