Strong start for Kang in Tour opener

American Danielle Kang won twice last year and is hoping to open this season's LPGA Tour with another victory at this week's Tournament of Champions.
American Danielle Kang won twice last year and is hoping to open this season's LPGA Tour with another victory at this week's Tournament of Champions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI • American Danielle Kang carded a seven-under 64 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead at the US$1.2 million (S$1.6 million) Tournament of Champions in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The LPGA Tour's season opener features event winners from the past three seasons, those in 2018 added in a one-off because of last year's depleted number of tournaments due to pandemic.

World No. 5 Kang was narrowly clear of American sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda - both had an eagle each during their rounds - and defending champion Gaby Lopez of Mexico.

Kang started with birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 and finished her clean round with seven, including on three of the four par-three holes at the Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club, finishing one stroke shy of her career-best round of 63.

"My short game was really good today. I had a lot of good feel and touch around the greens and made some good saves. I chipped in once today, which was cool," she said.

The 28-year-old, who won two titles last year, did not arrive in Orlando until late on Monday after quarantining two times in recent weeks due to exposure to Covid-19 and she had to test negative six times to qualify to play.

World No. 56 Lopez, who survived a seven-hole play-off to capture last year's title, also started strongly, carding a birdie on the first hole en route to six for the day during a bogey-free round.

"We play so many golf courses. Being able to go back, come back to those courses which you like the most, the ones that the distance is probably the right one for you and the course set-up," she said. "Really enjoy this golf course. The community, the people are so welcoming. This place has a special vibe."

A celebrity event, using a Modified Stableford scoring system, is played alongside the LPGA competition, with only a handful of player and sponsor invitees allowed as spectators due to virus health and safety rules.

Former tennis pro Mardy Fish leads the field at +66, followed by New York Yankees centre fielder Aaron Hicks at +69 and 2004 World Series champion Derek Lowe at +70.

REUTERS


TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2021, with the headline 'Strong start for Kang in Tour opener'. Subscribe