South Korea’s Im Sung-jae grabbed six birdies in his six-under par 65 on Friday to seize a share of the halfway lead alongside Chad Ramey at the US PGA Tour Shriners Children’s Hospital Open.
Im and Ramey both started the day two strokes behind South Korean Kang Sung-hoon, who faded after posting a 61 on Thursday.
Im opened with a 14-foot birdie at the 10th hole and drained a 23-footer for his fifth birdie of the day at the second before firing out of a greenside bunker to two feet for birdie at the par-five ninth.
“I feel pretty good about my game overall and I just want to keep these feelings and try to have a good week this week,” said Im, who won his only PGA Tour title to date at the 2020 Honda Classic.
“Even though I’m in the lead, I’m top of the leaderboard, there’s two days left to play, so I like to try to keep focused on my game and try to take it one shot at a time.
“It was pretty windy today overall, it was hard for me to play well in the beginning, but I tried to keep composure and tried not to be too aggressive.
“But when I had short distance I hit my wedge pretty good and that makes me have lots of birdies today.”
He was alone atop the leaderboard until late in the day, when Ramey capped his 65 with a seventh birdie of the day at the ninth.
Ramey –who rolled in a 33-footer for birdie at the 15th and an 18-footer at 17 — was also in a greenside bunker at his final hole, blasting out to 13 feet and draining the putt for his share of the lead.
“I hit it really well off the tee all day,” said Ramey, a Korn Ferry Tour graduate seeking a first US PGA Tour title.
“The putter made a lot of putts on my front nine, which was the back nine, and I got off to a good start.
“Putter went a little cold on the back nine, but I was still hitting great putts and managed to make a couple of birdies coming in.”
The leaders were one stroke in front of Americans Sam Burns and Adam Schenk.
Burns, coming off victory in the Sanderson Farm Championship on Sunday, set an early target with a 63 that gave him the clubhouse lead on 129.
Burns had eight birdies to put himself in the mix for a third title in six months, but said the key to continuing his progress was forgetting about his success.
“What we tried to do is just last week is last week,” he said. “This week is Shriners and preparing for this week, trying to make sure Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday that we are giving ourselves the best opportunity to play well this week.
“Obviously, incredibly honored that I won last week and such a fun time, but just trying to kind of leave that there.”
Schenk joined Burns on 129 with a six-under 65. American Aaron Wise was a further stroke back on 130 after an impressive 62.