Korea’s S.H. Kim, Japan’s Taiga Semikawa get into title mix at CJ CUP -

Korea’s S.H. Kim, Japan’s Taiga Semikawa get into title mix at CJ CUP

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MCKINNEY, TEXAS – MAY 03: Taiga Semikawa of Japan on the 15th green during the second round of THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch on May 03, 2024 in McKinney, Texas. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images).

Khel Today Bureau 

McKinney, Texas: Korea’s S.H. Kim boosted his quest for a maiden PGA TOUR victory as he surged into joint ninth place at THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson on Friday while Japan’s Taiga Semikawa also stayed within striking reach of 36-hole leader Jake Knapp.

The 25-year-old Kim delivered a bogey-free 7-under 64 at TPC Craig Ranch to lie four strokes off the pace on 10-under, which was matched by Semikawa, who returned a 68 in the US$9.5 million PGA TOUR showpiece.

Jake Knapp, who just over two years worked in security at a restaurant in his hometown, took the halfway lead. A first-time TOUR winner earlier this year, Knapp went into this weekend leading THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson after a second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday.

At 14-under 128, he was a stroke ahead of Troy Merritt (62) and first-round leader Matt Wallace (66), and two ahead of Kelly Kraft (66).

With Korean conglomerate CJ Group evolving as title sponsor of the legacy tournament held in honour of golf legend Byron Nelson from this year, Byeong Hun An (67), Si Woo Kim (65) and two-time THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson champion K.H. Lee (67) ensured a strong Asian presence on the leaderboard by sitting on 9-under heading into the weekend. TOUR rookie Knapp, winner of the Mexico Open at Vidanta earlier this season, leads on 14-under after firing a second successive 64.

“It was a decent round overall,” said S.H. Kim, whose solid ball-striking displayed yielded 15 greens in regulation. “My shots were better and solid compared to yesterday, and my putting was on point. I played early today with great weather. Though there were some winds, they didn’t affect me much.”

Without a top-10 so far this season, Kim, who is competing in his second year on the PGA TOUR, is seeking to become the fourth Korean winner at THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson following victories by Sangmoon Bae (2013), Sung Kang (2019), and K.H. Lee (2021, 2022).

“It’s been a while since I’ve managed to position myself high up on the leaderboard. I’m hoping to finish strong until the end,” said the 25-year-old Kim, who enjoyed three top-fives last season including a runner-up finish at the Fortinet Championship.

Semikawa, a four-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour and playing on a sponsor’s exemption this week, had to scramble hard for his 3-under card after hitting only 11 greens in regulation.  “On 17 and 18 (he started from the 10th hole), I was able to roll in a couple of good birdie putts and felt like I was going to keep that momentum going into the back nine, but I just couldn’t score and had to play persistent golf for the rest of the round,” said the 23-year-old, who is a former world amateur No. 1.

“One thing I’ve learned since turning pro is that regardless of how tough conditions are, you have to make birdies and score because if you don’t, the other guys will leave you in their dust. My goal tomorrow is to try to extend my score even further,” added Semikawa, who is looking to emulate compatriot Shigeki Maruyama who won the tournament in 2002.

With wife, Ji Hyun and new-born baby son, Theo, on site to cheer him on, Si Woo Kim, a four-time PGA TOUR winner, produced a stunning finish with five straight birdies and a closing eagle for an inward 29 as he bolted into title contention.

“After the baby came into our world, it really helped me to feel more confident and calm. Becoming a father isn’t easy, but the baby has had a positive and profound influence on me,” added Kim, who extended his made-cut streak to 12 tournaments this season.

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