Sungjae Im closes in on Johnson at Tour Championship

Dustin Johnson and Sungjae Im at the Tour Championship. Pic: Getty Images/ PGA Tour

Sept 6: Dustin Johnson continued to have problems finding the fairways even as Korea’s rising star Sungjae Im produced a superb 6-under 64 to charge into contention at the halfway stage of the TOUR Championship at the East Lake Club in Atlanta on Saturday.

Starting the week six shots behind Johnson, the Korean is now only one behind following rounds of 68-64 in contrast to in-form Johnson’s 67-70.

Johnson rolled in a four-foot birdie on the last hole to retain his overnight lead with a second round 70 and leads on 13-under as he chases a first FedExCup.

The 2017 Tour Champion Xander Schauffele beginning at three-under has since added 67-65 to get to 11-under, while Justin Thomas, starting at seven-under had shot rounds of 66-71 to get to 10-under.

Defending FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy, who welcomed the arrival of his first child earlier this week, enters the last two rounds five strokes off the pace after a second round 71.

The 22-year-old Sungjae Im has shown patchy form since the Return to Golf in June but on Saturday he was back in blistering form with seven birdies on the card against a lone bogey at fabled East Lake Golf Club.

Im has gained ground through some wonderful iron play which saw him reach 16 greens in regulation.

Asia’s other representative in the TOUR Championship, Hideki Matsuyama, carded a second successive 70 for a share of 17th place on four-under.

Im was delighted to narrow the gap on Johnson. “I was happy with my shots today. I hit a lot of fairways (10 of 14), so it made my approach shots a lot easier. My tee shots were more consistent, so my round felt more stable and I was more at ease. That gave me a lot of good looks at birdie, which helped me go low. I’m very happy with how it went out there,” said Im, who produced the low round of the day.

Im will be aiming to secure more silverware after being named 2019 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year last season, 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year and 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Rookie of the Year. Im’s CV includes a memorable debut in the Presidents Cup last December.

A win on Monday will see Im bagging golf’s richest winner’s purse, a US$15 million bonus, which could also help him to finally decide on purchasing a home in the U.S as he has been living from out of a suitcase while playing on TOUR.

Johnson was glad to remain in the driver’s seat despite some erratic play. “I was everywhere today. I managed it pretty well. To shoot even around here not hitting my tee ball very good is a nice score, but I need to drive it better over the weekend.”

Thomas endured a tough finish with a bogey on 18 leaving him three shots behind Johnson with two rounds remaining. He is trying to join Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods as the only two-time FedExCup champion after winning the TOUR’s top prize in 2017.

The 2017 FedExCup champion Thomas is the only player with three victories this season and has nine top-10 finishes this season, tied with Bryson DeChambeau for most on PGA TOUR.

Things to Know about Tour Championship

For the second season, the TOUR Championship is weighted by FedExCup Starting Strokes, with the format crowning a single champion; at the conclusion of the TOUR Championship, the player with the lowest score in relation to par combined with his FedExCup Starting Strokes will win the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup.

Im would be the second-youngest winner of the FedExCup, Jordan Spieth won the 2015 title at the age of 22 years and 2 months. Im will be 22 years, 4 months and 8 days as of Monday’s final round.

The PGA of America’s Vardon Trophy and the PGA TOUR’s Byron Nelson Award for lowest adjusted scoring average will be decided after Monday’s final round.

Read also:

Rahm catches up with Dustin Johnson at Tour Champs; Thomas right behind

Papa McIlroy celebrates new status with 64, set for title defence at Tour Champs

Tour Champs will bring down the curtain on an extraordinary season when golf won over Covid



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