South Korea’s Im Sung-jae and American Scott Piercy each fired six-under-par 65s to share the lead after Thursday’s opening round of the 3M Open.
Both battled tricky winds at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota, but seized a two-stroke edge over Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and Americans Tom Hoge, Doug Ghim, Brice Garnett and Tony Finau.
It was a tough day for the three South Africans in the field, with Dylan Frittelli and Dawie van der Walt each carding four-over-par 75s and Garrick Higgo a five-over-par 76.
“I felt like I struck the ball well all day,” Piercy said. “With the winds being cross and swirly, I felt like I hit good solid shots into conservative parts of the green.”
Back-nine starter Im sank a putt from just inside 18 feet for par at 18 to spark a hot closing-nine run.
“It was a good score,” Im said. “The momentum at the 18th hole made a good rhythm for me, a good tempo, and I had a good score on the back nine.”
Im, the 2020 Masters runner-up, is seeking his third PGA Tour title after the 2020 Honda Classic and 2021 Shriners Children’s Open.
The 24-year-old birdied the 10th and 12th holes but missed the green at the par-three 13th and took his lone bogey, answering with an eight-foot birdie putt at 16 and his long effort at 18.
He birdied four of his last six holes, including birdie putts of 15 feet at the par-three 4th, 23 feet at the 7th and 26 feet at the 9th.
Piercy, a 2016 US Open runner-up, is chasing his fifth PGA Tour title, but his first solo crown since the 2015 Barbasol Championship.
Piercy dropped a wedge shot six feet from the cup to set up an opening birdie, then sank a 31-foot birdie putt at the 3rd and a six-footer at the par-five 6th before his lone bogey at the 9th.
He responded with birdies on four of the next five holes, making putts from 26 feet at 10, 20 feet at 11 and 31 feet at 13 before landing his approach inches from the cup for another at 14.
Piercy (43) is down to his last three events to try and move into the top 125 on the PGA season points list and reach next month’s playoffs.
“You know where you’re at,” Piercy said. “Every shot counts and it’s time to buckle down. To start off this way is really nice.”
© Agence France-Presse