Korean star Sungjae Im fought his way into title contention at the US$20 million Wells Fargo Championship on Friday after a stellar 5-under 66 in the second round propelled him into tied fourth place, one off the lead.
The two-time PGA TOUR winner felt he could have gone even lower.
“It was a little disappointing I didn’t get good scores on the par 5s. But overall, I made good saves when I missed the greens, and got some birdies when I had my chances. I am happy with my 5-under at what is a difficult golf course,” said Im, who made one birdie from the three par-5s at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The 25-year-old still hit six birdies against a lone bogey for a 7-under 135 total through 36 holes to lie one behind co-leaders Tyrell Hatton (65), Nate Lashley (66) and Wyndham Clark (67) in the US$20 million PGA TOUR showpiece which features 34 players from the world’s top-50.
Countryman K.H. Lee was a further stroke back in tied 10th after a 70 which included a costly double bogey on his last hole. Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim, who featured in the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow last September alongside Im and Lee, carded a 73 and 72 respectively for equal 38th place on 2-under.
Im’s trusty driver wasn’t quite as laser-guided as it normally is with seven missed fairways but the Korean scrambled beautifully to save pars on five occasions. And when he found the short grass from off the tee, his iron play presented him with birdies on Hole Nos. 2, 3, 8, 12, 14 and 15, with the longest conversion being from 28 feet on the par-5 15th hole.
With his last TOUR victory being some 18 months ago, the World No. 17, who is currently Asia’s highest ranked golfer, is itching to lift a trophy again but knows that staying patient will be the key on a difficult course and against a stacked field.
“For the weekend, Quail Hollow is very difficult with the winds, and it is just a hard golf course to play. I need to manage my game well and choose the holes to play it safe or to play aggressively. I will see how the weather is over the weekend and set my game plan,” said Im, who is ranked 20th on the FedExCup standings following six top-10s this season, including two over his last two starts.
Lee, who will attempt a three-peat at the AT&T Byron Nelson next week which he won in 2021 and 2022, was tied for the lead with one hole remaining following four birdies and a lone bogey but found trouble on his last hole, the ninth. Following a wayward drive, he could only chip his way back onto the fairway and subsequently missed the green long, leading to an eventual six.
Xander Schauffele (69), Justin Thomas (67) and Adam Scott (68) are amongst those in contention on 7-under while defending champion Max Home will enter the weekend just three back. Three-time Wells Fargo Championship winner Rory McIlroy fell off the pace following a 73.
Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan (74) and Korean duo Byeong Hun An (72) and S.H. Kim (76) missed the halfway cut which was set at 141.
Second-Round Notes – Friday, May 5, 2023
Weather: Partly Cloudy. High of 75. Wind ENE 5-10 mph.
36-Hole Cut: 68 professionals at 1-under 141 from a field of 155 professionals and one amateur.
|T1||Tyrrell Hatton||69||65||134 (-8)|
|T1||Nate Lashley||68||66||134 (-8)|
|T1||Wyndham Clark||67||67||134 (-8)|
|T4||Xander Schauffele||66||69||135 (-7)|
|T4||J.J. Spaun||68||67||135 (-7)|
|T4||Justin Thomas||68||67||135 (-7)|
|T4||Adam Scott||67||68||135 (-7)|
|T4||Sungjae Im||69||66||135 (-7)|
|T4||Adam Svensson||68||67||135 (-7)|