Golf: South Korea's Im Sung-jae seeks historic Masters newcomer victory

Im Sung-jae could become the first golfer to win his Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

AUGUSTA, Georgia (AFP) - Im Sung-jae, who this week played his first round at Augusta National, is suddenly a threat to pull off a historic victory at the Masters.

The 22-year-old South Korean, who shares second entering Sunday's (Nov 15) final round, could become the first golfer to win his Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

"I want to just stay composed, stick to my game plan, try to minimise as many mistakes as possible and hopefully have a good finish," he said through a translator.

The world No. 25, who first played Augusta National in a Monday practice round, stands on 12-under 204 through 54 holes, four back of top-ranked Dustin Johnson.

Im could become the second man from Asia to win a Major golf title after South Korea's Yang Yong-eun captured the 2009 PGA Championship.

"I know a lot of people back home are staying up late and not sleeping watching the Masters, watching me perform," said Im, who recalled sleepless nights of his own watching Tiger Woods play the Masters.

"I want to stay composed again and make sure I finish strong so that I make them happy."

He is among a record 26 first-time players at this year's Masters, having learned the layout at Augusta National off television half a world away.

"I watched the Masters growing up so many times that I feel like I'm used to playing this course, even though this is my first time," he said.

"I know the course kind of suits not only me but many of the Korean players, as well, so I think that's been why I've been able to maintain good scores."

He asked for advice from South Korean veteran K.J. Choi about Augusta and how to solve it.

"My game is either straight ball or slight baby fade," he said.

"When I look down the fairway of each hole, what I see of the course management visually, I can see where to hit it and where not to hit it. I think that's why I feel comfortable playing here."

He has travelled around the United States for the past year, playing 26 US PGA Tour events in a season cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I think it helped me in many ways because I've been able to experience every single course," he said.

"I missed a few cuts in the Majors, but I was able to make the cut at the US Open and to play the weekend here is pretty awesome."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.