Korean star Sungjae Im’s dream of a fairy-tale finish with American partner Keith Mitchell failed to materialise as the duo settled for solo sixth place on Sunday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, five shots behind winners Nick Hardy and Davis Riley.
Im and Mitchell, partnering for the first time in the only PGA TOUR tournament to feature a two-man team competition, started the final round at TPC Louisiana one off the lead and were very much in the title hunt until a back nine stumble as they signed for a closing 72.
Korean duo, Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim produced the best-ever result by an Asian team with a tie for seventh place since the tournament became a team event in 2017 after closing out with a 68 in the Foursomes (alternate shot) format. Countrymen Byeong Hun An/S.H. Kim shot a final round 71 to finish in a six-way tie for 13th place
The 25-year-old Im and Mitchell, 31, have been the story of the week after forging an unlikely pairing. Despite Im’s limited English, they were clearly enjoying themselves throughout the week to contend for a win. Im and Mitchell turned in 34 with birdies on the first hole and eighth hole but dropped bogeys on Hole Nos. 10, 12 and 15 against another birdie on 13 as their challenge faded down the stretch.
The finish was Im’s sixth top-10 of the season and propelled him from 28th to 20th on the latest FedExCup standings following his tied second finish in the season-long race last year.
Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim, who enjoyed a memorable match win together at the Presidents Cup last September, ended their week on a strong note with five birdies against a lone bogey on their card to finish on 23-under 265, seven strokes behind the winners
The strong showing was a much-needed boost for Tom and Si Woo as they climbed to 13th and 17th place respectively on the FedExCup standings. It was also their first top-10s since January.
The final day belonged to Hardy and Riley as they celebrated their maiden PGA TOUR victory together after combining brilliantly for a flawless 65 which included five birdies on the home stretch.
Hardy, 27, and Riley, 26, closed out the tournament with a record score of 30-under 258, two shots ahead of second-placed Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor of Canada. “It was nerve-racking honestly. Any time you’re trying to win a golf tournament, more or less to get your first win is always tough,” said Riley.
“You’re going to have to kind of step up there and hit some shots. Fortunately, we were able to kind of execute some really good shots coming down the stretch, and it was really fun.”
Hardy chipped in: “I’ll second that. I feel like we both handled it very well coming down the stretch. First-timers, obviously. So, to be able to do that together, kind of rub off each other’s confidence and sort of attitude. It was definitely special to have a partner for the first one.”
Defending champion Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay finished tied fourth after closing with a 66 where their combined scores in the more difficult Foursomes format were lower than the Four-ball format during the week.
Final-Round Notes – Sunday, April 23, 2023
Weather: Mostly cloudy. High of 76. Wind E 10-15 mph.
Format: Four-ball (best ball) in first and third rounds, Foursomes (alternate shot) in second and fourth rounds
Davis Riley/Nick Hardy 64-66-63-65—258 (-30)
Nick Taylor/Adam Hadwin 66-67-64-63—260 (-28)
Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler 61-67-62-71—261 (-27)
Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay 67-63-66-66—262 (-26)
Taylor Moore/Matthew NeSmith 64-66-63-69—262 (-26)