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Korea’s Im fires 70 to lie 3 back after day 1 of PGA Championship

Korean star Sungjae Im produced a battling 2-under 70 for a tied eighth position in the first round of the PGA Championship on Thursday to keep Asia in the hunt for back-to-back major triumphs.

A month after Hideki Matsuyama’s historic victory at the Masters, the 23-year-old Im rallied with an eagle and birdie over his closing three holes at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island to bounce back from an outward 37.

Canadian Corey Conners leads the year’s second major following a 67, with six players including eight-time PGA TOUR winner Brooks Koepka, in the chasing pack on 69.

Matsuyama signed for a 73 which featured three birdies, two bogeys, and one double bogey to end the day in a share of 41st place with amongst others, Korea’s Byeong Hun An. Three-time PGA TOUR winner Si Woo Kim, Takumi Kanaya, and Y.E. Yang, Asia’s first male major champion when he won the 2009 PGA Championship, are T77 following rounds of 75.

An off week at home in Atlanta was the tonic Im needed to clear his head after missing a rare cut at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago when he shot his career worst round on TOUR with an 82.  Im, featuring in his fourth PGA Championship and was tied second in the 2020 Masters Tournament, endured a mixed bag on his outward nine from the 10th. However, he brilliantly eagled the seventh from 13 feet and then rolled in a 14-footer at the next to haul himself into contention for a first major victory.

Matsuyama made birdies on Hole Nos. 11, 2 and 7 but dropped a couple of bogeys and one double. “It is a very difficult golf course, and the scores may be even higher later on in the week. So we just have to hang in there and do our best,” said the 29-year-old.

As Japan’s first male major winner, Matsuyama has been walking on clouds before returning to action last week following a one-month break at home. He knows he needs to sharpen his game to play himself back into contention. “Actually my energy level is good. I'm really not tired, but my game isn't where it should be. All my focus is on that right now,” said the six-time PGA TOUR winner.

“Playing the last five holes, four holes in 1-over isn't really that bad, but that three-putt at 18 kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. Before becoming a major champion, you're always grinding, pushing, and have never done it before. But since I've done it, like today, it was a little bit easier to play tournament golf.”

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond shot a 77 while last week’s winner of the AT&T Byron Nelson, K.H. Lee opened with a 78 to leave himself in danger of missing the halfway cut.

First-Round Notes – Thursday, May 20, 2021

Weather: Mostly sunny. High of 77. Wind E 14-17 mph, with gusts to 20 mph.


First-Round Leaderboard

Corey Conners                         67 (-5)

Keegan Bradley                        69 (-3)

Viktor Hovland                          69 (-3)

Brooks Koepka                         69 (-3)

Aaron Wise                               69 (-3)

Sam Horsfield                           69 (-3)

Cam Davis                                69 (-3)


Things to Know

  • Corey Conners holds the third 18-hole lead/co-lead of his PGA TOUR career and second of the season (0-for-2 to date converting to victory)
  • Conners’ best position after any round in a major championship entering the week: solo-sixth after the third round of the 2021 Masters Tournament
  • Brooks Koepka opens the PGA Championship with a score in the 60s for the sixth consecutive year, the longest such streak at any major championship in the modern era (since 1934)
  • Defending champion Collin Morikawa stands T8; seven different players have won back-to-back at the PGA Championship
  • World No. 1 and reigning FedExCup champion Dustin Johnson opens with a 4-over 76, snapping the longest active streak of rounds in the 60s at the PGA Championship (9)
  • Rory McIlroy, winner of the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah, cards a 3-over 75


First-Round Lead Notes

4            First-round leaders/co-leaders to win the PGA Championship since 2000

(Tiger Woods/2000, Phil Mickelson/2005, Jimmy Walker/2016, Brooks Koepka/2019)
5            First-round leaders/co-leaders to win during the 2020-21 PGA TOUR Season

              (most recent: Matt Jones/The Honda Classic)


Corey Conners (1st/-5)

Age 29 (January 6, 1992)

FedExCup: 22

OWGR: 39

PGA Championship starts: 2

PGA Championship wins: 0

PGA Championship top-10s: 0

Career PGA TOUR starts: 108

Career PGA TOUR wins: 1

Career PGA TOUR top-10s: 13

PGA TOUR starts in 2020-21: 20

PGA TOUR wins in 2020-21: 0

PGA TOUR top-10s in 2020-21: 7


  • Third career 18-hole lead/co-lead on the PGA TOUR and second of the season; 0-for-2 to date converting to victory (2018 Valspar Championship/T16, 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard/3rd)
  • Led outright after the second round in each of the previous two events at which he held 18-hole lead/co-lead
  • Best position after any round in a major championship entering the week: solo-sixth after the third round of the 2021 Masters Tournament (finished T8)
  • Last Canadian to lead/co-lead after any round in a men’s major championship: Mike Weir (R1/2009 U.S. Open)
  • 20-under in his last eight rounds in major championships; 44-over in the previous 19
  • One PGA TOUR victory: 2019 Valero Texas Open (Monday qualifier)
  • Seven top-10s in 20 starts on the PGA TOUR this season (best result: 3rd/Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard)


Brooks Koepka (T2/-3)

  • Opens the PGA Championship with a score in the 60s for the sixth consecutive year, the longest such streak at any major championship in the modern era (since 1934); previous record of five was held by Jack Nicklaus, who recorded five consecutive first-round scores in the 60s at the Masters Tournament from 1972-1976
  • Last six first-round scores at the PGA Championship:

2021: 69 (currently T2)

2020: 66 (finished T29)

2019: 63 (Won)

2018: 69 (Won)

2017: 68 (T13)

2016: 68 (T4)

  • Strokes Gained: Approach the Green mark of 3.789 is his highest of the season (previous: 2.209, R4/WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession) and third in the field (leader: Patrick Cantlay, 4.004)
  • Four major championship victories, including two at the PGA Championship: 2017 U.S. Open, 2018 U.S. Open, 2018 PGA Championship, 2019 PGA Championship
  • Earned eighth PGA TOUR title earlier this season at the Waste Management Phoenix Open; four total top-10s in 11 starts on the season
  • Entered the week with missed cuts in each of his last two starts on TOUR (Masters Tournament, AT&T Byron Nelson), his only starts since March 1 (right knee injury)


Additional Player Notes

  • Playing in his second PGA Championship (T33/2020) and sixth major championship, Viktor Hovland opens with a 3-under 69 to stand T2; Hovland, a two-time PGA TOUR winner at age 23, entered the week at No. 3 in the FedExCup standings with T3s in each of his last two starts (Valspar Championship, Wells Fargo Championship) and a win earlier in the season at the Mayakoba Golf Classic presented by UNIFIN
  • Defending champion Collin Morikawa records a 2-under 70 to stand T8; Morikawa hit 13 of 14 fairways, most of any player in the field
  • 2005 PGA Championship winner and 44-time PGA TOUR champion Phil Mickelson (T8) records a 2-under 70, his third under-par first-round score in his last 15 appearances at the PGA Championship; Mickelson does not have a top-10 on the PGA TOUR since the 2020 World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational (T2), a span of 16 starts
  • Entering the week with top-10s in each of his last four starts on the PGA TOUR, Jordan Spieth (T41) cards a 1-over 73; Spieth can become the sixth player to complete the Career Grand Slam with a win this week (major championship titles: 2015 Masters Tournament, 2015 U.S. Open, 2017 The Open Championship)
  • Patrick Cantlay (T41/+1) makes two eagles (Nos. 2, 7) for the second time in a major championship round (first: R4/2012 Masters Tournament); Cantlay leads the field in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green (4.004) and is 140th in SG: Putting (-2.448)
  • World No. 1 and reigning FedExCup champion Dustin Johnson (T97) records a 4-over 76, snapping the longest active streak of rounds in the 60s at the PGA Championship (9)
  • Making his first start since winning his 19th PGA TOUR title at the Wells Fargo Championship, Rory McIlroy (T77) opens with a 3-over 75 at the site of his eight-stroke victory at the 2012 PGA Championship; McIlroy made three bogeys on par 5s (Nos. 16, 2, 7) for the first time in a major championship round
  • Making his major championship debut, John Catlin (T77/+3) was assessed a one-stroke penalty for a breach of the PGA Championship Pace of Play Policy, which was adopted under Rule 5.6b(3); Catlin was assessed the penalty on the par-4 3rd (bogey)
  • Coming off his first PGA TOUR win (Valspar Championship) and a runner-up (AT&T Byron Nelson) in his last two starts on the PGA TOUR, Sam Burns withdrew during the first round due to a back injury


Course Statistics

Toughest Hole                                          Easiest Hole

R1:        Par-3 17th (3.503)                                     Par-5 7th (4.406)


Scoring Averages                                                 

                  Front 9                     Back 9                     Total                        Cumulative

R1:            36.858                      37.923                      74.781                      -


Bogey-free rounds

R1 (0): None


Photo Credit: Getty Images

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