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Im is keeping a cool head as he seeks to hit the jackpot

 

By Adam McKendry

When Daniel Im fired an opening round of 64 around Portstewart, the general consensus was that it was just a lower-ranked player having a decent round.

And why not? Im is ranked 542nd in the world, has never won a tournament at a level higher than the Challenge Tour and in 14 ranking events this year his best finish is tied-14th.

So, naturally, the belief was that his momentum wouldn't last.

But it has. He birdied the opening hole of his second round, the 10th. A string of pars followed before a birdie at 17. Then one at the second. And the sixth, and the seventh, and the ninth. By the end, he had shot a 67 for 13 under overall.

In fact, in 36 holes he's made just one bogey - yesterday on the par-three third.

"It's quite cool to see your name at the top of the leaderboard all the time," said the New Jersey native. "It's not just this tournament, I'd like to see it up there more often."

Somehow, this unknown player is striding along at the top of the leaderboard - alongside Frenchman Benjamin Hebert - holding off the world's top stars like Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama.

How do you deal with all that pressure? For Im it's a case of blocking it all out and focusing on trying to stay within himself to have a strong round.

"I just wanted to play quiet, without any stress," he said. "I didn't want to go out there and get too amped up about it, and I just went out there and played.

"Maybe that was the key. I mean, you're still thinking about it. But at the same time, what's the point in thinking about it? Just go out there and play golf."

And yet, even with his success so far this week, people still ask: who is Daniel Im?

For those that do know him, they'll point you to his successful college career, where he represented UCLA in the 2006 NCAA Pac-10 Conference, which they won.

He then went professional, competing on the Canadian Tour, where he experienced relative success, winning two events in 2008 leading to a third-placed finish in the Order of Merit and being awarded International Rookie of the Year.

Im jumped to and from the Challenge Tour and European Tour between 2013 and 2016, but is now back on the latter for this year, with the goal of regaining his card for next season.

Needless to say, a big result here would go a very long way to achieving that.

"I just want to keep playing the way I am right now," Im concluded.

"I'm not really nervous, I just want to go out there and have fun, enjoy beautiful Portstewart Golf Club and then see what happens in the end."

Belfast Telegraph

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