A couple of days ago, Ray Romano couldn’t have picked PGA Tour pro Sung Kang out of a lineup on the driving range at Pebble Beach.
Kang could hardly be offended. He had no clue who the Emmy Award-winning star of “Everybody Loves Raymond” was either.
Told by friends he would be partnered with the well-known American actor for the first three rounds of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the South Korean shrugged and did some quick research on Google.
The summation of Kang’s findings: “He did a really famous TV show for six or seven years, and he, like, gets almost the third-most earnings from a TV drama show.”
Or something like that.
Accuracy not notwithstanding, Kang understood Romano was a popular entertainer. And Romano? He now knows Kang can play some golf.
“I think he’ll remember me after today,” Kang said with smile Friday after the 28-year-old played the round of his life, pouring in nine birdies and an eagle to shoot 11-under-par 60 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
The course and tournament-record score pushed Kang into a share of the midpoint lead at 11 under with Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata, who played Pebble Beach and scored a second straight 66.
Kang’s round eclipsed what looked to be a standout day for three-time Pebble Beach winner Phil Mickelson, who threatened to get a look at 59 at MPCC when he went seven under in his first 10 holes.
But Mickelson suffered one bogey on a par-five and had to escape the woods on the 18th hole, making a second bogey, to shoot 65. In search of his first win since 2013, Mickelson was tied for third at 10 under with Freddie Jacobson (69, Spyglass Hill) and Chez Reavie (70, Pebble Beach).
Jason Day, ranked third in the world, fired 66 at MPCC to get into contention at six under, while top-ranked Jordan Spieth will need two big weekend rounds on Pebble Beach after a 69 at MPCC put him at three under, tied for 36th.
Romano did a pre-tournament interview on San Francisco’s KNBR and said he didn’t know Sung Kang, and actually corrected the interviewer, saying his name was “Sung Yang.”
“I get a new guy every year,” Romano lamented. “A couple of years ago I played with a guy who was 756th in the world. I’m 770th in the world!”
Kang, ranked 306th, is playing only his second season on the PGA Tour, the last coming in 2012, when he managed to make only seven cuts. He had four top-10s on the Web.com Tour last year.
Kang’s first go-around on the tour was interrupted by time in boot camp doing mandatory military service for South Korea.
This year, Kang missed three straight cuts going into Pebble Beach, hadn’t shot better than 68 in 19 rounds in the wraparound season and fired his caddie after a second-round 75 at Torrey Pines two weeks ago.
The looper he picked up: Mike “Fluff” Cowan, Tiger Woods’ former caddie, who was not enjoying his imposed leisure time because his regular player, Jim Furyk, is recovering from wrist surgery.
“I needed the work,” Cowan, puffing on a cigarette, said after Friday’s round.
Kang said he appreciated Cowan’s experience and heeded the old-timer’s opinion that they had “survived” Thursday’s round of 72 at Spyglass and were poised to go low.
The two disagreed Friday on some putting reads, Kang said, but otherwise worked like they’d been partners for years. Kang was seeing the lines so well on the somewhat bumpy poa annua greens that he felt like he couldn’t miss.
When Kang had to make a 14-foot par putt at his last hole, No. 9, his thought was, “Today’s the day. It’s going to go in no matter what.”
It fell in for his 12th and final one-putt of the day.