Daniel Im got some attention when he rocketed into the top 10 in the BMW SA Open with a final round 65 last Sunday and the three front-runners in the Joburg Open would do well to keep an eye on the American in the final round of the R16.5-million showpiece at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday.
The diminutive Im fired a flawless seven-under-par 65 at the East Course to finish at 13 under, just two shots behind the leading trio of Haydn Porteous, Zander Lombard and Englishman Anthony Wall.
A two-time Canadian Tour winner and Challenge Tour champion, it took the 30-year-old New Jersey native four tries to gain a European Tour and he did so in style when he claimed a share of the medallist honours at the Final Stage Qualifier in November last year.
“I am hoping to make the most of my starts in South Africa and the tie for eighth at the SA Open on Sunday was a great confidence booster,” said Im during the golf development clinic he co-hosted ahead of the Joburg Open on Wednesday.
Im as eight strokes off the pace after rounds of 69 and 68, but the 65 on Saturday vaulted him into a tie for fourth with South African Jacques Blaauw, Irishman Paul Dunne and overnight leader Ross McGowan from England and within striking distance of the leading trio.
“I didn’t even know I was that deep coming into the stretch,” said Im, who posted seven birdies, including three on the trot from 11
“I just made a couple putts on the back-nine. I birdied all the par-fives and the birdie at 11 was a huge confidence booster.
“I think I picked up a little bit of momentum there, so I birdied twelve and thirteen. I had a couple good looks, but they just didn’t go in and then I birdied the last hole for a 65.
“I’ve been hitting it really, really good. I just haven’t missed that many fairways and I didn’t miss that many greens. I’ve just been hitting it quit straight.”
Im not only has a chance to claim a maiden European Tour title on Sunday, but also has a shot at grabbing one of the three places on offer into the Open Championship at Royal Troon in July.
“It’s quite exciting, yeah of course, but I’ve just got to keep my head down and just do what I’m good at. I just have to keep hitting it straight and see how many birdies I can make tomorrow.”