Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Credit Getty Images

Golf’s new bromance between Korea’s Sungjae Im and his American partner Keith Mitchell continued to blossom as they combined for a sparkling 5-under 67 in Friday’s Foursomes session to sit one back of leaders Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Im and Mitchell clicked superbly in the more difficult alternate shot format at TPC Louisiana, trading seven birdies against a double bogey to reach the halfway stage of the PGA TOUR tournament on 15-under 129, tying for the second place alongside Doc Redman and Sam Ryder, who posted a 66.

Defending champions Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele charged up the leaderboard with the day’s low of 63 for tied fourth place, two back and within striking shot of a repeat win. It was a new Foursomes course record in the tournament.

Korean duo Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim combined for a 67 to lie five adrift on 133, which was matched by compatriot S.Y. Noh and his American partner Michael Kim who returned a 71 to sit on T20. Another Korean combination, Byeong Hun An/S.H. Kim posted a second successive 67 to make the cut on the number at 10-under.

The unlikely Im-Mitchell partnership continued to shine despite a double bogey on the sixth hole which was the team’s only blemish following an errant Mitchell drive which found the water hazard. They bounced back magnificently with three straight birdies – all from within five feet –and nailed three more birdies coming home.

Mitchell’s putting was hot as he drained two long birdies – a 33-footer on No. 12 and a 28-footer on No. 16. He owned up to his lone mistake. “My drive on six was a highlight of the negativity out there. Other than that, we played great. If I hit it in the fairway on six, Sungjae probably is going to hit it really close and we’re going to have a birdie or a par chance,” said Mitchell, who is seeking his second PGA TOUR victory after winning The Honda Classic in 2019.

“Outside of that, I felt like we played really solid. I think if Sungjae plays like he’s playing and I can continue to make a couple of long putts and keep the one or two bad swings out for the weekend, I think we’ll have a good chance.”

World No. 17 Im, who is chasing a third PGA TOUR win, was in awe of Mitchell’s driving prowess which he capitalised with some wonderful approach shots with his laser-guided iron play which set the team up for some easy birdies.

The Korean approached Mitchell to team up this week, which was a surprise to many but the combination has been especially fun for Im who has been learning about college football from Mitchell.

“Keith is a good driver and hits it straight away. I think the advantage is that when it hits the fairway, I always can hit a lot of short irons and create birdie opportunities,” said Im.

“I had so much fun playing with Keith. We’re playing best-ball (Four-ball) tomorrow and I hope we can keep our position on the leaderboard by making lots of birdies. We are in a good position, but we think we can be at the top of the leaderboard if we keep playing the same way these past two days.”

Wyndham Clark was delighted with his partnership alongside childhood friend, Beau Hossler as the duo backed up their opening 61 with a solid 67, thanks to a bogey-free card featuring five birdies.

“Well, it’s nice, he kind of hits a natural draw, I hit a natural fade. We both putt well and we chip well,” said Clark. “As far as tee shots to green go, I’ll hit it pretty far off the tee and then he’ll have a wedge and he’s been stacking it. It’s made it pretty easy. Then as far as separate from the golf, we have a lot of fun together, and our caddie relationships are really good.

“We’ve known each other since we were 10. We’ve been friends for a long time, so that was not an issue.”

The other Asian players who missed out on the weekend play include China’s Marty Zecheng Dou and Carl Yuan, who partnered Zac Blair and Tyson Alexander respectively this week. Dou and Zac Blair shot a 67 to miss the cut by two shots on 8-under while Yuan and Alexander bowed out with a 74.

Second-Round Notes – Friday, April 21, 2023

Weather: Rain and thunderstorms. High of 73. Wind SE 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Play was suspended due to inclement weather at 11:12 a.m. CT and resumed at 1:44 p.m. (a delay of 2 hours, 32 minutes). 

36-hole cut: 35 teams at 10-under 134 from a field of 80 teams

Format: Four-ball (best ball) in first and third rounds, Foursomes (alternate shot) in second and fourth rounds

Second-Round Leaderboard

Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler        61-67—128 (-16)

Sam Ryder/Doc Redman                  63-66—129 (-15)

Sungjae Im/Keith Mitchell               62-67—129 (-15)

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