Dream win with shot of courage

South Korean Kang Sung-hoon posing for a photo with his wife, Kang So-young and his son, Eugene, after winning the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas on Sunday. He is now the 10th Korean to win on the PGA Tour.
South Korean Kang Sung-hoon posing for a photo with his wife, Kang So-young and his son, Eugene, after winning the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas on Sunday. He is now the 10th Korean to win on the PGA Tour.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
South Korean Kang Sung-hoon posing for a photo with his wife, Kang So-young and his son, Eugene, after winning the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas on Sunday. He is now the 10th Korean to win on the PGA Tour.
Jason Shortall.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

South Korean Kang's attacking plan pays off as he wins 1st PGA Tour title in his 159th start

LOS ANGELES • In many ways, Kang Sung-hoon's performance at the AT&T Byron Nelson resembled his play at the 2017 Houston Open.

The South Korean tied the course record in the second round. He separated himself from the field entering the weekend. And he went into Sunday a little bit fatigued and facing an early tee time, all the while wearing a target on his back.

It did not go well two years ago. Kang played conservatively the last 36 holes, watched Russell Henley make 10 birdies in the final round, and had to settle for second place.

It was his best result on the PGA Tour, but the lesson was a cruel one - and yet so valuable.

What he learnt two years ago, he put into action on Sunday at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas as he claimed his maiden Tour victory, reported the pgatour.com.

Knowing the scores were going to be low in the soft, windless conditions making this course defenceless, the 31-year-old knew he could not be conservative.

Also, knowing it would be a long day, thanks to Saturday's rain delay, he woke up early on Sunday to play the remaining nine holes of his third round, followed by 18 more in the final round.

MENTAL BOOST

Just keep telling me about the funny things I can laugh about and forget about the golf for a while.

KANG SUNG-HOON, who had all the banter and support from caddie Jason Shortall en route to his victory.

He was determined to prevent fatigue from impacting his score, so he asked caddie Jason Shortall to keep the between-shot banter light - "just keep telling me about the funny things I can laugh about and forget about the golf for a while".

It paid off on the back nine as he broke away from playing partners Matt Every and Scott Piercy to shoot a four-under 67 to win by two strokes - his first title in 159 starts.

He said: "Dream come true. When I started playing golf, I really dream about this, winning a PGA Tour event and it finally happened."

He started sluggishly, playing even par through seven holes. But he birdied eight, nine and 10, and settled down on the back nine as he regained the form that saw him shoot a second-round 61.

Momentum swung decidedly in his favour on the par-four 15th. He sank a 23-foot birdie putt for the outright lead and held on to the advantage for a 261 winning total.

Every had a costly bogey on No. 15. He finished with a 66 and was tied for second with Piercy (64) on 263.

"I knew that was going to be the most important putt for this week," Kang said of the putt on 15th. "I really focused. I just saw the picture and went in."

He is the 10th Korean player to win on the PGA Tour. The best of them, K.J. Choi, an eight-time winner, gave his compatriot a call going into the weekend.

His advice?

"Just play your game. Don't change anything," Kang recalled.

Things, however, will change now. They always do for first-time Tour winners.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2019, with the headline 'Dream win with shot of courage'. Print Edition | Subscribe