A course record tying 8-under 63 on Saturday has put the smile back on Sungjae Im’s face as he kept alive his hopes of a podium finish at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 men’s golf competition.
The Korean star matched the low score at Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East course with a brilliant round highlighted by 10 birdies against two bogeys which propelled him into a share of 17th position on 7-under 206, and five shots back Great Britain’s Paul Casey and Mexican Carlos Ortiz who share third place.
American Xander Schauffele (68) lead the chase for the gold medal on 14-under 199, followed by home hero Hideki Matsuyama who is a stroke back following a 67.
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After lacklustre rounds of 70 and 73 in the first two days, the 23-year-old Im, who is ranked 27th in the world and is a one-time winner on the PGA Tour, burst to life on a sun-kissed Kasumigaseki. He endured a sluggish start with a bogey on his second hole, at the 11th, but bounced back superbly with four consecutive birdies from the 13th to 16th holes.
The talented Korean, who is making his Olympic debut, produced two bursts of three successive birdies on his homeward nine against a second dropped shot. “Before I went out for the round, I told myself I will try to make 10 birdies today, and then I actually did it,” said a beaming Im, who matched the course record by Sepp Straka of Austria shot during the first round and Schauffele in the second round.
“So I think that I still have chance to win (a medal). Today, I played as I had planned. I made birdies where I needed birdies, and I made putts where I needed to hole putts. That helped me finish with a good score.”
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In 2016, Korean female golfer, Inbee Park delivered a gold medal for the country in the women’s golf competition and Im is fired up to give himself a shot at becoming Korea’s first medallist in the men’s competition.
With nothing to lose, Im intends to keep firing straight at the flags at Kasumigaseki in an attempt to make up for the five-shot deficit for a potential podium finish on Sunday. “Tomorrow, I will play more aggressive than today. I will try to aim right at the pin, if my tee shots stay on the fairway. I need to keep this good momentum going for tomorrow and I will try my best until the end of the final round,” he said.
Compatriot Si Woo Kim, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, enters the final day in tied 38th position. He carded a 1-under 70 in the third round for a three-day total of 4-under 209.
Text: IGF/PGA Tour