Danielle Kang ‘blasts it down’ to win

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JAY COHEN

OLYMPIA FIELDS, ILL. — Danielle Kang birdied the fi­nal hole to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Cham­pi­onship on Sun­day for her first LPGA Tour ti­tle, edg­ing de­fend­ing cham­pion Brooke Hen­der­son of Canada.

Kang bo­geyed the tricky par-3 17th, and Hen­der­son closed with two birdies to move into a tie for the lead, com­ing up just short on a 30foot ea­gle putt on the par-5 18th. But Kang re­sponded with two solid shots to get to the green in two, and then two-putted for the vic­tory.

“I just told my­self it was my week. It was my day,” Kang said.

It was an­other great fin­ish for the LPGA Tour’s sec­ond ma­jor of the sea­son. The 19-year-old Hen­der­son beat Ly­dia Ko in a play­off last year at Sa­halee in Wash­ing­ton.

The 24-year-old Kang trailed Hen­der­son and Chella Choi by one af­ter she bo­geyed the par-4 10th at Olympia Fields. But Kang moved in front with four straight birdies on Nos. 11-14, get­ting hot with her put­ter at the right time.

Kang also had a clutch 21-foot par putt at 16 on her way to a 4-un­der 68 and the win­ner’s check of $525,000. Hen­der­son closed with a 66 to fin­ish a stroke back, and Chella Choi, who was tied with Kang for the lead com­ing into the day, was third at 10 un­der af­ter a 71.

Kang’s pre­vi­ous best fin­ish in a ma­jor was a tie for 14th in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.

Hen­der­son, from Smiths Falls, made a strong bid for a sec­ond straight ti­tle in the event, jump­ing up the leader­board three birdies in her first seven holes. But the Canadian had nine straight pars in the mid­dle of the round.

“I kind of had a mix of re­ally good putts that had a chance to go in, and some that maybe I would have liked to give a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity for,” Hen­der­son said.

Mi Hyang Lee (67), Amy Yang (68) and Sei Young Kim (68) tied for third at 9 un­der, and Lexi Thomp­son (69) and In­bee Park (68) were an­other two strokes back. Hamil­ton’s Alena Sharp (73) tied for 36th at even par.

Kang re­ceived some high-pro­file sup­port as she tried for her first ti­tle since turn­ing pro, hear­ing from Wayne Gret­zky and Cait­lyn Jen­ner — friends from her days at Sherwood Coun­try Club in Cal­i­for­nia — over the week­end. Four-time ma­jor win­ner Hollis Stacy also reached out, but it was some sage ad­vice from brother Alex that set the tone for her break­out per­for­mance.

Feel­ing over­whelmed af­ter her last prac­tice round on the tree-lined course near Chicago, Kang called her brother to help for­mu­late a game plan. Alex Kang, who plays on the Web.com Tour, told her to “just blast it down.”

“Alex is the one that I called to map out the golf course. He’s one of the peo­ple that I lean on for ev­ery­thing,” Kang said.

Guided by that sim­ple strat­egy, Kang posted four rounds in the 60s. The two-time U.S. Women’s Am­a­teur cham­pion had just five bo­geys, with each of them com­ing in the fi­nal two rounds.

Thomp­son looked ready to make a charge, be­gin­ning with three birdies and no bo­geys on her front nine. But she sput­tered down the stretch.

Thomp­son con­tended for the first ma­jor ti­tle of the year, but was pe­nal­ized for a con­tro­ver­sial rules vi­o­la­tion and lost to So Yeon Ryu in a play­off in the ANA In­spi­ra­tion. The top-ranked Ryu shot a 72 in the fi­nal round at Olympia Fields and tied for 14th.

“The back nine, I think I hon­estly got re­ally tired,” Thomp­son said. “I don’t re­ally know what hit me. Over­all the whole week, I played very well. Just missed a few putts that I needed to make, and kind of my wedges let me down a lit­tle bit.”

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Danielle Kang watches her tee shot on the fifth hole dur­ing the fi­nal round of the Women’s PGA Cham­pi­onship golf tour­na­ment in Olympia Fields, Ill., on Sun­day. Kang edged de­fend­ing cham­pion Brooke Hen­der­son, from Smiths Falls, Ont.

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