Hideki Matsuyama, Joohyung Kim fight into contention at US Open

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Joohyung Kim enjoyed a season’s first top-10 at the RBC Canadian Open a few weeks ago, and intends to improve on his 23rd place finish in his U.S. Open debut in 2022. Photo: Getty Images

Asian stars Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Korea’s Tom Kim fought their way into title contention at the U.S. Open on Friday after cards of 4-under 66 and 2-under 68 propelled them into solo eighth and tied ninth respectively in the second round.

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Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters Tournament champion, fired the day’s low round featuring four birdies without a bogey to sit on 2-under 138 at Pinehurst No. 2 and lie three back of Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg, who shot a 69 to hold a one-stroke lead on 135 from Bryson DeChambeau (69), Thomas Detry (67) and Patrick Cantlay (71). Rory McIlroy, seeking a fifth career major and first in 10 years, is amongst those on 137 following a 72.


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Kim, a three-time PGA TOUR winner, racked up five birdies against three bogeys for a 139 total as he looks to improve on last year’s eighth place finish in the year’s third major. Compatriots S.H. Kim and Si Woo Kim posted matching 72s for tied 21st and equal 37th respectively.

No Asian player has won the U.S. Open since its inception in 1895, which Matsuyama, a nine-time TOUR winner, and Kim will carry the challenge over the weekend. The 32-year-old Matsuyama, who was a joint runner-up at Erin Hills in 2017 for his best U.S. Open finish, credited his short game for his rise up the leaderboard in one of the toughest tests of the year.


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“I feel it’s a great test for all the players. I felt like I was playing really well today,” said Matsuyama, who won the Genesis Invitational in February to become the winningest Asian golfer on the PGA TOUR. “It’s very difficult, obviously. I really had difficulty on this golf course, but I managed to save par a few times. Hopefully, I can keep that momentum through the weekend.

“My short game was on point today, and that really helped my overall performance. I still need to make some adjustments to my iron game, and hopefully, I can do that throughout the week.”


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Matsuyama’s brilliance with his iron play was evident once again when he notched a hat-trick of birdies from the third hole after starting his day from the 10th. “The third and fourth, it was great shot and great putt. Had a really good momentum. On the fifth, I hit the tee shot left. I was able to recover from there. It was about a 10-footer birdie putt. It was really good flow.”

Kim, who is competing in his seventh straight week, intends to keep his foot on the pedal in his chase for major glory. The 21-year-old enjoyed a season’s first top-10 at the RBC Canadian Open a few weeks ago, and intends to improve on his 23rd place finish in his U.S. Open debut in 2022 and tied for eighth last season. He feels up to the severe test at Pinehurst.

“I’m really pleased to have shot under par. This course really brings out the best in you, both mentally and skill-wise. I did a really good job staying grounded all day and fought well,” said Kim, whose best major finish was a tied second at last year’s The Open Championship.


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He brilliantly birdied Hole Nos. 4, 5 and 7 on his inward nine to ensure a late tee time on Saturday. “Yeah, it was really big. I hit a really good tee shot on 4. Somehow just got in that bunker. Hit a really, really good 5-iron to three and a half, four feet. Kind of got the momentum on the back nine. Made another smelly 7-, 8-footer for birdie there. Just kind of kept the momentum going. Really nice to hit that nice little 8-iron on 7, for another 3-footer, which kind of takes the stress off.

“I think I just enjoy it (the U.S. Open). It’s a tough test. I think what I really appreciate about it is got to be mentally tough. As good as you need to be skill set-wise, it’s all mentally and physically you just got to be there all the time.”

Just one year after turning professional, the 24-year-old Aberg continued to dazzle, adding a 69 to his opening 66 to take a one-shot lead over Belgium’s Thomas Detry and the American pair of Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay. Aberg has positioned himself potentially to be the first player to win the U.S. Open on debut since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

“I think a U.S. Open is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be tricky, and it’s supposed to challenge any aspect of your game,” said Aberg. And I feel like it’s really doing that. But super fortunate with the way that things have turned out over the last couple days, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up.”