Joint-leader Kang upbeat on chances

Danielle Kang on the way to notching a seven-under 65 in the opening round of the LPGA Drive On Championship-Reynolds on Thursday. She shared the lead with fellow American Jennifer Song.
Danielle Kang on the way to notching a seven-under 65 in the opening round of the LPGA Drive On Championship-Reynolds on Thursday. She shared the lead with fellow American Jennifer Song.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • With just three more tournaments before the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, Danielle Kang is in a good place.

The American leads the Race to CME Globe rankings, with the winner earning a US$1.5 million (S$2.03 million) cheque - the largest single prize in women's golf history.

Having already won the LPGA Drive On Championship in Toledo, Ohio in August, Kang is in the frame for the another Drive On Championship title, this time in Greensboro, Georgia.

She fired a seven-under 65 on Thursday to share the first-round lead with fellow American Jennifer Song.

Kang, twice a winner since the Tour's return from a near six-month Covid-19-induced hiatus, and Song, seeking her first LPGA title in more than a decade, were one stroke ahead of compatriot Ally McDonald at Reynolds Lake Oconee.

World No. 5 Kang, who is the top-ranked player in the field, is upbeat about her chances.

"I think I know the golf course a little bit better," she said.

"I've only played it once technically so it's still very new, but I just tried to work on some pace drills on the greens and figure out the type of grass around here. I feel good about today."

The event was created to fill a gap between US events after the LPGA's usual Asian swing was wiped out by the pandemic and alleviating the financial pressures due to a string of events being cancelled this year, something Kang is thankful for.

"I think it's just really exciting that the LPGA Drive On could happen during this break," she said. "It's been cool.

"It's definitely good to have a good start on Thursday. Still got three more rounds left and I have a lot of work to do."

She is well aware that the chasing pack has some big names, with former world No. 1 and two-time Major champion Ariya Jutanugarn (67), 2018 ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg (68) and Bianca Pagdanganan (68) all in the mix.

Thailand's Ariya, in particular, is eager to end her drought, with the last of her 10 LPGA titles coming at the 2018 Ladies Scottish Open.

"Didn't expect to shoot it low at all, because like soon as I saw the course, I feel like this course going to be tough," she said.

"We play pretty long and the green is pretty tough."

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand shared the early lead on three under before taking a triple bogey at the par-three 17th, falling back after finding water off the tee on her way to a 71.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


LPGA DRIVE ON C'SHIP-REYNOLDS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'Joint-leader Kang upbeat on chances'. Print Edition | Subscribe