(Reuters) - South Korea’s Kang Sung-hoon fell one stroke shy of becoming only the seventh player to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour as he surged into a tie for the lead after the second round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Friday.
Needing a birdie on his final hole at Monterey Peninsula Country Club to dip under 60, Kang hit his “worst shot of the day” off the tee and had to settle for a par three there and a career-best score of 11-under 60.
That left the 28-year-old from Jeju City with an 11-under total of 132 after 36 holes, level with Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata, who fired a six-under 66 at the Pebble Beach host course, one of three venues being used for this event.
Four-times champion Phil Mickelson was a further stroke back in a three-way tie for third, having also raised hopes of a magical 59 after making an electric start before he lost momentum on his back nine to card a 65 at Monterey Peninsula.
“I am very pleased with the way I am striking the ball, the way I am chipping, putting,” Mickelson told Golf Channel after covering his first 10 holes in seven under.
“I thought I was going to shoot a lot lower than I did ... I didn’t expect to play one over (par) coming in. But I‘m not going to complain because I made a lot of good putts on the front (nine).”
While Mickelson ran out of steam over his last seven holes, Kang seemed unstoppable as he needed just 24 putts in his round.
After storming to the turn in six-under 31, the Korean picked up further shots at the second, third, sixth, seventh and eight but then missed the green off the tee at the par-three ninth and had to scramble to save par.
“My career (low) round was 61 a couple of times so I am like, this is good. If the putt goes in, it goes in. If it doesn‘t, it doesn‘t. I don’t really care,” Kang said of his par putt at the ninth.
“I hit the worst shot of the day (off the tee on nine) and then got a good break in the rough. I holed almost all my putts inside 15-foot today. I just stroked them and they went in.”
World number one Jordan Spieth, back on the PGA Tour after playing tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Singapore, again struggled with the pace of the greens as he carded a 69 at Monterey Peninsula for a three-under total.
“I drove the ball spectacularly. I feel very, very comfortable ball striking. I just couldn’t get it in the hole,” said the Masters and U.S. Open champion.
“I’ve struggled putting here at Monterey in the past few years. They’re the hardest greens to putt in my opinion because they are the softest. Speed control needs to improve to have a chance for these putts to drop.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine