Korea’s Sungjae Im gave himself a chance at rewriting golf history after a 4-under 68 propelled him into joint second place following the third round at the Masters Tournament on Saturday.
The 22-year-old has continued to impress in his first appearance at Augusta National by shooting five birdies against a lone bogey for a 12-under 204 aggregate to lie four back of reigning FedExCup champion and World No. 1, Dustin Johnson.
My game is like a straight ball and a baby fade. Speaking to K.J. who used to have a lot of success out here, he said my type of shot-making will be very suitable at Augusta NationalSungjae Im
Im will play in the final group on Sunday alongside Johnson and Presidents Cup International teammate, Abraham Ancer who produced a 69 for joint second place. Australian Cameron Smith also sits in second place after a 69.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei, who began the third round one off the lead, shot 72 and 74 respectively to fall off the pace and enters the final round in T10 and T15.
No Asian golfer has won the Masters, with Korea’s K.J. Choi coming closest with a third place finish in 2004. Choi has been a trailblazer for Asian and Korean golf over the past two decades with eight career PGA TOUR victories and has inspired the likes of Im to emulate his success. In fact, Choi had told Im prior to the Masters that he had the game to succeed at Augusta National.
“My game is like a straight ball and a baby fade. Speaking to K.J. who used to have a lot of success out here, he said my type of shot-making will be very suitable at Augusta National,” said Im, who won his first PGA TOUR title at The Honda Classic in March.
With Johnson four ahead, Im plans to stick to his game plan in hope of upsetting the odds and rewriting a new page in Masters folklore. The Korean has looked right at home at Augusta National, sinking 19 birdies along the way. Johnson, who holds 23 PGA TOUR wins including one major title, has held the 54-hole lead/co-lead on 21 occasions on TOUR, winning 10 times He is however 0-for-4 when holding the 54-hole lead in the majors.
“From the tee box when I look down the fairway, visually I can see where to hit it and where not to hit it. That’s why I feel comfortable playing here. I watched the Masters growing up so many times it feels like I’m used to playing on this course even though it’s my first time. The course kind of suits not only me but the Korean players as well and I guess that’s why I’ve been maintaining my form. I want to stay composed and keep to my game plan and minimise my mistakes as much as possible and I’ll have a good finish.”
He remembers the days when he would wake up in the middle of the night in Korea to watch the Masters and has vivid memories of Tiger Woods’ famous chip-in birdie on the 16th hole en route to his win in 2005. Im knows his fans at home will be staying up late to watch him on Sunday.
“If Tiger was playing, it’s not just me but a lot of golf fans in Korea would stay up to watch. I know a lot of people back home are staying up late and not sleeping to watch the Masters and to watch me perform. I want to stay composed and make sure I finish well so everyone will be happy,” said Im.
Im’s countryman Si Woo Kim carded a 73 for a share of 36th place on 214 while Thailand’s debutant, Jazz Janewattananond shot a 75 to fall back in tied 44th position alongside Korean Sung Kang, who settled for a third round 71.
The 29-year-old Pan, who is the first Chinese Taipei golfer to feature in the Masters since 2009, was disappointed he failed to keep up with the leaders after missing several birdie opportunities during his round which featured two bogeys and no birdies. “Today, I’m very happy to play in the weekend of my first Masters. The performance today though wasn’t very satisfactory. This is an opportunity to prove yourself. I got unlucky a few times and I’m going to try again tomorrow. This is a beautiful place and I’m going to recharge and make some adjustments,” said Pan.