Korean star Sungjae Im posted his career low score at THE PLAYERS Championship with a stunning 8-under 64 on Saturday to give himself an outside chance of challenging for the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament.
The two-time TOUR winner brilliantly sank nine birdies against a lone bogey at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass for a share of eighth place on 8-under, and will enter Sunday’s final round six strokes back of third round leader, Scottie Scheffler of the U.S.
World No. 2 Scheffler birdied two of his last three holes for a superb 65 and 14-under 202 total, two ahead of Australia’s Min Woo Lee who charged into solo second following a 66. Another Aussie, Cam Davis fired a 67 to lie four off the pace in the US$25 million showpiece.
After opening his campaign on Thursday with a lacklustre 75, the smooth-swinging Im burst to life on golf’s Moving Day with a flurry of birdies to haul himself into the top-10.
“On the first day, my back was a little bit stiff. I had some difficulties in the first and second round. I was kind of loosening it and my back got better. The putting was something we needed to work on, and my coach and I was trying something new and it kind of worked out and turned out great today,” said Im, who ranked fourth in Strokes Gained: Putting on Saturday.
“When I was starting the third round, I was kind of tired. But the weather was good, no wind. So I was like, I could do this. Made some birdies at the beginning and I was trying to keep my focus till the last hole and that’s how it turned out.”
Scheffler, who successfully retained his WM Phoenix Open title last month for his fifth career victory, is tipped to secure the TOUR’s prized trophy on Sunday but with TPC Sawgrass capable of showing its teeth, the 24-year-old Im is not giving up hope just yet in chasing Scheffler down.
“This course has a lot of difficult holes. I’m not taking it for granted. Hopefully, the weather is good and I can finish it well tomorrow,” said Im, whose best finish at THE PLAYERS was T17 in 2021.
Scheffler, 26, expects a tough race to the finish line on Sunday after earning his seventh career 54-hole lead/co-lead on TOUR. “I played really good today. I got off to a nice start, which is always good. Kept it rolling from there, gave myself a lot of looks. Good finish as well. So overall very solid day, only one bogey, which is really good around this golf course,” he said.
“I think the conditions are going to be pretty tough (Sunday). From what I saw, it’s going to be pretty gusty winds in the afternoon, so it should be a good challenge. I feel very comfortable and I guess this now is my fourth year on TOUR, so feeling very comfortable. Put in a lot of hard work over the years, and it’s been a blessing to see so many results, and it’s been a lot of fun. Hoping to continue that going into tomorrow.”
Si Woo Kim, the 2017 PLAYERS champion, carded a 68 for a share of 26th place on 5-under, a score matched by countryman Byeong Hun An who returned a 70 and 2021 Masters Tournament winner, Hideki Matsuyama, who carded his week’s best of 67. Debutant Tom Kim of Korea shot a 71 for T63.
American Tom Hoge established a new course record with his 10-under 62 which featured 10 birdies as he surged into tied eighth place on 208.
Third-Round Notes – Saturday, March 11, 2023
Weather: Sunny. High of 70. Wind NE 5-10 mph.
Scottie Scheffler 68-69-65—202 (-14)
Min Woo Lee 68-70-66—204 (-12)
Cam Davis 69-70-67—206 (-10)
Tommy Fleetwood 72-70-65—207 (-9)
Aaron Rai 73-69-65—207 (-9)
Chad Ramey 64-75-68—207 (-9)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 68-70-69—207 (-9)