March 30, 2019: Some called him a robot, some called him Byron – as in, Byron Nelson – but through two rounds in Punta Cana, Sungjae Im is just known as the leader. Arjun Atwal played some good golf again this week. The Florida resident raced through the front nine in just 32 strokes making four birdies but scores of 74-71 were just short of the cut line that fell at -2 in the Corales Championship.
Im, who has finished in the top-5 in two of his last three tournaments, shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship and leads by one heading into the weekend.
On Twitter Friday Adam Long, who played on the Web.com Tour with Im last year – where Im won the first and final events of the year to earn Player of the Year honours – wrote: “I’m assuming ‘Sungjae’ means ‘Automatic’ or perhaps ‘Robot’ in Koren? He’s so good.”
One of Im’s playing partners for the first two rounds, Parker McLachlin (69-70), shared a similar sentiment on Twitter after spending Thursday and Friday with him.
“Played with Sungjae Im the first two days @CoralesChamp,” wrote McLachlin. “I’ve nicknamed him Byron. He hits it better than Iron Byron the machine, and putts better than Byron Nelson. Dude will be top 10 in the world rankings by end of the year.”
It’s heady praise for the young star, who turns 21 on Saturday.
Im made a double bogey on his second hole of the day, but managed to rally with birdies on four of his next five holes. He made the turn and added four more birdies on his second nine (the front), including a twisting, lengthy putt on the par-4 8th. He said that was the standout shot of the day.
“After that bad start, my goal was to remain calm throughout the rest of my round,” said Im through a translator. “I’m hitting the ball really well, so I think that led to a lot of my birdies. Being able to control my mind helped me get those birdies as well.”
Im is the top-ranked golfer in the FedExCup standings (17th) to tee it up this week in Punta Cana. He has four top-10 finishes already this year, and has played in every event he’s been eligible for this season save one, the Puerto Rico Open.
Im said, since he’s a rookie on TOUR, he wants to play in as many tournaments as possible so that he can know the courses better for the years to come.
“That would make competing a little more comfortable for me,” he said.
And as far as what he wants for a birthday present?
“I hope to have a good finish on Sunday,” he said with a smile, mimicking the motion of raising of a trophy.
Four golfers trail Im by one including Jonathan Byrd, Aaron Baddeley, Paul Dunne, and George McNeill, whose 7-under-par 65 was his lowest on TOUR since he shot a 64 at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in 2018.
Overnight leaders Joel Dahmen and Matt Jones (who began his day with a quintuple-bogey 9, but battled back for a 1-under-par 71), along with Kelly Kraft and Graeme McDowell (who shot the round of the day, an 8-under-par 64) are a shot further back at 7-under.
The cut came at 2-under par.
Source: PGA Tour
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