An fires up putter, stays in hunt for first Tour title

MEMPHIS (Tennessee) • An Byeong-hun can see clearly now, after moving into contention at the WGC-St Jude Invitational on Friday.

Chasing his first PGA Tour victory, the South Korean enjoyed a good day on the greens with six birdies for a second-round score of five-under 65 at TPC Southwind on Friday. That propelled him to a share of third place alongside defending champion, American Brooks Koepka (71).

Brendon Todd, who carded a bogey-free 65 for a total of 11-under 129, has a four-shot lead over the pair. He is two strokes in front of fellow American Rickie Fowler (67), but An believes he can finally break his Tour duck today.

He started working with putting coach Brad Faxon, an eight-time Tour winner, recently.

The work has been rewarded thus far with a haul of 12 birdies, putting him tied for the lead with the most birdies at the US$10.5 million (S$14.4 million) showpiece.

"Brad was a great option and he was nice enough to see me for a couple weeks," the world No. 62 said.

"Then, as the results show, I think it's been working the last couple of weeks, even though I didn't have the best results at Memorial and the week before.

"My putting stats are a lot better than (at) the beginning of the year. I like how things are going right now. It's making big progress and, like I said earlier, I just need to hit it better to give myself more birdie chances."

Renowned as one of the game's best ball-strikers, An, who has five top-10s finishes this season, has often been let down by his conversion rate with the flat stick. He ranks a lowly 203rd in strokes gained putting this year.

But, this week, he has ranked 10th in putting, which has given him a sniff at becoming the first Korean winner of a WGC event.

Crediting Faxon for not just working on his putting technique, the 28-year-old said: "There are a few things we're working on, more of a visual, green readings and trying to get better at those.

 

"To be fair, not much technique. Little things here and there, (and) changed my routine a little bit.

"It's so simple that I changed it within like four, five days. It wasn't that I had to work hard to change it.

"It's quite a big change, but not a big change, if you know what I mean. Very simple things and it seems to be working, that's for sure."

An has such a good sense of humour that when an English golf fan-cum-songwriter, Sam Harrop, produced a song parody on Twitter about his game, the 2015 BMW PGA Championship winner responded by stamping the lyrics on his wedges last month.

"Yeah, that can go away now, I guess," he said. "I think I have my normal eyes back, reading the putts a lot better. He wrote a song about me, so that was nice of him.

"I know where I stand with my putting stats, which is not near the average.

"Hopefully, things change the next couple weeks, and my putting this week has been great.

"We'll see at the end of the week how I putt. So far, so good."

PGATOUR.COM

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2020, with the headline 'An fires up putter, stays in hunt for first Tour title'. Print Edition | Subscribe