TOLEDO (Ohio) • The majority of South Korea's top women's golfers, including world No. 1 Ko Jin-young and third-ranked Park Sung-hyun, are not at the Drive On Championship, the LPGA Tour's first event in more than five months, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
They have opted to stay home and play on the Korean LPGA Tour instead, and are reportedly set to miss the first Major of the year, the Aug 20-23 Women's British Open in Scotland.
Their absence, however, is giving others the opportunity to shine, like Danielle Kang. The world No. 4 fired a flawless, six-under round of 66, including six birdies, to move one stroke ahead of England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff in the opening round on Friday.
There will be only two more events before the Women's British Open starts, so the American is keen to get as much competitive golf after not working with her caddie for six months.
The 2017 Women's PGA Championship winner said: "I would say I just didn't have any hiccups on any part of the game.
"I definitely mishit some shots, mishit some putts, but I had some great iron shots, great tee shots, and great putts and chips.
"So any time one part of my game kind of gave me a tough shot, I made it up with a good save."
The 54-hole tournament at the Inverness Club is taking place without spectators, a novelty that Kang is still getting used to.
"I would definitely think it's calmer, more level-headed. Maybe that's good for me," she said. "But I also really like the fans. Today was very mellow."
A crowded leaderboard lurks just behind Kang and Ewart Shadoff. France's Celine Boutier is tied for third with South African Lee-Anne Pace after both carded 68s.
Lydia Ko of New Zealand, Australian Minjee Lee and American Amy Olson share fifth spot on 69.
With her last event in February, former world No. 1 Ko admitted that she was simply relieved to be playing again.
"I saw some of the girls and I was like, 'Man, it's nice to not see you through a virtual app or just on social media'," she said.
"It's nice to just be able to see them."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
LPGA DRIVE ON CHAMPIONSHIP
Day 3: StarHub Ch201, tomorrow, 5am