LAS VEGAS (AP) – Sungjae Im was so focused on his game that he didn’t realize how many birdies he was making as he turned a shootout into a one-man show in Las Vegas.
It wasn’t until he saw a leaderboard after his big run – seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch around the turn on Sunday at TPC Summerlin – that he started to sink.
“When I saw that I was in the top of five, I was like, ‘Let’s not make mistakes and I can do it,'” he said.
By then he had done everything he needed to do. The 23-year-old South Korean finished with four safe pars for a 9-under-62 and a four-stroke victory over Matthew Wolff in the Shriners Children’s Open.
“A very significant victory,” Im said. “It was difficult to come, but I think today how it all went, I think it was a gift from above. I played so well and I’m happy to have won.
It was the best closing round for a winner of the Open Shriners for Kids since Smylie Kaufman shot 61 in 2016. I finished 24 under 260, tying the tournament record held by Webb Simpson (2013). ) and Ryan Moore (2012).
Wolff was trying to keep pace when he turned trouble into a birdie on par 5 ninth with an 18-foot putt. But he was slowed down by two tee shots that ended up in the worst places and led to bogeys he couldn’t afford.
Wolff had a pair of late birdies for a 68 – he’s now 12 for 12 with rounds in the ’60s at Summerlin – and had to settle for a second place finish.
Im was one of four players who had at least a share of the lead over the top nine at TPC Summerlin on a perfect scoring day with little wind.
When he birdied 12 feet on the sixth hole, the third most difficult on the course, to tie the lead, Im was just getting started.
He closed the first nine with a single short up and down the green on the ninth par 5 to take the lead, then landed four more birdies, the best of this lot over the No.10 when he went from 25 foot fairway bunker and putt.
“The lie wasn’t great with the lip in front, but I did it on the green and to make that putt for a birdie, I think it gave me a lot of confidence that I can do it,” said he declared.
I won the second time on the PGA Tour, and while it wasn’t a lot, he couldn’t ignore the bizarre trend. He won the Honda Classic in 2020 in his 50th start on the PGA Tour. He won in Las Vegas on his 100th start.
Chances are he won’t have to wait 50 more tournaments for his next trophy.
He followed his victory in the Honda Classic with a third place finish at Bay Hill, then golf took a three-month hiatus due to the pandemic. He went five months without a serious fight until the Masters in November, where he briefly challenged Dustin Johnson.
Now he can only hope he’s about to hit his stride.
“I was on a really good streak and felt good about my game after the Honda win and played well in the Arnold Palmer the week after as well,” Im said. “But it’s unfortunate. It’s something I couldn’t control. But after the pandemic, when golf resumed, I really tried to get back to that rhythm and there were times that weren’t easy.
“But, again, try to stay calm and believe in my game.”
Slovakia’s Olympic silver medalist Rory Sabbatini shot 28 on the top nine and was briefly tied for the lead. He could only manage par on the back nine for a 64 and tied for third with Marc Leishman (63) and 54-hole leader Adam Schenk (70).
There was little he could do for Wolff except smile.
“This game is like, when I’m in the lead or in contention, someone just seems to go on the last day on me,” he said. An example would be Bryson DeChambeau shooting 67 in the final round at Winged Foot while playing in the final group with Wolff at the US Open last year.
“But if I continue to put myself in these positions I know it will end up working in my favor and I will win,” he said.
Sunday was not that day, especially the 13th par 5. He figured his 3 wood could easily clear the bunker on the left. And when he didn’t, he assumed he would come back to the bottom of the sand and still have a reasonable chance of birdieing.
Instead, he said someone left the rake on top and the bullet came to rest on a slope in an imprint left by the handle. All he could do was get it out about 15 feet. Even with a good lie, catching Im was going to be difficult.
Sam Burns, who picked up a win last week in Mississippi and only two back from the start of the final round, birdied early and then stalled until it was too late. He finished with a double bogey for a 72 and tied for 14th.
Suggest a correction