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Korean duo An and Im Keen to impress at Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Sungjae Im (left) and Byeong Hun An
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Korean duo An and Im Keen to impress at Zurich Classic of New Orleans

(Philstar.com) - April 23, 2021 - 2:42pm

Korea’s Byeong Hun An wants his partner Sungjae Im to simply be himself at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans starting on Thursday as the talented Korean duo cast an eye on next year’s Presidents Cup too.

“I don’t have anything to say ... Sungjae is very good player, so all he needs to do is just be Sungjae. He plays his game, and I play my game … that’s it,” said An ahead of the US$7.4 million tournament, which will feature 80 two-man teams at TPC Louisiana.

Im and An made their Presidents Cup debuts in 2019 for the International Team, delivering 3.5 and 2 points, respectively, and while they featured in all five sessions, they were not paired in any of the Four-Ball or Foursomes matches by captain Ernie Els at Royal Melbourne.

This week, which sees Four-Ball format being used in the first and third rounds and Foursomes in the second and final rounds, gives the Korean pair the opportunity to test their partnership for the first time and more importantly, impress Trevor Immelman who succeeded Els as International Team captain for the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow.

Im said: “I was not paired up with Ben during the Presidents Cup but we were still in one team. Unfortunately we did not win the trophy (against the United States) but for this week, I really want to play well and bring out some good results.”

While Im is enjoying another solid season with three top-10s and currently ranks 23rd on the FedExCup points list, An, 29, is going through a rough patch having missed his last four cuts, the first time it has happened in his PGA Tour career.

A return to TPC Louisiana though will bring back some happy memories for An, a former US Amateur champion, as he registered the first of three career runner-up finishes on Tour at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2016, which was the last year it was played as an individual tournament.

With World No. 19 Im by his side at TPC Louisiana, An feels confident they can challenge the likes of defending champions Jon Rahm/Ryan Palmer, Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay, Matt Wolff/Collin Morikawa, Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson and Marc Leishman/Cameron Smith for the title.

“Sungjae is like a swing machine. He hits it good and hits it straight like a robot,” An said of his teammate who has already garnered nicknames such as Iron Byron and Iron Man in recent years for his rapid rise in the game.

“So I can feel comfortable and rely on him. He is a good partner in that perspective. He does not miss many shots. All we need to do is hit more fairways and make more putts. I don’t need to worry about him. He is a best.,” said An, who currently ranks 152nd on the FedExCup points list.

Im was also complimentary of his partner, saying he would love to have An’s touch. “Ben has very skilful hands. He is a natural golfer. I hope I would also have his natural skills. I think I can learn many things from him this week,” said Im.

Ultimately, both Koreans want to have enjoy the team format, which is a break from the typical individual competition on Tour. “We can have fun with this format,” said Im. “There is no pressure but I hope we play well through the weekend. It would be wonderful to have great scores and it won’t matter if we don’t. No matter how we play, we will enjoy this week and do our best as one team.”

An added: “The Presidents Cup was great pride for me and this week is a bit different as I’m only paired with Sungjae. In any case, I need to make sure I don’t make Sungjae feel any more pressure so I need to play well. For once a year, I enjoy playing as a team and I love that.”

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