Im struggles at windy Augusta but firmly in the Masters mix

Golf — The 148th Open Championship — Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland — July 18, 2019 South Korea’s Im Sung-jae during the first round REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

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AUGUSTA, Ga., April 8 (Reuters) — Overnight Masters leader Im Sung-jae struggled in tough scoring conditions at windswept Augusta National on Friday but did well to limit the damage and was rewarded with a share of the second-round clubhouse lead on Friday.

Im, who started the day with a one-shot lead after opening with a sparkling 67, grinded out a two-over-par 74 in tougher conditions to reach the clubhouse level with 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (69) at three under on the week.

With wind swirling through the Georgia pines at greater speeds as the day went on, the 2019 PGA Tour rookie of the year remained upbeat about where he stood going into the weekend of the year’s first major.

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«The weather was fluctuating today, the wind directions and everything was very confusing when I was trying to decide on hitting shots,» Im, who in 2020 became the first Asian player to finish runner-up at the Masters, said through an interpreter.

«Things didn’t go well but I still have two more days.»

Im reached the turn at even par on the day after offsetting an early bogey with a birdie but conditions started to intensify when he made the turn and his scorecard reflected the challenge.

At the 10th, Im failed to get up and down from 30 yards and dropped another shot at Augusta National’s shortest par three when his tee shot at the 155-yard 12th hole settled in the bunker that sits in front of the green.

The South Korean responded with a tap-in for birdie from two feet at the par-five 13th before a bogey at 15 where his second shot sailed over the green and took a huge bounce into a pond.

Im quickly responded when he drained a 27-foot birdie at the par-three 16th before but found trouble at the 18th where his drive caught a tree, forcing him to pitch it out from the pine straw en route to a closing bogey.

The 24-year-old South Korean, who earned his second PGA Tour victory last November, would surely loved to have built on his overnight lead but was confident heading into the weekend.

«At this moment I still have some golf to play and if I continue to just focus on my game and just hit shot after shot, round after round, I think it will lead to good results,» said Im, who is competing in his third Masters.

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Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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