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Sungjae Im shoots 65, takes lead at The American Categorical

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Though Sungjae Im hasn’t been on the PGA Tour for very lengthy, the 22-year-old South Korean already feels awfully comfy on the beneficiant desert programs at The American Categorical.

So do loads of different execs, and that is why the leaderboard is so crowded heading to the weekend.

Im shot a 7-under 65 on Friday at The American Categorical to take a one-stroke lead over first-round chief Brandon Hagy and 4 others.

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Im, the tour’s rookie of the yr in 2019, had seven birdies in a bogey-free spherical on the Stadium Course at PGA West, highlighted by three in 4 holes across the flip. After struggling along with his putter in latest weeks, he banged in a 22-footer and an 18-footer for consecutive birdies late in his spherical.

“Visually from the tee field, it’s a course that I actually like and revel in to play, so I felt actually comfy all through the spherical,” Im mentioned. “The 2 programs that we’re enjoying this week, I like these programs, and that’s what led me to a very good rating.”

Hagy was in place to hitch Im at 11 beneath, however he bogeyed his last gap with a tee shot into the golf green bunker to complete his 70.

Canada’s Nick Taylor (66), South Korea’s Si Woo Kim (68), Tony Finau (66) and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer (65) additionally had been 10 beneath. Emiliano Grillo (66), Francesco Molinari (66) and Doug Ghim (68) had been two photographs off the lead, and eight extra had been at eight beneath.

Match host Phil Mickelson missed the lower, however made 18 pars Friday for the primary time in his 2,201 rounds of PGA Tour play.

Together with his drives trying sharp and his mid-range putts dropping often, Im is off to a different sturdy begin at a match during which he has already completed 10th and 12th in his quick Tour profession.

“I’m fairly happy with how I performed all of my photographs,” Im mentioned. “Talking of placing, I began drawing a line on the ball as I visualize my putts, and that appeared to work fairly properly right now.”

Im additionally feels he might need an edge as a result of didn’t journey dwelling to South Korea through the vacation break as a result of obligatory coronavirus quarantine required. As an alternative, he stayed in the home he lately bought in Atlanta and practiced for the brand new season.

The leaderboard was stacked with low scores as traditional on the Palm Springs-area match lengthy hosted by Bob Hope. Im, Taylor and Ancer had been amongst 12 gamers who did not make a bogey Friday.

After splitting the primary two rounds over two programs, the gamers will all play the once-feared Stadium Course for the ultimate two rounds. Heavy cloud cowl by no means developed into rain Friday, however there is a chance of afternoon showers Saturday.

Hagy made 10 birdies in his opening spherical, however obtained off to a tough begin Friday on the Stadium Course with two early bogeys. He rallied with birdies on his 16th and 17th holes, however his errant drive on his last gap saved him one shot off the tempo.

“I really feel comfy right here,” Hagy mentioned. “I’m a California child, been to Palm Springs a ton of occasions, so I do know the programs properly. … The primary two rounds of this match are exhibiting me that the stuff I am engaged on, particularly this offseason, is certainly getting higher.”

Taylor, who additionally led the Sony Open after two rounds final week, shot a 66 with six birdies on the Stadium Course. He had three straight birdies on the again 9 of his bogey-free spherical, together with a 24-foot birdie putt on the 15th and an 18-footer on the island inexperienced on the 17th.

Taylor seems to be rounding into spectacular kind as he prepares to defend his Pebble Seaside title in three weeks.

“My sport feels actually good proper now, so hopefully it retains peaking,” he mentioned. “It was plenty of intimidating tee photographs, iron photographs into greens. I really feel like I missed in the correct locations. I drove it very nice on the par-5s and gave myself fairly straightforward seems on a couple of of them.”

Mickelson completed his two rounds at 2 over, however making 18 pars felt encouraging to the 50-year-old veteran as he heads again to his native San Diego space subsequent week.

“It’s stunning, as a result of I actually attempt to hit fairways and middle of the greens and simply make straightforward pars,” Mickelson mentioned. “For that to be the primary time, it’s actually stunning. … There’s plenty of good issues to take from it — the best way I’m driving the ball, my iron play. There’s plenty of positives. When you have a look at the scorecard, it’s pathetic. I’m not denying that. However I feel that it’s a bit bit nearer than it seems.”

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