Iron shots key to Kang's hopes of first pro victory

American Danielle Kang is looking to live up to her early hype at the Women's PGA Championship. The 24-year-old was expected to take the LPGA Tour by storm when she turned pro in 2011 but is still seeking her first win.
American Danielle Kang is looking to live up to her early hype at the Women's PGA Championship. The 24-year-old was expected to take the LPGA Tour by storm when she turned pro in 2011 but is still seeking her first win.PHOTO: REUTERS

OLYMPIA FIELDS (Illinois) • Talented pianist Danielle Kang hit all the right notes to earn a share of the second-round lead with Kim Sei Young at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship on Friday.

Two-time US Women's Amateur champion Kang and South Korean Kim took advantage of ideal morning conditions, both carding five-under 66 at Olympia Fields outside Chicago.

Their seven-under 135 total stood up for the rest of the day, but the big names queued up close behind halfway through the second LPGA Major of the season.

Lurking one stroke behind are the South Korean trio of Amy Yang (71), Chella Choi (70) and Lee Mi Hyang (67), as well as England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff (66) and American Brittany Lincicome (66).

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New world No. 1 Ryu So Yeon (68) and defending champion Brooke Henderson (69) are among a group two shots back, with former top-ranked Lydia Ko (68) and Michelle Wie (70) trailing by three.

California-born Kang, a first generation American of Korean descent who was expected to take the Tour by storm when she turned pro in 2011, is still seeking her first LPGA victory at the age of 24.

Her progress has been halted by injury. Playing with her left wrist heavily strapped after suffering a fracture last year, she described her condition as "playable".

"As long as doctors give me the green light, I don't think about it," said Kang, whose hobbies include playing the piano and saxophone. "All the doctors, they ask, 'How is it?' and I say pain is mental. So if I don't acknowledge it, it will just go away."

She said her bogey-free round was set up by good approach shots.

"I kept sticking to the iron shots that I trusted all my life... I kept giving myself birdie opportunities."

Co-leader Kim, the 2015 LPGA Rookie of the Year, bounced back into position to challenge for the title, having finished runner-up in this event two years ago.

She dropped four shots in three holes late in her first round, before making an adjustment that paid immediate dividends.

"I realised my grip was a little loose," said the six-time LPGA Tour winner. "I kept pulling it, three in a row (so made) a little adjustment, just stronger than before. That was key."

Seventy-four players made the cut, which fell at 144. Thai Ariya Jutanugarn, the world No. 1 until a week ago, missed it by one stroke after bogeying her final hole. REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 02, 2017, with the headline 'Iron shots key to Kang's hopes of first pro victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe