Kang leads in hunt for first pro win

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Danielle Kang won backto-back ma­jors as an ama­teur yet she’s never cracked the win­ner’s cir­cle in her half-dozen years as a pro. The 24-year-old Cal­i­for­nian took a big step in the right direction, grab­bing a share of the se­cond-round lead in the morn­ing wave Thurs­day at the KPMG Women’s PGA Cham­pi­onship. Her big­gest hur­dle could well be co-leader Sei Young Kim, the LPGA Tour’s 2015 Rookie of the Year and al­ready a six-time win­ner on tour.

Kang and Kim each shot 5-un­der 66 to reach 7-un­der 135. First-round leader Amy Yang (71) and Jodi Ewart Shad­off (66) were an­other stroke back. So Yeon Ryu (68), who climbed to No. 1 in the world rank­ing af­ter a vic­tory last week and won the LPGA Tour’s first ma­jor of the sea­son, was in the club­house at 5 un­der along with Moriya Ju­tanu­garn (68) and Sarah Jane Smith (67). Ly­dia Ko shot 68 to put her­self back in con­tention at 4 un­der.

Kang, the US Women’s Ama­teur cham­pion in 2010-11, con­ceded she didn’t have a game plan af­ter her last prac­tice round at Olympia Fields Coun­try Club, one of sev­eral venues that pre­vi­ously hosted men’s ma­jors now be­ing tested by the women.

“I kind of was su­per-over­whelmed and didn’t know what to do,” she said. “So I called my brother, Alex, of course.”

Alex Kang, who plies his trade on the Web.com Tour, was fa­mil­iar with Olympia Fields and its bunkers, and he gave her some sim­ple ad­vice. “He goes, ‘Just blast it down,’” she re­called. The plan worked as Kang, re­ly­ing on her driver, hit 11 of 14 fair­ways and hasn’t made a bo­gey through 36 holes. Kim carved her path up the leader­board with a clos­ing flour­ish, mak­ing three birdies in her last five holes. They came on the tougher front-nine side, though play­ers caught a break as the swirling wind that made club se­lec­tion dicey Thurs­day sub­sided in round two.

“For­tu­nately, when I tee off a lit­tle less windy,” Kim said, “so I was able to at­tack the pin.” The KPMG kicks off a stretch of three ma­jors in six weeks and Ryu could cement her new No. 1 sta­tus by adding a se­cond ma­jor to the one she claimed in May by beat­ing Lexi Thomp­son in a play­off at the ANA In­spi­ra­tion. The LPGA Tour staged a brief cel­e­bra­tion as she teed off Thurs­day, drap­ing her cad­die, Tom Wat­son, in a spe­cial green bib. “The cer­e­mony made me more ner­vous,” Ryu said. “No. 1, I thought it’s a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity and it just gave me a lot of pres­sure. I fi­nally got re­laxed a bit more and just played as nor­mal.”

Yang was on the 18th fair­way a day ear­lier when play was sus­pended be­cause of light­ning. She re­turned just be­fore 8 am to com­plete her first round and made a birdie for a 65. Al­though she got to 7 un­der, she couldn’t hold it.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Brooke Hen­der­son and 2014 US Women’s Open cham­pion Michelle Wie played in the af­ter­noon. Kelly Shon, who opened with a 77, notched the low round of the tour­na­ment and tied a com­pet­i­tive course record with a 63. The for­mer Prince­ton player made six birdies and an ea­gle with­out a bo­gey, plac­ing her name in the Olympia Fields record book along­side Patty Shee­han and Meg Mal­lon and Rickie Fowler and Vi­jay Singh (who played the course with a par of 70).—AP

— AP

OLYMPIA FIELDS: Danielle Kang re­acts to her birdie at­tempt on the 10th green dur­ing the se­cond round of the Women’s PGA Cham­pi­onship golf tour­na­ment at Olympia Fields Coun­try Club Fri­day, in Olympia Fields, Ill.

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