Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. — Sungjae Im was in the first group to tee off on the first hole Friday at The Honda Classic. He’ll be in the final group Saturday.
Im, the 20-year-old South Korean rookie who around this time last year was winning the first Web.com Tour start of his career, shot a 6-under 64 in the second round at PGA National. He shared the 36-hole lead at 6-under 134 with Keith Mitchell (66).
It could be considered a surprise final pairing: Combined, Im and Mitchell have zero PGA Tour wins.
“It’s just nice to kind of feel like you’re in contention and playing well,” Mitchell said. “You’re out there actually trying to make birdies instead of trying to salvage and trying to make a cut … trying to make a birdie and force it. Today we were just out there trying to hit good shots.”
Mitchell had five birdies and bogey Friday; Im had seven birdies and a bogey to match the low round of the week so far. First-round leader Jhonattan Vegas shot a 64 on Thursday, and Adam Svensson had one Friday.
Im got through the second round on only 25 putts. He was the leading money-winner on the Web.com Tour last year, was atop the money list for the entire season and played his way into two majors.
“I was hitting the ball really well today, so all my putts were under 10 feet,” said Im, who had a 6:45 a.m. tee time. He’ll be able to sleep in much later Saturday, with his tee time scheduled for 1:35 p.m.
Even though the Honda is played in an area of South Florida where a number of PGA Tour players live – including Tiger Woods – the field includes only three of the top 20 players in the most recent world rankings.
Im grew up watching Woods, staying up until the middle of the night in many cases to see him play on television.
“Just watching him makes me nervous,” Im said.
He’s got a 36-hole lead to be nervous about now.
Lucas Glover (69) was third at 5 under. Svensson and Brooks Koepka were among those in a group at 4 under, and 42 players were within five shots of the lead.
“Can’t be too upset with 1 under around here, to be honest,” said Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion who has three straight rounds in the 60s at PGA National going back to his final-round 66 last year. “Wind picked up a little towards the end. I didn’t hit it great, but got myself into the thing.”
Justin Thomas also is still in the thing, though the defending champion has a lot of work to do if he’s going to go back-to-back.
Thomas, playing with a sore right wrist after a wayward swing against a tree Thursday, had an eagle, a double-bogey and a triple-bogey on his way to an eventful 74. He got in right on the 36-hole cut line, 2 over.
“Hopefully, I’ll at least have a chance where I can make something up this weekend,” Thomas said.
Vegas reached 7 under briefly, then finished in a group tied for 13th at 3 under after shooting a 73.
Gary Woodland extended his streak of consecutive made cuts to 21 with an eventful birdie on the par-5 18th. He went over the green with his second shot, ran his third well past the hole and coolly rolled in a 15-footer for birdie to get to 2 over. Woodland hasn’t missed a cut since at The Players Championship last May.
Kenny Perry shot an 8-under 65 on Friday to take the Cologuard Classic lead, Mark O’Meara matched the PGA Tour Champions record with eight straight birdies in a 66, and former baseball star John Smoltz failed to build on a strong start in his tour debut at Tucson, Arizona.
Smoltz birdied three of the first eight holes on Omni Tucson National’s Catalina Course, then played the final 10 in 3 over for an even-par 73. After birdieing the par-5 eighth, the 51-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher dropped strokes on the par-4 ninth and 10th. Playing on a sponsor exemption, he had a double bogey on the par-5 15th, birdied the par-5 17th and bogeyed the par-4 18th.
Perry made a 20-foot eagle putt on the 17th – his eighth hole – in a bogey-free round. The 58-year-old Kentucky player has 10 victories on the 50-and-over tour after winning 14 times on the PGA Tour.
The 62-year-old O’Meara opened with a par on No. 1, then ran off the eight straight birdies for a front-nine 28 – one off the tour record. He followed the streak with eight straight pars and bogeyed the last.
O’Meara tied the tour record for consecutive birdies set by Chi Chi Rodriguez in the 1987 Silver Pages Classic and matched by Jim Colbert in 2000, Dana Quigley in 2005 and Joe Ozaki in 2006.
Defending champion Steve Stricker, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jeff Maggert and Willie Wood matched O’Meara at 66, and Scott McCarron opened with a 67. Jimenez won the Chubb Classic two weeks ago in Florida for his for his seventh PGA Tour Champions title.
Woody Austin had a 70 for his 37th consecutive rounds at par or better, one off the tour record shared by Jay Haas and Colin Montgomerie. Fred Couples shot 73, playing alongside Stricker and David Toms (71).
Amy Olson’s eagle on the front nine and a late birdie on the 16th hole were enough for the American to emerge from a five-way tie from the first-round lead to shoot a 3-under 69 and take a two-stroke lead after two rounds at the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Singapore.
The 26-year-old American had a two-round total of 7-under 137 Friday on the Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong course.
There was a five-way tie for second –Inbee Park (69), Azahrara Munoz (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70), No. 1-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and No. 3 Minjee Lee (71).
After an eagle on the par-5 eighth on Thursday, Olson did the same on the par-5 fifth in the second round.