LOS ANGELES: South Korea’s Kang Sung fired a scintillating 60 to seize a share of the second-round lead in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Friday (Saturday in Manila), never realizing how close he was to golf’s magic number of 59.
Kang had nine birdies and an eagle in his 11-under effort on the Monterey Peninsula course, one of three in use over the first three rounds of the PGA Tour event.
He shared the lead with Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata, who carded a 66 at Pebble Beach Golf Links to reach 11 under.
They were one stroke clear of American Phil Mickelson, Sweden’s Freddie Jacobson and overnight leader Chez Reavie.
Kang, who notched two victories in Asia in 2013—in the C.J. Invitational and Kolon Korea Open—said he didn’t realize Monterey Peninsula played to par-71, unlike the par-72 layouts of Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill.
“I still thought par was 72,” said Kang, who therefore didn’t realize a birdie at his last hole, the par-three ninth, would have given him a 59.
He missed the green with what he called his “worst shot of the day” but confidently rattled in a par putt to claim his share of the lead.
“I made almost every putt inside 15 feet today,” said Kang, who said his prior career best round was a 61. He hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation and needed just 24 putts.
Iwata’s round also included an eagle, at the par-five sixth, along with six birdies and two bogeys.
The leading duo have plenty of big names chasing them, starting with five-time major winner Mickelson — a four-time winner at Pebble Beach.
Mickelson carded a six-under 65 at Monterey Peninsula, highlighted by his eagle at the 10th. He had burned up the front nine with five birdies before the turn, but was slowed by two bogeys on the back nine—including the 18th.
Mickelson in the mix
“It was a good day, I really got off to a great start it was a lot of fun,” said Mickelson, who went back to his old driver after putting a new one in his bag on Thursday.
“I drove it great, the ony fairways I missed was with my three-wood,” said Mickelson, who unlike some tour pros says he enjoys the pro-am format that features amateurs and celebrities playing alongside the title contenders.
“I appreciate and enjoy this tournament for what it is,” he said of his success in the event. “I have great amateur partners … we just try to enjoy the day. It’s a chance to get to know people and then also to play some of the best golf courses in the world.”
Reigning major champions Jordan Spieth and Jason Day were having a bit more fun on Friday.
Australia’s PGA Champion Day fired a five-under 66 at Monterey Peninsula to move into a tie for 13th at six-under, while world number one Spieth, the Masters and US Open champion, followed up his one-under first-round with a two-under 69 at Monterey Peninsula.
“I drove the ball spectacular,” said Spieth, adding he’d made adjustments after Thursday’s erratic round.
“I feel very, very comfortable ball-striking. I just couldn’t get it in the hole,” added Spieth, who said he hoped for better success on firmer greens at Pebble Beach on Saturday.