Magical 59 eludes Kang

Kang Sung of South Korea playing his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He narrowly missed joining the elite group of six PGA golfers with a 59 to their names. A birdie at his last hole, the p
Kang Sung of South Korea playing his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He narrowly missed joining the elite group of six PGA golfers with a 59 to their names. A birdie at his last hole, the par-three ninth, would have sealed the feat.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Golfer thought par was 72 instead of 71, didn't go for final-hole birdie

LOS ANGELES • South Korea's Kang Sung fired a scintillating 60 to seize a share of the second-round lead in golf's Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Friday, never realising how close he was to golf's magic number of 59 - which only six players have achieved on the PGA Tour.

The 28-year-old from Jeju City had nine birdies and an eagle in his 11-under-par 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 on 132 with Japan's Hiroshi Iwata, who carded a 66 at Pebble Beach Golf Links. They were one stroke clear of American Phil Mickelson, Sweden's Freddie Jacobson and overnight leader Chez Reavie.

Kang, who had two victories in Asia in 2013 - in the C.J. Invitational and Kolon Korea Open - said he did not realise that 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 did not realise that 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 previous 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.

The American carded a 65 at Monterey Peninsula, highlighted by his eagle at the 10th. He had burnt up the front nine with five birdies before the turn, but was slowed by two bogeys on the back nine - including the 18th.

"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 only fairways I missed was with my three-wood."

He added that, unlike some tour pros, 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 also to play on some of the best golf courses in the world."

Reigning Major champions Jordan Spieth and Jason Day had a bit more fun on Friday.

Australian Day fired a 66 to move into a tie for 13th at 137, while world No. 1 Spieth, the Masters and US Open champion, followed up his one-under 71 first round with a 69 to total 140.

"I drove the ball spectacularly," said Spieth, adding that he had made adjustments after Thursday's erratic round. "I feel very, very comfortable ball-striking. I just couldn't get it in the hole."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2016, with the headline 'MAGICAL 59 ELUDES KANG'. Print Edition | Subscribe