Scottie Scheffler’s overnight five-shot lead shrunk to two following a rampant finish by Xander Schauffele at the TOUR Championship on Friday as Korea’s Sungjae Im moved to tied fourth following a 5-under 65 in the second round.
The 24-year-old Im enjoyed a superb chip-in eagle on the sixth hole and five birdies in the FedExCup Playoffs Finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for a 12-under total, after entering the staggered-start format on 4-under. He trails Scheffler by seven strokes after the World No. 1, who began the week on 10-under as the No. 1 seed, carded a 66 for 19-under.
Schauffele, an East Lake specialist, produced a scintillating 63 for his career low at the historic venue thanks to a birdie, birdie, eagle finish to stay hot on the leader’s heels on 17-under. It was his 20th round in the 60s in 22 rounds at East Lake.
Spaniard Jon Rahm also fired a 63 for solo third on 13-under while last season’s FedExCup champion, Patrick Cantlay posted a 66 to share fourth with playing partner Im, who is seeking to become the first Asian winner of the PGA TOUR’s season-long prize which comes with a US$18 million cheque this week.
Im, winner in Las Vegas earlier in the season, arrived at the TOUR Championship on the back of two runners-up finishes and two top-15s. After struggling with his driver on Thursday, he bounced back with a wonderful ball-striking display, and showed some deft touches by chipping in for eagle from 80 feet and pouring in birdie putts of 17 feet and 29 feet on the second and seventh holes. His other gains came on Holes No. 10, 12 and 18 against two bogeys on the card.
“It was on good chipping angle, and the distance to the hole is my favourite chipping distance. So I could chip with confidence, and then I holed out for eagle,” said Im of his eagle on the sixth. “I could keep the ball on most fairways, so that helped me to play easy today. I made some middle range putts on the front nine which gave me good momentum. It was better than yesterday in all aspects,” added the Korean, who hit 10 fairways and 15 greens in regulation.
Making his fourth straight appearance at East Lake where his best finish was 11th in 2020, Im insists there is no need for him to switch to attack mode despite the need to track down Scheffler with 36 holes remaining. “I just want to keep my game as today. If I keep to my game plan through the weekend, I could be on the top of the leaderboard,” Im said. “If I can maintain this condition, I could finish in a good position.”
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, making his ninth straight appearance at the TOUR Championship, carded a 66 for tied 15th on 6-under while debutant Korea’s K.H. Lee returned a disappointing 72 to lie in 27th position out of 29 players in this week’s elite field.
Scheffler, 26, is seeking to put the cherry at the top of a stellar season where he has won four times including a first major at the Masters in April. The American is also bidding to become the third straight No. 1 seed to claim the prized FedExCup after Dustin Johnson/2020 and Cantlay/2021.
“I’m just going to go out there and do my thing and try and play good golf. Xander obviously has a great track record around here, but paying attention to what other guys do on the golf course has never served me too well. Right now after two days, I’m in position to win the tournament,” he said.
Schauffele, who has won three times this season and entered the week at No. 4 in the FedExCup standings, triumphed at the TOUR Championship in 2017 and finished top-10 in four other starts (T7/2018, 2nd/2019, T2/2020, T5/2021). Like Scheffler, he is chasing a first FedExCup crown, and boosted his hopes with a 4 iron approach to five feet at the closing par 5 hole for eagle.
“It was a little right of where I wanted, but it had the distance and the shape. I hit it really well, so I wasn’t very worried about it. For it to go to five, six feet was definitely a bonus,” said the seven-time PGA TOUR winner. “There’s a lot at stake here, and staying present is going to be the hardest thing.”
Second-Round Notes – Friday, August 26, 2022
Weather: Partly Cloudy. High of 85. Wind S 4-8 mph. Preferred lies were utilized in round two.
|1||Scottie Scheffler||-10||65-66 (-9)||-19|
|2||Xander Schauffele||-6||66-63 (-11)||-17|
|3||Jon Rahm||-3||67-63 (-10)||-13|
|T4||Patrick Cantlay||-8||70-66 (-4)||-12|
|T4||Sungjae Im||-4||67-65 (-8)||-12|