Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell. Credit Getty Images

Korea’s Sungjae Im had his American partner, Keith Mitchell in awe after they maintained their title challenge at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with a stellar 10-under 62 in Saturday’s Four-ball session which kept them one back of third round leaders Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler.

Im, who is a two-time PGA TOUR winner, recorded seven birdies for the team, including a burst of six birdies on his outward nine, while Mitchell contributed two pivotal birdies on the 16th and 18th holes to stay close on the leaders’ heels. Clark and Hossler also combined for a 62 to maintain their overnight lead.

“He was honestly incredible,” said Mitchell of Im’s performance at TPC Louisiana. “The front nine was some of the best golf I’ve ever seen played ever, 6-under through eight holes. All in all, 10-under par is, in my opinion, Sungjae probably could have shot that on his own but I helped him on a couple holes out there.”

The unlikely Im-Mitchell pairing has continued to sparkle in the only official FedExCup tournament to feature a two-player team format. Four years ago, Mitchell approached Im to play in the tournament but the Korean turned him down as he was already committed to another partner then.

However, earlier this month, Im returned the favour by asking Mitchell, a one-time TOUR winner, to team up and the American gladly accepted the offer even though he had originally planned to skip the event.

Im and Mitched have so far shared plenty of high fives and smiles across three days of competition which Mitchell said will continue to be their goal on Sunday. The American, who has spent time teaching Im about American college football, also had no qualms calling Im the team captain, which the latter taught him how to say the term in Korean, “Jujang”.

Im was certainly the leader in the third round as his precision play rewarded the team with a hatful of birdies. Mitchell said: “Nine was playing incredibly tough and he just made a perfect up and down there on nine to shoot 6-under on the front. It was just fun to be a part of. I could only help him on two holes,” said Mitchell.

“I would say his 3-wood, second shot on No. 7 (was his best) … from the right rough through the trees. It was an incredible shot. Hit it up there, two-putted for birdie. It just made my front nine very stress-free. I was high fiving him and watching him roll. I tried to contribute a little the last few holes. I’m feeling really good about Sungjae’s golf game. The guy has proven he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s only 25 years old, and the fact he’s only won twice, I think is underrated for how good his game is. I think we’re going to see a Hall of Famer in the future.”

About the only thing that Im-Mitchell disagreed upon was Mitchell’s choice of headwear. When the American asked if Im would switch the visor, Im flatly answered: “For me, no.”

Korea’s Byeong Hun An/S.H. Kim teamed up to fire a superb 63 for a share of 13th place alongside compatriots Si Woo Kim/Tom Kim, who combined for a 64 and will enter the final round seven back of the third round leaders.

Another Korean, S.Y. Noh, who won the Zurich Classic in 2014 when it was played as an individual strokeplay event, and his Korean-American partner Michael Kim shot a 66 for 17-under.

Third-Round Notes – Saturday, April 22, 2023

Weather: Sunny and breezy. High of 77. Wind NE 10-15 mph.  

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

Third-Round Leaderboard

Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler                             61-67-62—190 (-26)

Sungjae Im/Keith Mitchell                                      62-67-62—191 (-25)

Matthias Schwab/Vincent Norrman                   64-67-62—193 (-23)

Taylor Moore/Matthew NeSmith                       64-66-63—193 (-23)

Davis Riley/Nick Hardy                                            64-66-63—193 (-23)

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