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Sung Kang
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The Takeaway

Sung Kang bags his 1st PGA TOUR title

by Mo Yoshimoto
Updated On: May 13, 2019, 10:09 am ET

AT&T Byron Nelson

Dallas, TX

 

Playing out of the final threesome, second- and third-round leader and World No. 138 Sung Kang crafted a 4-under-par 34-33=67 in Sunday’s final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club for a 72-hole tally of 23-under 261, good for a two-shot victory over playing competitors Matt Every (66) and Scott Piercy (64), who both shared 2nd place.

The 31-year-old, a pre-tourney 100/1 outright, bags his first PGA TOUR title in 159 events, brushing aside a previous-best 2nd at the 2017 Shell Houston Open, where he was the second- and third-round leader (by three), shot even-par 72 and finished 2nd (three back) to Russell Henley (65).

World No. 3 Brooks Koepka (65), the top-ranked OWGRer in the field, finished  alone in 4th place, three adrift after a 65 out of the penultimate threesome, while five players shared 5th place, six in arrears: Peter Uihlein (64); Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64); Rory Sabbatini (67); Tyler Duncan (67); Matt Jones (67).

Kang, in his sixth (non-consecutive) season on TOUR, has now made 83 cuts and missed 74 (and two mid-tourney WDs), and records his fifth career top-3 finish among 12 top 10s.


Final Leaderboard (pre-tourney odds outright):

1- (-23, 261) Sung Kang (100/1)

2- (-21, 263) Matt Every (200/1)

2- (-21, 263) Scott Piercy (50/1)

4- (-20, 264) Brooks Koepka (7/1)

5- (-17, 267) Peter Uihlein (200/1)

5- (-17, 267) Kiradech Aphibarnrat (100/1)

5- (-17, 267) Rory Sabbatini (50/1)

5- (-17, 267) Tyler Duncan (300/1)

5- (-17, 267) Matt Jones (90/1)

Note: Zurich (team event) aside, four of the last five winners on TOUR have all been first-time winners and all come from the triple-digits ranks: Kang (100/1); Max Homa (300/1; Wells Fargo); C.T. Pan (125/1, RBC Heritage); Corey Conners (150/1, Valero).


Kang’s Position by Round:

R1: T4 (2 back)

R2: 1 (leader by 4)

R3: 1 (leader by 3)

Note: Kang, a Coppell, Texas, resident, is the first 36-hole leader/co-leader to win the Nelson since Flower Mound, Texas, resident Steven Bowditch in 2015.

 

Leader/co-leaders by Round:

R1: Denny McCarthy (finished T23): Drops to 0-for-1 as 18-hole leader/co-leader

R2: Sung Kang (Won): Improves to 1-for-3 as 36-hole leader/co-leader

R3: Sung Kang (Won): Improves to 1-for-2 as 54-hole leader/co-leader


By the Numbers:

