Saturday, February 13, 2016

Kang surprises everyone - including himself - with 60 at Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH, California – Sung Kang stole the show Friday at the AT and T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, carding an 11-under 60 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club that gave him a share of the lead.
It also marked Kang’s lowest career round – although it took a reminder from pro-am partner, comedian Ray Romano, for that last fact to sink in.
“We didn’t even know what the par was, even after we finished the hole. So I thought I shot 61,” Kang said. “Then after we finished he was like, ‘Hey, you beat your career round,’ and I said, ‘No, I didn’t. I shot 61.’
“’He said, ‘No, you shot 60,’” Kang continued. “We looked at the score and couldn’t still figure it out, like four or five minutes with (caddie Mike) Fluff (Cowan). And then we counted it again, ‘Oh shoot, we shot 60.’”
It’s easy to see how Kang’s low round may have surprised him considering the 28-year-old entered this week off of three straight missed cuts. Following an even-par 72 at Spyglass Hill, he seemed more likely to miss Saturday’s cut than play in the final group.
But everything fell into place during a round that included nine birdies and an eagle. Beginning on the back nine, Kang turned in 6-under 31 and had an outside chance for a 59 after three straight birdies on Nos. 6-8.

While he closed with a par, it was still good enough to give him a share of the lead alongside Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata, with big names Phil Mickelson (T-3) and Justin Rose (sixth) looming just off the pace.
“I was having a good round, so I didn’t really force it to make birdies,” he said. “I was thinking just, it just felt like it was going to happen no matter what. So do it, it’s going to happen. Just putt, it’s going to go in, just hit it and it just went in most of the time today.”
Kang parted ways with his prior caddie after the Farmers Insurance Open, and this week marks the first time he has had Cowan on the bag as Cowan’s regular employer, Jim Furyk, continues to recover from wrist surgery. Cowan also happened to caddie for Furyk’s 59 at the 2013 BMW Championship, the last time golf’s magic number was achieved on the PGA Tour, and Kang heaped plenty of praise onto the veteran bag man.
“He definitely cleared my head a lot. I don’t have to think too much,” Kang said. “He told me, ‘Yeah, you were listening to me very well today, and you didn’t listen to me at all yesterday.’ So I did fine today.”

 Mickelson seven under after 10 holes, then it went pear shaped
- Associated Press
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) - The back nine didn’t go according to plan for Phil Mickelson during the second round of the AT and T; Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the par-3 14th hole at Monterey Peninsula served as the best illustration.
Mickelson’s tee shot was a laser that covered the flag, and as it descended toward the green, Mickelson began talking to his golf ball.
“Drop! Drop!” he said.
And when it finally did, Mickelson asked a more pertinent question: “Why isn’t anyone clapping?”
And then the realization set in.
“Did that go long?” he said.
Indeed, it was some 30 feet beyond the cup, and he had to settle for a two-putt par. It was like that for his final two hours. Mickelson was 7-under par through 10 holes and had two par 5s in front of him. He had to settle for a 65, and that wasn’t even the most exciting round at Monterey Peninsula.
“I was 7 under for the round,” Mickelson said. “I didn’t expect to play 1 over coming in.”
About an hour later, Sung Kang birdied three straight holes and walked to his final tee at the par-3 ninth needing a birdie to shoot 59. Kang didn’t even know this. He thought par at Monterey Peninsula was a 72, so a shot at golf’s magic number never crossed his mind.
He scrambled for par and an 11-under 60, a personal best and the course record. And it gave him a share of the lead with Hiroshi Iwata, who shot 66 at Pebble Beach.
One more round, and this tournament will really take shape with everyone having a crack at each of the three courses.
Going into Saturday, Iwata and Kang were at 11-under 132, one shot to par better than Mickelson, Freddie Jacobson (69 at Spyglass Hill) and Chez Reavie (70 at Pebble Beach). Mickelson and Kang move on to Pebble Beach on Saturday, along with the stars - in golf and in the entertainment business.
THE INTRODUCTION: Ray Romano has become a regular at Pebble Beach in recent years, but he wasn’t real sure who his professional partner was when asked earlier in the week. That’s OK - Kang didn’t know much about Romano, either.
“One of my buddies came up and said, ‘Oh, you’re with Ray. He’s very famous,’” Kang said. “I did some research on it. I Googled Ray and he was like on a really famous TV show for six or seven years. He gets like almost a third more earnings from TV drama show.”
Asked if Romano knew him, Kang smiled and said, “I think he’ll remember me after today.”

THE KEY SHOT: Mickelson had only 11 putts on the front nine. He made a 40-foot eagle putt on No. 10. He drove the ball beautifully, and hit his irons where he was looking. But if there was a key shot in his second round, it was a hybrid that traveled all of 6 feet.
Mickelson pulled his approach on the par-5 12th down the bank, across the firm sand of a waste area and into the shrubs. He could not take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie because to drop it no closer to the pin would have meant dropping it in the bushes.
He poked his hybrid into the shrubs, carefully measured how he would make contact and punched at it. The ball squirted out and stopped 6 feet away on the sand.
“Problem was, if I tried to get it too far, I was afraid it would roll up the face and roll back down in the bush like it did,” Mickelson said. “So I just wanted to move it 5 or 6 feet so it didn’t go up the slope.”
He still made bogey. It could have been worse.
THE REASSESSMENT: Justin Rose was two shots to par out of the lead after a 68 at Monterey Peninsula. Statistically, that has been the easiest scoring course of the three in the rotation. Not to Rose, however. He said the greens aren’t quite as good as Pebble Beach or Spyglass Hill, and if you don’t see putts go in early, it makes it even harder. That’s when someone let him know that Kang was 11 under for the day and playing his final hole.
“The greens are obviously perfect,” he said.
THE PAR 5s: Jordan Spieth would love his position going into Pebble Beach if he could figure out how to play the par 5s.
He was around the green in two shots on all of the par 5s at Spyglass Hill on Thursday and made only one birdie. It was even worse at Monterey Peninsula. He didn’t make birdie on any of them. Spieth shot a 69 and was at 3 under, even though he has played the par 5s in just 1 under for the week.
“From where I’ve been, they’ve pretty much all been par 4s for me,” he said. “So it almost feels like I’m playing them 7 over. It’s bizarre.”



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