Sung Kang’s six-stroke lead through 36 holes at the Shell Houston Open would seem large enough to let the 29-year-old South Korean native start looking into flights from Texas to Augusta, Ga. But before booking anything, he should probably know this: In the last 15 seasons, seven other golfers have had similar leads midway through at PGA Tour event. Just four of those seven went on to win the title.
In other words, Kang’s got a cushion as he tries to play his way into next week’s Masters, but there’s still work to be done.
After an opening 65, Kang followed with an eight-under 63, tying the course record at the Golf Club of Houston and reaching 16 under without making a bogey so far this week. Behind him are Hudson Swafford and Russell Henley at 10 under, with first-round leader Rickie Fowler in fourth place at nine under after posting a Friday 71.
Kang, playing his fourth season on the PGA Tour, is familiar with course records. Last September, he shot a 64 at Bethpage Black last September at the Barclays, and in February he shot a 60 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club during the second round at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, both course records.
That said, his impressive start in Texas is a bit of surprise considering his so-so season to date. In 14 tour starts, Kang has missed eight cuts.
The winner in Houston, if not already in the field at the Masters, will receive the last available spot. Kang is also pursuing his first tour victory, with his best previous finish being a third-place showing at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in 2011, his first ever start in a PGA Tour event.
Twenty-nine players in the Houston field are also competing at Augusta. A few notables, however, are getting a chance to go early after missing the cut on Friday. They include Henrik Stenson (74-75), Patrick Reed (77-69), Adam Scott (68-77) and Jordan Spieth (69-77). Phil Mickelson (72-72) made the cut on the number.