Ihm happy but frustrated with first pro outing

BY CODY GOODWIN | JULY 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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SILVIS, Ill. — Steven Ihm lined up for his birdie putt on the 18th green, knowing he had to strike the ball with enough force to send it 28 feet, 9 inches. He set his feet, drew back, and watched as a promising putt skated across the grass.

Just one problem, though: The ball stopped after traveling 28 feet, 8 inches, leaving the ball just a breath of wind shy of dropping into the cup.

Ihm, a tad frustrated afterwards, managed par on the hole — successful but certainly not what he set out to achieve. In that sense, the sequence on 18 sums up Ihm’s opening round.

“It was kind of an up-and-down round,” said Ihm, who shot an even-71 Thursday in the opening round of the 2013 John Deere Classic.

“I was making birdies, and I was happy to be doing that because I was also making some really thoughtless bogies.”

The Peosta, Iowa, native opened his round as well as anyone. He slapped his tee shot straight down the 10th fairway (he began on Hole 10, played through 18, then played 1 through 9), which set up a sequence of shots that allowed Ihm to sink his fourth stroke for a birdie — his first of six on the day.

But the rest of the day wasn’t nearly as easy. Ihm, 21, sent his second tee shot straight into the trees and managed a double-bogey to drop his score from 1 under to 1 over in a single hole.

He sandwiched his double-bogey with another birdie on Hole 12. Ihm then settled into somewhat of an inconsistent groove, displaying both some of his better shots, and others he wasn’t too happy about.

“At your first PGA Tour Event, shooting par — it’s never bad,” Ihm said. “But I wanted to play a little better. I was a little disappointed in my first round.”

The shots Ihm lamented about were primarily his putts. He two-putted four times in his first nine holes — all of which turned birdie opportunities into pars on Holes 13, 14, 16, and 18.

The Hawkeye senior also had trouble on the greens in his final nine holes, in which he two-putted Holes 3, 4 and 5 (the latter two resulting in bogeys that took him from 2 under to even).

Iowa men’s golf coach Mark Hankins said these bogeys and missed birdies didn’t come from bad putting — “He’s one of the best putters around,” he said — but from the shots that set up those longer putts.

“He just didn’t manage his game as well as the other two guys he was playing with,” Hankins said about Ihm, who posted a driving accuracy of 57.14 percent.

“Once he looks over the round, there are some spots where he can make up some shots [today],” the coach said.

Hankins praised Ihm’s ability to recover from difficult situations throughout the day. The most noticeable was when Ihm went from a confident 2 under to a deflated 1 over in a matter of four holes.

Ihm responded by taking an aggressive tee shot at the par-3 7th and placed the ball fewer than 4 feet from the cup. After tapping in for birdie, he took two shots on the par-4 8th to put the ball a mere 5 feet from the hole and stroked in another bird to get back under par.

And yet, Ihm’s final hole of the day — the par-4 9th — stymied his chances of finishing under par in his first professional round. He took five strokes (his fourth, and final, bogey of the round), which caused frustration; he knows he’s better than that.

“The birdies were out there,” Ihm said. “You could probably tell by the scores; a bunch of 6 unders, 7 unders. I just need to limit my bogies.”

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