The most unlikely pairing is stealing the show at the Zurich Classic
We can’t prove, definitively, Sungjae Im is the biggest Georgia football fan from South Korea, but he sure is giving it a try for the sake of his partner this week at the Zurich Classic.
“I taught him about Georgia football. Aren’t you a Georgia fan now?” Keith Mitchell said during the team’s post-round media session Thursday.
“Georgia fan!” Im, who typically speaks English through an interpreter, replied.
“Big Georgia fan,” Mitchell added.
“Bulldogs!” Im said as both players giggled
“So he’s now the biggest Georgia fan in South Korea. He’s a Georgia resident now. That helps,” Mitchell said.
One reporter went as far as to call the pairing, which only came about just a few weeks before the commitment deadline, golf’s “newest budding bromance.” (Our Dylan Dethier has the story of how this team formed here.)
The duo, both winners of the Honda Classic — Mitchell winning in Palm Beach Gardens in 2019 while Im won the following year — opened with a 62 in best ball Thursday and duplicated it Saturday. Couple that with a 67 in alternate shot Friday, and Im and Mitchell find themselves just one back of Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler heading into the final round at 25 under.
While the partnership wasn’t born out of the pair’s now-shared interest in Georgia football (Mitchell’s alma mater), it turns out Im was actually the one who initiated it.
“So when this event first became a team event, I remember Sungjae was a rookie, and all he did was just smile and high five and stripe it. I was like, ‘Man, this guy is going to be really good,” Mitchell said Thursday. “So jokingly one day, I was like, ‘Hey, we need to play Zurich,’ and he already had a partner. This year he finally thought my game was good enough to play with him and asked me to play, and of course you say yes.
“I wasn’t planning on playing, and when you have the opportunity to play with such a superstar, you say yes.”
With Mitchell coming into the week as the No. 50 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, they form one of just six pairings in the field of two top 50 players. Im is No. 17 in the world.
But all week, Im has played like the superstar Mitchell says he is. On Saturday, he made seven birdies on his own ball, six on the front nine, with Mitchell tacking on three on the back nine.
“He was honestly incredible. The front nine was some of the best golf I’ve ever seen played ever, six under through eight holes,” Mitchell said. “It was just fun to be a part of. I could only help him on two holes. I ended up making par on one of them and bogeying, but it just didn’t matter. He was playing so good. I was high-fiving him and watching him roll.”
All isn’t lost for the week for Mitchell even if they fail to win Sunday. Im has taught him some Korean words and phrases, too.
“Team captain. Sungjae taught me team captain in Korean because he’s my team captain,” Mitchell said Thursday as Im replied with the word in Korean.
And while Im has picked up Mitchell’s love for the Bulldogs, safe to say he won’t be copying his signature wardrobe choices.
A reporter asked Saturday: Sungjae, after playing with Keith, would you ever consider wearing the visor?
“For me, no,” Im said as everyone started laughing.
It’s still the game plan for Sunday, though.
“Laser beams and smiles,” Mitchell said.