OLYMPIA FIELDS, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 20: Sungjae Im of South Korea plays a shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club on August 20, 2023 in Olympia Fields, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Korea’s Sungjae Im mastered the winds and wielded a hot putter as a workman-like 6-under 64 propelled him into title contention at the Charles Schwab Challenge on Friday.

Chasing a third PGA TOUR victory, the 26-year-old Im rolled in monster putts of 44 feet and 25 feet for two of his seven birdies at Colonial Country Club in Forth Worth, Texas as he ended the second round in tied fourth place and four back of leader, Davis Riley.

Riley, a one-time winner, also shot a 64, which was the day’s joint low score, to lead by two strokes on 10-under from Hayden Buckley (65) and Pierceson Coody (65). Im’s countrymen Tom Kim and S.H. Kim will enter the weekend on 3-under in tied 15th place following cards of 68 and 71 respectively while Kevin Yu of Chinese Taipei shot a 69 for tied 25th.

Im has bounced back to form in recent weeks after a timely victory on the Korean PGA Tour last month, followed by a tied fourth finish at the Wells Fargo Championship which was only his second top-10 of the season. He suffered a minor blip with a missed cut at the PGA Championship last week but is back to his free-flowing best at Colonial despite some challenging conditions.

“It was a little bit windy, so it was a bit challenging. I made some long putts that helped me to keep my focus. I think my ball-striking was good and I finished well today,” said Im.

He expertly hit 16 greens in regulation and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Approach to Greens. His putter was also finding its range much to his delight. After opening his birdie account with a five-footer on the first, the Korean star snuck in a 44-footer at the next hole before adding another lengthy birdie putt from 25 feet on the 16th.

A return to Colonial always brings back good memories as in five previous appearances, he finished tied 10th in 2020 and was equal 15th in 2022. His last PGA TOUR win came at the 2021 Shriners Children’s Open and naturally, the World No. 34 is itching to return to the winner’s enclosure in the U.S.

“The wind was blowing a lot on Thursday afternoon and this morning, it was blowing similarly to yesterday. When it was downwind, it was like two or three clubs less, and I needed to take two or three clubs more when I play into the wind. I think I could manage my shots well, and that helped me a lot,” he said.

“I won in Korea was tied fourth at the Wells Fargo. I think I’ve been playing pretty well of late. It was a little unfortunate it didn’t work out last week in a major, but I hope to continue the good vibes I’m having this week and finish well on the weekend.”

Riley, 27, was bogey-free as he chases a second career victory. “Yeah, I feel like the key to this place is putting the ball in the fairway. If you’re able to execute the shots from the fairways, you’re going to have some decent looks. I feel like I was hitting the ball in the fairway for the most part of the day and hitting my irons good and giving myself good looks and I had the putter rolling,” said the American.

Second-Round Notes – Friday, May 24, 2024

Weather: Mostly cloudy with afternoon showers. High of 83. Wind S 10-20 mph.

Weather Delay: Play was suspended due to dangerous weather at 5:04 p.m. CT and resumed at 6:14 p.m. (delay of 1 hour, 10 minutes).

Cut: 71 professionals at 2-over 142 from a field of 132 professionals.

Second-Round Leaderboard

Pos.      Player                                  R1          R2          Total

1             Davis Riley                         66           64           130 (-10)

T2           Hayden Buckley              67           65           132 (-8)

T2           Pierceson Coody            67           65           132 (-8)

T4           Sungjae Im                         70           64           134 (-6)

T4           Keegan Bradley               68           66           134 (-6)

T4           Sepp Straka                       68           66           134 (-6)

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