  • Repeat top-10 finishers from last year: 0
  • Consecutive top-10 finishes in the event: 0
  • 5: Number of career top-3 finishes for Kang, first since solo 3rd at the 2018 Quicken Loans National (TPC Potomac; MD), 23 starts ago.
  • 3: Number of runner-up finishes for Every in 220 events, first since T2 at the now-defunct 2012 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic (at Disney) 166 starts ago.
  • 4: Kang and Every ended up playing all four rounds together.
  • 4: Number of career runners-up for Piercy in 279 events, first since solo 2nd at the 2016 WGC-Bridgestone (Firestone CC; OH) as a 54-hole co-leader (70 starts ago).
  • 72: Piercy played all 72 holes bogey-free, the first player since Charles Howell III (T9, 2010 Greenbrier) to play all 72 holes blemish-free; neither of those two won. Wow.
  • T10: Of 35 first-timers at the Nelson, the best finish was T10 by non-member and South Africa’s Justin Harding, who played his college golf at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. It’s his first top 10 in 10 career TOUR events, eclipsing a previous-best T12 at this year’s Masters in his Masters debut.
  • 7/1 fave: Pre-tourney odds outright for Koepka. Solo 4th was fourth top 10 of season in 11 starts.
  • 4: Koepka’s four top 10s this season have all doubled as top 5s (Won, CJ CUP; T2, Honda; T2, Masters; 4th, Byron Nelson)
  • 67: Kang’s final-round score (7 birdies, 3 bogeys)
  • 10: Kang is the 10th player this season (29 events) to MC the start prior and then win in their next start, second straight after Max Homa at the Wells Fargo.
  • 6: Kang is playing his sixth season on TOUR.
  • 160: Kang’s finish in the FedExCup standings after 2011 rookie campaign.
  • 111: Kang’s finish in the FEC standings last season.
  • 59: Kang’s career-best finish in the FEC standings came after the 2017 season (Starts: 32; Top 10s: 3)
  • 1: Kang’s win earns him a plethora of invites, including his first Masters in 2020. Prior to Sunday’s win, he had gained entry into this coming week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park as an alternate, where he’ll make his second PGA start after T44 in 2017 at Quail Hollow Club; NC (T12 thru 54 holes).
  • 64: Kang shares the course record at Bethpage (Black) with four others. His was a 7-under version in R4 of the 2016 Barclays (played as a par 71) to finish T18, which is his best finish in six FEC Playoffs events.

How Kang Won the Tournament:

Ranked 1st (or T1) in: Par-4 Scoring; Par-5 Scoring; All Around

Ranked 2nd(or T2) in: Total Eagles; Total Birdies; Birdie or Better Percentage; SG: Putting

Note: See “Strokes Gained Leaders Stats” at the bottom, along with his full stats.

Least Important Stat(s): SG: Around-the-Green (ranked 57th); Par-3 Scoring (47th); Driving Accuracy (26th); Driving Distance (23rd); Scrambling (23rd)


2

Overall, this was the South Korean’s second professional win. He won one time in 29 career starts on the Asian Tour, the 2013 CJ Invitational hosted by K.J. Choi as the 54-hole leader by two.

Kang was winless in 86 other events spread across four other tours, but did record three runners-up on the Web.com in 68 starts.

After playing on the main stage in 2011 and 2012, he was relegated to the Web.com for season’s 2013 through 2015, not making a single PGA TOUR start during those three years.

Kang made his way back to the big leagues after finishing 43rd in the Web.com Priority Rankings after 2015.

He’s now fully exempt thru the 2020-21 season.

Due to previous weather delays, the Yonsei University alum had to play 27 holes on Sunday and did so in 6-under.

This was a virtual home game for him with Trinity Forest being about 35 miles to the South and East of his Coppell residence.


Kang’s Q&A:

Q: Sung, what a brilliant day. It was a long day. How important or how special is it to make your first victory here in Dallas now that you call it home, friends and family everywhere?

A: Just dream come true…I got in 2011, probably my 6th year and played over 100 events and finally got one.

Q: Your first PGA TOUR win. How are you feeling right now?

A: You know, it just feels amazing. I mean I was thinking about winning event on PGA TOUR when I was really young and watching Tiger dominating and then I got to your since ’11, I’ve – it feels amazing.

Q: You talked to your dad on the phone in South Korea. You said, “I did it.”

A: My dad gave me a lot of support when I was young and send me over to U.S. when I was like 15 and gave me a lot of opportunity to learn English so I don’t have any problems living in U.S. now.


Kang’s TOUR Career:

Seasons: 6th

Starts: 159

Cuts Made: 83 (52.2%)

Top 25s: 30 (18.8%)

Top 10s: 12 (7.5%)

Top 3s: 5 (3.1%)

Wins: 1 (0.6%)


3

This was Kang’s 18th start of the season, sixth top 25 and third top 10. His previous best was T6 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational six starts ago and also posted a T10 at the Sony Open back in January, which included a previous-season-best 6-under 64 in R4.

Kang checked in off a missed cut by one at last week’s Wells Fargo on 4-over 146 (70-76), and MC’d the week prior at the Zurich (65-best ball; 72-alternate shot) teamed with Irving, Texas, resident Danny Lee, who was waiting to congratulate him after Sunday’s finale despite not playing in the event.

