Early starters Im and Mitchell lead Honda Classic

Sung-jae Im and Keith Mitchell are level atop the leaderboard at six under heading into the final two rounds. (Reuters pic)

NORTH CAROLINA: South Korean rookie Im Sung-jae and American Keith Mitchell took advantage of early starts to grab a one-stroke lead over Lucas Glover before conditions toughened in the second round of Florida’s Honda Classic on Friday.

Im, 20, began to play with the sun rising and shot a six-under 64 – the joint low-round of the day – with Mitchell adding a 66 as the leaders reached six-under 134 at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.

Glover, another early finisher, carded a one-under 69 before increasing winds made afternoon play difficult.

Nine players were tied at four-under 136 on the tight leaderboard.

First-round leader Jhonattan Vegas stumbled to a three-over 73 that pushed him three strokes off the pace.

The Venezuelan had a two-shot advantage to start the day before two double-bogeys and a pair of bogeys derailed him.

Im made seven birdies and a lone bogey at the 16h hole. Three of the birdies, from the second hole, were consecutive for last year’s Web.com leading player.

Mitchell, who also has never won on the PGA Tour, played the back nine first, collecting five birdies and a bogey at the 17th.

Defending champion Justin Thomas squeezed into the weekend despite a four-over 74 that put him right on the cut mark at two over 142, but Australian Adam Scott missed out by a stroke.

Only three players among the top 20 in the world rankings are competing – Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler – making it the weakest field in the event for more than a decade.

Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are among those sitting out the event, even though they all live locally.