Golf: Major breakthrough for Kang

Danielle Kang hoisting the KPMG Women's PGA Championship trophy following her victory at Olympia Fields on Sunday. She defeated Canadian Brooke Henderson, who won the tournament last year, by a single stroke.
Danielle Kang hoisting the KPMG Women's PGA Championship trophy following her victory at Olympia Fields on Sunday. She defeated Canadian Brooke Henderson, who won the tournament last year, by a single stroke.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

American claims first win on Tour aided by an impressive 4 straight birdies on the back nine

OLYMPIA FIELDS (Illinois) • This is not supposed to happen.

Maiden LPGA wins do not come in Majors; untested players do not make four birdies in a row under back-nine pressure; certainly they do not birdie the last hole to win the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

But Danielle Kang is not a run-of-the-mill new kid. She is the two-time US Women's Amateur winner everyone has been waiting to have a day like this.

She was simply sensational in the final round on Sunday at Olympia Fields in Illinois, closing with a 68 to finish at 13-under-par 271 for a one-stroke victory.

What made it even more impressive was that she held off a hard-charging Brooke Henderson (66), the Canadian who won this tournament last year at the tender age of 18, according to LPGA.com. Three down with two holes to play, Henderson closed with two birdies to put the pressure on Kang.

But the American was made of sterner stuff.

"The three-putt on No. 10 was the turning point for me," she said about a cringeworthy missed three-footer. "I said I'm going to learn from that and then I made four birdies in a row."


Danielle Kang hoisting the KPMG Women's PGA Championship trophy following her victory at Olympia Fields on Sunday. She defeated Canadian Brooke Henderson, who won the tournament last year, by a single stroke. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Just as important was a 21-footer to save par on the 16th hole.

It was a gutsy effort by a 24-year-old who smiled her way around the course, winning hearts along the way.

"Having a Major championship in my resume, I don't know what it will do," said Kang, who never managed a top-10 finish in 30 previous Major starts.

"But I do know that having the US Amateur as Majors, and having a Major win, it's amazing."

She was the first winner since Meg Mallon in 1991 to birdie the last hole for the triumph.

"It feels pretty awesome," added Kang, whose one regret was that her father was not alive to see her become a Major winner.

"That was the hardest two-footer I've ever had to putt. It was pretty nerve-racking but I just did it."

Her father K.S. Kang died of cancer in late 2013 near the end of her second year on the LPGA Tour.

Henderson, coming off a victory two weeks previously at the Meijer LPGA Classic, said: "I played great all week. Came so close, and it really came down to those last two holes.

"I would have liked to make one or two more putts on the back nine.

"There was a little bit more pressure, knowing that I won last year, I really wanted to do it again. I gave myself the best opportunity to do that, and unfortunately I just came up a little bit short."

South Koreans took the next four spots with Chella Choi, who started the final round tied with Kang at 10 under, closing with a 71 to finish third at 274.

Lee Mi Hyang (67), Amy Yang (68), who picked up her 16th top-10 finish in a Major without a win, and Kim Sei Young (68) shared fourth on 275.

Another South Korean Park In Bee (68) and American Lexi Thompson (69) were tied for seventh on 277.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'Major breakthrough for Kang'. Print Edition | Subscribe