Korea’s Byeong Hun An closed with a stunning eagle en route to a sparkling 9-under 64 as he joined compatriot Sungjae Im in the title hunt at The Sentry, the PGA TOUR’s season-opening event, on Friday.
The 32-year-old An, who is chasing his maiden PGA TOUR victory, soared into tied fifth place on 14-under 132, just two strokes behind 36-hole leader Scottie Scheffler at The Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui.
World No. 1 Scheffler bounced back from a bogey on his second hole to fire a 64 which included an eagle and eight birdies while Im, who has two top-10s at The Sentry, carded a 66 for tied second place on 131 alongside Tyrrell Hatton (62) and Brendon Todd (64).
Making his tournament debut, An ended his round with a flourish, rifling a 4 iron from 272 yards to about six feet for a closing eagle. He also holed a monstrous 38-foot birdie on the ninth to charge up the leaderboard.
“It was nice. It was kind of a stress-free. I hit it pretty good, hit a lot of greens, made a lot of good putts here and there. Yeah, seems like a few of the birdie putts were all straight-ish puts, so I made a lot of decent putts and nice to finish with a 3 on the last hole,” said An, who ranked second in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee.
He was delighted to end his day on a high note after striking a picture-perfect approach into the par-5 18th hole. “230 (yards) to the front was a perfect 4-iron, as long as the wind didn’t blow into us. Luckily, the wind was just across right-to-left, it suits kind of my shot shape. I was aiming a little right of where I wanted to pitch it and it drew nicely and it pitched exactly where I wanted, rolled out exactly how much I wanted. It was nice,” said An, who has four career runner-up finishes on TOUR.
Im, a two-time winner, maintained his strong start to the 2024 PGA TOUR season. After an opening 65 on Thursday, the 25-year-old sank eight birdies, including three in his last four holes, against a lone bogey.
Another Korean, Si Woo Kim, carded a 66 to sit T23 on 136, while Tom Kim returned a 70 as he slipped to tied 38th place. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama shot 68, three shots better than his opening round, as he remained T46 on 139.
Im intends to maintain his aggressive play at Kapalua where he ranks second in the tournament scoring average. “I scored 7-under today and had a good second round. It was less windy than yesterday so it was easier to play and I think all the players had a good game. I think the players will get good scores in the third and fourth rounds too so I will try my best,” said Im.
Scheffler, in his third appearance at The Sentry, showed why he was voted the 2023 Player of the Year by snatching the 36-hole lead. He narrowly missed a long range eagle attempt at the last hole from approximately 58 feet.
“I thought it was going in. But, no, I was glad to tap it in,” said Scheffler, who recorded 13 top-fives and 17 top-10s during the 2022-23 season. “Scores around this place are pretty low, but it’s one of those places if you go out there and play well you’re going to get rewarded. Just got to keep the pedal down out here.”