2023 FedEx St. Jude Championship: Value on Sungjae Im, Round 2 Notes
Pictured: Sungjae Im. (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)
MEMPHIS — There’s an old axiom in professional golf which states, “Beware the injured golfer.” That has come true plenty over the years when a banged-up player enters a tournament with low expectations and cruises up the leaderboard. However, I happen to like another axiom a little better (though it really wasn’t an axiom until I decided to make it one right now) — “Beware the golfer playing on a free roll.”
Most of the 70 golfers in this week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship field are competing with some sort of weight on their shoulders. Whether they’re concerned with trying to qualify for next week’s BMW Championship, the following week’s Tour Championship, putting themselves in position to win the FedEx Cup title or making a Ryder Cup team, there’s a bit of pressure on just about everyone.
Except, maybe, the guy atop the leaderboard.
Prior to his Wyndham Championship victory on Sunday, Lucas Glover wasn’t even close to qualifying for these playoffs. However, he moved to No. 49 on the points list with the win. Asked afterward about claiming a spot in the field at TPC Southwind, he said, “expectations are going to be what they are every week. Try to prepare, and if you're coming off a start, try to rest and recover and get back at it.”
He’s done exactly that so far, posting rounds of 66 and 64 to grab a one-stroke advantage entering the weekend.
Perhaps the house-money narrative pales in comparison to the fact that he’s hitting the ball great right now. He’s gaining more than a stroke with his irons over the next-best player in the field and has finally found a putting maneuver that works for him.
I also loved this quote from Glover, who’s seen enough ups and downs to know he just needs to keep it going while it’s here. “I'm old enough to know it can change the other way in a hurry. [So, I try to just] ride the wave and don't overthink it. Keep going, and play until it runs out, and then figure it out after that.”
Despite that, it’s difficult to recommend a live play on Glover to go back-to-back at his current +750 price, especially since 16 others are within four shots of the lead, including the likes of Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy, who are each three strokes back.
Then there’s Jordan Spieth, who will be Glover’s third-round playing partner.
After opening with a 63 to grab the early lead, Spieth duct-taped his way to a 68 on Friday. He posted six birdies and four bogeys in a round that saw him hit just eight greens in regulation.
“It's funny,” he said afterward. “I felt like I had better control of my swing today than yesterday. I got stuck kind of with a couple numbers where I maybe played the wrong shot, wrong decision, and didn't play patiently early. Then I made a couple bad swings, as well.”
As with Glover, Spieth’s +650 odds feel a little too short after the wayward nature of so many of his second-round shots. That doesn’t mean he can’t win — Spieth has won plenty of titles while holding his swing together and using his mercurial short game to climb the board — it just means I don’t want to take the chance that he'll keep going backward.
So, who do I like entering the weekend?
Well, I’m a bit hesitant to recommend more candidates. I offered up my pre-tourney plays (RIP Sam Burns tickets) and a few others in a Thursday post-round piece, and I never want to be the guy who throws chips all over the roulette wheel and celebrates when his number hits.
However, I do like the +1400 number on Sungjae Im, who was a late addition to my pre-tourney outright card.
Standing two strokes back after a second-round 65, Im has started to trend in the right direction ever since an early-summer swoon.
I walked the second nine holes with Im’s group on Friday (he was playing with Spieth and Justin Rose) and witnessed a player who’s in control of his iron play right now. He ranks second in SG: Tee-to-green, trailing only Glover.
Additionally, his putter was better Friday than Thursday. As my pal Will Haskett, who was following the group for SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, said on the air, “it feels like Sungjae is starting to heat up with that putter.”
Oh, and don't sleep on the fact that Im leads the Tour in Round 3 scoring average (67.84) this season.
There are plenty of candidates competing for the title right now and some bigger names a bit further down the board who are seemingly waiting to pounce. However, that 14/1 number remains my favorite with two rounds left to play.