GREENSBORO – South Koreans Byeong Hun An and Sungjae Im shot career-low rounds of 8-under 62 Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina.
Both players carded eight birdies and zero bogeys on a low-scoring day when 128 of the 155 players finished at even par or better at the Sedgefield Country Club, site of the final PGA Tour event before the FedEx Cup playoffs.
An, 27, played with the morning wave and birdied four of his last six holes. He is a three-time runner-up on the PGA Tour and still searching for his first stateside victory.
“I’ve been playing well the last couple weeks, so I like how everything is kind of clicking together,” An said, per Golfweek. “Struggled a little bit the beginning of the year, but doing a lot better, so that’s why I was able to shoot 8 under today.”
Im, 21, played in the afternoon and birdied three of the four par-3 holes. He has six top-10 finishes this season.
Four players are one shot back, including South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini, who is looking for his first tour win since 2011 — a 217-start drought. Patrick Rodgers, Johnson Wagner and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes also posted rounds of 63.
Jordan Spieth had a chance to join the group at 7 under, but he put his final tee shot out of bounds and finished with a bogey and a 6-under 64.
Defending champion Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson are tied with Spieth in seventh place, as are Josh Teater, Brice Garnett, Ryan Armour, Ted Potter Jr., Ireland’s Seamus Power and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Snedeker, who opened with a 59 here last year, said the soft conditions caused by heavy rain overnight Wednesday had him thinking even lower on Thursday.
“Funny enough, I birdied the first two holes on 10 and 11 and I was like, ‘I’m three ahead of where I was last year at this point … 57 might be in play.’ Then reality struck me after that a little bit,” he said.
“I did a good job of not comparing last year’s round to this year’s round. That year was a special moment, something that I will always remember. But I realize this year is a totally different animal.”
Simpson, the top-ranked player in the field at No. 17, won the Wyndham in 2011 and clearly enjoys playing in the event.
“I love this week,” he said. “I just feel a little bit more at ease, a little more at peace, being close to home. I’m going home to see the family for a night, so that’s a nice thing to be able to do in the middle of a Tour event. It’s just a laid-back week for me.”
Ernie Els of South Africa withdrew after five holes with a back injury.
The field includes only nine of the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings, but all but 10 from Nos. 85-185. There are 13 players within 50 points of the cutoff line at No. 125.
–Field Level Media