Jazz and Kang hit the high notes

BETHPAGE • Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond is loving the crowds and intense atmosphere of the PGA Championship, while South Korea's Kang Sung-hoon is trying to chill out after winning his first US PGA title.

The unheralded Asian contenders find themselves unexpectedly at joint-10th in this week's Major showdown at Bethpage Black, both on two-under 138 after Friday's second round.

World No. 72 Jazz, a 23-year-old from Bangkok, missed the cut in last year's British Open in his only other Major start and earned this one for his ranking.

"It's the first event I did in America with my own ranking, so that feels pretty good to be here," he said. "You feel like you belong."

He has been soaking in the New York atmosphere on and off the course.

"I go out with my friends. Take me out to see all of Manhattan, what's it all about," he said. "So many people. And the buildings. It's like a (concrete) jungle.

Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond, who missed the cut in last year's British Open, is on 138 after Friday's second round along with South Korea's Kang Sung-hoon, winner of last week's Byron Nelson tournament.

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, who missed the cut in last year’s British
Open, is on 138 after Friday’s second round along with South Korea’s Kang
Sung-hoon, winner of last week’s Byron Nelson tournament. PHOTO: EPA–EFE

"Kind of a 'wow' moment. Maybe I didn't get over that. I didn't feel the pressure on the golf course."

He holed a 23-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth and a 16-footer at the par-3 14th on his way to a 68, with Long Island supporters yelling Jazz's name, or at least trying to.

NAMES AND ALL THAT JAZZ

My first time ever getting a crowd like this, shouting my name. I don't know how to react to it. They give me some really funny names.

JAZZ JANEWATTANANOND , Thai golfer, on the fans trying to yell his name.

"My first time ever getting a crowd like this, shouting my name. I don't know how to react to it," the Thai said. "They give me some really funny names. I try not to remember it. They did try. It didn't come out right.

"It's great, coming out here, interacting with all the crowds. It's crazy. I love it. I just want to remember everything."

Jazz's real name is Atiwit but he goes by the nickname given to him by his music-loving father.

"I like all kinds of music," he said. "Maybe the name helps."

Winning helps too, and South Korean Kang collected his first PGA Tour title last Sunday at the Byron Nelson tournament. He would have been higher-placed on Friday but closed with back-to-back bogeys for a 70.

"I don't think I'm really fully back from last week yet, so I'm just going to try to rest," the world No. 75 said.

"I played really well last week, so I really try to be as calm as I can be. I have next week off, so I can have a celebration next week. I pushed it back a little bit because I'm really trying to concentrate on playing this week."

His friend Danny Lee, a South Korean-born New Zealander also on 138 after 36 holes, is happy to see Kang's hard work pay off.

Lee said. "His long game has gotten a little bit better than what it used to be. And he has always been a good chipper and putter, so I'm not surprised."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 19, 2019, with the headline 'Jazz and Kang hit the high notes'. Print Edition | Subscribe