Sung Kang flirted with history Friday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, shooting a 60 to tie for the lead heading into the third round.
Kang had a shot to hit the magical 59, a feat that hasn't been accomplished on the PGA Tour since Jim Furyk did so in 2013, with a birdie putt on his final hole (No. 9), but he could muster only a par to put a capper on his tremendous day.
Yet as great as Kang was, Hiroshi Iwata, who followed his 66 on Thursday with the same score Friday, joined him atop the leaderboard.
Here's the full leaderboard for this year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am after 36 holes:
In case you were wondering what a 60 looks like, the PGA Tour offered up Kang's scorecard to illustrate how impressive it is:
No 59, but what a round for Kang.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 12, 2016
Golf clap. 👏 pic.twitter.com/Eq3ninMoDy
Yet even that doesn't do justice to how impressive Kang was Friday. He hasn't won a tournament of any kind since the Kolon Korea Open on the Korean Tour in 2013 and missed the cut in all three events he played in January.
The PGA Tour tweeted out what his previous five rounds looked like:
Sung Kang's last six rounds on TOUR:— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 12, 2016
Golf is a funny game. ⛳️ pic.twitter.com/4UDexUa6h9
Kang's surge up the leaderboard was astounding, as he began Friday off the radar in a tie for 82nd place. The 28-year-old also made history on the course, per Justin Ray of the Golf Channel:
Sung Kang: 60 (-11) on Monterey, setting the tournament course record. 30th round of 60 in @PGATOUR history.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) February 12, 2016
Looking at things rationally, Kang isn't likely to stay in his current spot, given his performance prior to Friday. Yet having a nearly perfect round can serve as a stepping stone for a young player who has displayed some talent on the Korean Tour.
Yet Kang is locked in a battle with Iwata, who has been steady through 36 holes and looked to be rolling on the front nine, per the PGA Tour:
Iwata has shown flashes but has not always capitalized on spectacular shots like this one on No. 12, per the PGA Tour:
According to ESPN.com's Jason Sobel, Iwata gained fame last year during the PGA Championship, when he tied the record-low score (63) in a major tournament. But that round came after he opened the event with a 77, so he's more likely to stay in contention this weekend.
Phil Mickelson probably wasn't happy to see Kang and Iwata perform so well, though given the way Lefty has been rolling this year, he may not be paying attention to anyone else.
Mickelson is tied for third place with a total score of 10 under par following a 65 on Friday. He's been terrific all year, save for one bad round at the Farmers Insurance Open that caused him to miss the cut.
Per Ray, Mickelson's score Friday matched his previous career best on the Monterey Peninsula course at Pebble Beach:
Phil Mickelson: 65 at Monterey, tying his career-low score there. Shot there in 2nd round of 2012 @attproam - went on to win.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) February 12, 2016
Mickelson briefly held a two-stroke lead before Kang and Iwata took to the course. He took over the top spot with a fantastic front nine that was similar to Kang's, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Phil Mickelson shot a 29 on the front 9 and is currently tied atop the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Leaderboard: pic.twitter.com/8foJj2aCuj— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 12, 2016
The next step for Mickelson is to finish with a victory. He's come close with an 11th-place finish last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a third-place effort at the CareerBuilder Challenge three weeks ago.
Jordan Spieth is back on the PGA Tour for the first time since winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He got off to a slow start Thursday with a 71 before rebounding with a 69 on Friday to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
This wasn't a vintage Spieth round, just an efficient, quick day for the world's best player. He didn't reach the lows that Mickelson or Kang did, but he didn't have any speed bumps with two birdies and no bogeys.
Despite entering Saturday tied for 36th place, Spieth sounds confident in his ability to make a move, per Sobel:
Jordan Spieth was asked after the round what his best score is at Pebble Beach. "I don't know ... it'll be tomorrow."— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) February 12, 2016
Spieth seems to be taking a slow-and-steady approach so far this year. He's still competing in tournaments but hasn't had an insane round since firing a 63 in November. The 22-year-old finished fifth at Abu Dhabi two weeks ago by shooting a 68 in three of his four rounds.
Assuming Spieth can follow a similar trend this weekend, he may not challenge for a victory, because making up eight shots is asking for a lot, but he should end up in the top 10 by Sunday.
The leaderboard feels volatile because no one knows what to expect from Kang or whether Iwata can keep things going. Given how low the scores have already gone at Pebble Beach, look for more movement Saturday.