American Express 2021: Sungjae Im Shoots 2nd-Round 65, Leads by 1 Stroke

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2021

Sungjae Im, of South Korea, follows his shot from the 11th tee box during the first round of the Sony Open golf tournament Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Jamm Aquino)
Jamm Aquino/Associated Press

The leaderboard remains crowded through two rounds at the 2021 American Express, with Sungjae Im clinging to the lead.

Coming off a solid 68 on Thursday, Im put together the best score of the second round. The South Korean star finished with a seven-under 65 and has gone 20 straight holes without a bogey going back to the first round. 

Abraham Ancer was able to match Im's 65 to move up 36 spots into a tie for second place at 10 under par. Si Woo Kim, Nick Taylor, Brandon Hagy and Tony Finau are the other players alongside Ancer right on Im's heels.

Here's what the rest of the leaderboard looks like after two days at La Quinta, California: 

1. Sungjae Im (-11)

T2. Brandon Hagy (-10)

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T2. Nick Taylor (-10)

T2. Tony Finau (-10)

T2. Si Woo Kim (-10)

T2. Abraham Ancer (-10)

T7. Emiliano Grillo (-9)

T7. Francesco Molinari (-9)

T7. Doug Ghim (-9)

Full leaderboard via

Im's key to success on Friday was on the green. He gained 4.19 strokes putting and needed 24 putts total across 18 holes. 

The only real criticism of Im's round was his inability to take advantage of the four par-five holes, converting just one into a birdie. The 22-year-old went into the clubhouse in style, though, draining a 26-foot putt for one of his seven birdies. 

Im is chasing his first win of the season. He had a strong showing at the Masters in November, finishing tied for second at 15 under, but Dustin Johnson was so far ahead of the field that no one was going to catch him. 

This is Im's third tournament of January. He began the new year with a fifth-place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but lost his momentum last week when he came in 56th at the Sony Open. 

Taylor is among the players putting the heat on Im. He closed the second round on a roll with three consecutive birdies from No. 15-17. 

The second round has been kind to Taylor recently. He vaulted into contention at the Sony Open last week with a 62 on Friday en route to an 11th-place finish. The 32-year-old hasn't finished inside the top 10 at any event since winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last February. 

Friday marked Taylor's sixth consecutive round under 70. If he can keep up this pace over the next two days, he will put himself in line to win his third career PGA Tour event. 

Finau had one of the best shots of the second round when he saved birdie after his third shot landed in the bunker:

Hagy, who led after the first round with a 64, didn't keep going at that pace. He still managed a solid 70 after a slow start on Friday. The 29-year-old had back-to-back bogeys midway through his first nine holes but salvaged things with four birdies over his final 10 holes. He did miss a chance to tie Im for the lead with a bogey on his final hole.

Moving far down the leaderboard, Phil Mickelson can get an early start on his weekend. Lefty missed the cut with a two-day score of two-over-par. He's had a rough time in five tournaments this season, with his best outing being a 44th-place finish at the Safeway Open in September. 

There's still a lot of golf left to be played this weekend. Given how low the scores have been through the first two rounds, things seem likely to change many times before a winner is crowned on Sunday.