In the other two Texas events so far this season, Kang didn’t qualify for the WGC-Match Play and finished T42 at the Valero (70-73-71-69).

Season Form (last eight): 1-MC-MC-42-18-47-6-51

 

61

Kang’s bogey-free 61 in R2, which included a career best six consecutive birdies at holes 5-10, was the week’s low round and tied the course record with Marc Leishman (2018/R1), who finished 2nd last year and was an 11th-hour scratch this week (back).

 

126

Kang’s 36-hole aggregate of 126 (16-under) set a new 36-hole scoring record in the tourney, previously 125 by Leishman last year.

 

235

Kang entered the week ranked 235th in career earnings at the Nelson. In his five previous visits he’d collected $137,480 on three cashes with a previous best of T20 two tries ago in 2017 at TPC Four Seasons. After banking $1,422,000 for Sunday’s win, he now ranks 11th.

Byron Nelson form: 1-42-20-34-MC-MC


3

After kicking off with 65, week-low 61, and 68, Kang began with a three-shot lead over Every, five clear of Piercy and Koepka.

On 12 (of 14) fairways and 14 greens in regulation, he posted 0.246 SG: Off-the-Tee, 1.031 SG: Approach, and -1.155 SG: Around.

Kang squared three bogeys at holes 2, 12 and 18, outflanked by seven circles, highlighted by a pair of hat-tricks at 8-10 and 14-16.

He recorded 1.643 putts per GIR and 1.441 SG: Putting with 29 total putts, ending the week with 2 eagles and 25 birdies against 6 bogeys.

 

BEGAN: 3-shot lead

OUT: 2-under 34 (3 birdies, 1 bogey); Kang leads by 1 (over Every, Piercy)

IN: 2-under 33 (4 birdies, 2 bogeys); Kang WINS by 2 (over Every, Piercy)


Strength of Field:

With a Strength of Field rating of 219 (up 41 from last year), Kang banks 40.00 world-ranking points: 

OWGR: From 138 to 75 (up 63)

Note: Kang’s career high is 74th after last season’s WGC-HSBC.

FedExCup: From 71 to 21 (up 50)


Field Scoring Average:

This was the 65th playing of the Nelson, second and second straight at Trinity Forest.

Par 71 (36-35)

7,371 yards

 

R1: 69.82

R2: 70.90

R3: 67.96 (contested over two days; preferred lies)

R4: 68.56 (preferred lies)

Total: 69.65

Kang: 65-61-68-67

SG: Total: 16.249

 

Low Rounds:

R1: 63: Denny McCarthy

R2: 61: Sung Kang

R3: 62: Nicholas Lindheim

R4: 64: Scott Piercy, Peter Uihlein, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Pat Perez

 

Bogey-free Rounds:

R1: (7): Tom Hoge (64); Shawn Stefani (65); Michael Thompson (66); Scott Piercy (67); Cameron Davis (67); Scottie Scheffler (67); Alvaro Ortiz (69)

R2: (11): Sung Kang (61); Rory Sabbatini (65); Martin Laird (66); Thomas Pieters (66); Kevin Tway (66); Vaughn Taylor (67); Curtis Luck (67); Michael Thompson (68); Zack Sucher (68); Scott Piercy (69); Hank Lebioda (69_MC)

R3: (11): Nicholas Lindheim (62); Scott Piercy (63); Shawn Stefani (64); Brady Schnell (64); Doug Ghim (66); Davis Riley (66); Branden Grace (66); Keith Mitchell (66); Stephan Jaeger (67); Russell Knox (68)

R4: (9): Scott Piercy (64); Peter Uihlein (64); Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64); Brooks Koepka (65); Justin Harding (65); Sepp Straka (65); Vaughn Taylor (66); Nate Lashley (66); Ryan Palmer (67)

 

Multiple Bogey-free Rounds: Piercy (x4); Uihlein, Taylor V., Stefani, Thompson M., (x2)


Draw:

A total of 83 pros from a field of 155 pros and 1 amateur made the 36-hole cut of 2-under 140:

 

48 (of 77) EARLY/late; 1 WD (D.J. Trahan)

35 (of 76) LATE/early; 2 WD’s (Charles Howell III, Martin Trainer)

 

71 players survived a secondary cut after 54 holes of 4-under 209.

 

Top 10s: 11

EARLY/late (6):

Scott Piercy (T2); Brooks Koepka (4th); Tyler Duncan (T5); Matt Jones (T5); Rory Sabbatini (T5); Sebastian Munoz (T10)

LATE/early (5):

Sung Kang (Won); Matt Every (T2); Kiradech Aphibarnrat (T5); Peter Uihlein (T5); Justin Harding (T10)

Note: Kang ends a run of six straight EARLY/late winners of the Nelson.


17

17 (of 29) tourneys so far this season with a traditional draw:

Winners:

EARLY/late: 6

LATE/early: 11 (Kang)

 

30

Season Winners, including team-Zurich:

12 winners were in their 20s

12 were in their 30s (Kang age: 31)

6 were in their 40s


Season Leaders in Top-10 Finishes:

8: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

6: Scott Piercy, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland

5: Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Sungjae Im, Justin Thomas

4: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter, Ryan Palmer, Tommy Fleetwood, Scott Brown, Michael Thompson, Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak, Si Woo Kim, Lucas Glover, Charles Howell III

 

Consecutive Top 10s on TOUR:

2: Jon Rahm (1-9)

2: Sergio Garcia (4-2)

2: Rickie Fowler (4-9)

2: Ian Poulter (9-10)

2: Patrick Cantlay (3-9)

2: Tiger Woods (1-5)

 

Consecutive Top-10 Streak Ended:

NONE


Kang’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 71 players):

Eagles: 2 (T2)

Birdies: 25 (T2)

Bogeys: 6 (T15)

Birdie or Better: 37.50% (2nd)

Birdie to Bogey Ratio: 4.50 (T4)

Par-3 Scoring: 3.06 (T47)

Par-4 Scoring: 3.70 (1st)

Par-5 Scoring: 4.08 (1st)

Driving Distance (all drives): 284.0 yards (T23)

Driving Accuracy: 48/56 (T26) at 85.71%

GIR: 57/72 (T17) at 79.17%

Proximity: 37’7” (15th)

Putts per GIR: 1.614 (3rd)

Total Putts: 109 (T4)

Putts by Round: 29-23-28-29

Scrambling: 10/15 (T23) at 66.67%

All-Around: 1st


Leaders in Strokes Gained Stats:

SG: Off-the-Tee:

1. Ryan Palmer (5.653)

2. Seth Reeves (5.404)

3. Cameron Davis (5.043)

4. Brooks Koepka (4.066)

5. Scottie Scheffler (3.756)

17. Sung Kang (2.283)

 

SG: Approach-the-Green:

1. Scott Piercy (6.702)

2. Troy Merritt (6.242)

3. Shawn Stefani (5.840)

4. Rory Sabbatini (5.724)

5. Denny McCarthy (5.458)

11. Sung Kang (4.367)

 

SG: Around-the-Green:

1. Brian Stuard (4.030)

2. Davis Riley (3.925)

3. Stephan Jaeger (3.911)

4. Kevin Tway (3.422)

5. Cameron Davis (3.365)

57. Sung Kang (-0.702)

Note: Kang is just the second winner this season with a negative SG: Around (C.T. Pan, RBC Heritage)

 

SG: Putting:

1. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (14.044)

2. Sung Kang (10.299)

3. Justin Harding (9.520)

4. Curtis Luck (6.903)

5. Peter Uihlein (6.620)

 

SG: Tee-to-Green:

1. Scott Piercy (10.680)

2. Rory Sabbatini (9.216)

3. Tyler Duncan (8.292)

4. Matt Every (7.736)

5. Kramer Hickok (7.592)

12. Sung Kang (5.948)