Winless in ’21, Danielle Kang starts new LPGA year with win

Jan 23, 2022, 12:19 AM | Updated: 2:58 pm
Danielle Kang poses next to the championship trophy on the 18th green after winning the Tournament ...

Danielle Kang poses next to the championship trophy on the 18th green after winning the Tournament of Champions LPGA golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Danielle Kang readily admits she, and her golf game, remain a constant work in progress. She spent much of the offseason finding a way to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.” It seems to be working.

On a difficult championship test at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, Kang ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch in the middle of her round, posted the low score Sunday at 4-under 68 and sprinted away to a three-shot victory at the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.

“My mental game was really good,” said Kang, who was winless in 2021 after having won in each of her previous four LPGA seasons. “I had a really good attitude all day today and yesterday. I know I left some putts out there, but I never let it get to me, and I kept having to give myself birdie chances as much as possible.”

Kang finished at 16-under 272, three shots clear of Canada’s Brooke Henderson (70).

Kang was the lone player to break 70 on both weekend days (69-68), and the only player to shoot in the 60s all four rounds. The 29-year-old American now has six LPGA titles.

In her only previous visit to Lake Nona, Kang missed the cut at the Gainbridge LPGA last year. But when asked about it during this tournament, Kang said she had no recollection.

On a blustery, cool Florida day that made birdies scarce and scoring difficult, Kang poured in more than her share, making six birdies. She took control of the tournament early on the back nine with three consecutive birdies starting at the par-3 13th.

A highlight of the round was a hard-earned bogey at the 393-yard 16th, where Kang pulled her approach nearly into a penalty area and had to play away from the hole on a difficult bunker shot. She then two-putted from about 90 feet, converting a bogey putt from 10 feet.

“A massive bogey,” said Kang’s caddie of five years, Englishman Olly Brett.

Gaby Lopez, one of three players to hold the lead Sunday, experienced an up-and-down day, cooling after a hot front nine to finish third, four shots behind Kang. She played her way into the lead with three consecutive birdies starting at the fifth hole, but couldn’t keep up the pace and ended up with a 72.

Playing alongside Nelly Korda and Annika Sorenstam — one a current No. 1, one a former, and 72-time LPGA champion — Lopez found the experience to be valuable and educational.

“Starting Sunday with the World No. 1 and Annika? It’s exactly where I want to be,” she said.

Korda, who took a one-shot lead into Sunday, shot 75 and slid to a tie for fourth. Korda did not make her first birdie of the round until the 15th hole. It certainly wasn’t a continuation of her first 54 holes, when Korda made 16 birdies and an eagle.

“Overall, you know, I didn’t play very good,” Korda said, “but I’m going to take some positives away from this week, and hopefully I can kind of take it into the next two.”

She plans to play the LPGA’s first three events in Florida, then take six weeks off, creating her own offseason after a long and highly successful 2021 campaign.

Given how Korda had been a solid closer all last season, her play Sunday was somewhat stunning. She had entered the final round coming off seven consecutive rounds in the 60s at Lake Nona, and 11 consecutive rounds in the 60s overall dating to last season.

She didn’t have to look far to find the LPGA record-holder for consecutive rounds in the 60s: Sorenstam, who once put together 14 in a row, was in her group, vying against former MLB pitcher Derek Lowe for the title in the celebrity division.

Lowe and Sorenstam would go to extra holes to decide a celebrity winner, with Lowe shocking the World Golf Hall of Famer when he rolled in a 25-footer for birdie on the first extra hole, the par-4 18th. Sorenstam had a putt just inside Lowe’s but when the ball failed to drop, victory was his.

“I basically beat her on one hole,” Lowe said. He had someplace to be. “See you at the bar.”


More AP golf: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers trains at The Grove in Chandler's Cross, England, Frida...
Associated Press

Rodgers eager to air it out in Packers’ 1st London game

WATFORD, England (AP) — Aaron Rodgers may need to have a little chat with Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur about the game plan for the Packers’ first game in London. After arriving in the British capital on an overnight flight, LaFleur was quick to tout the importance of the run game on Sunday against […]
1 day ago
FILE - Police officers and soldiers stand amid tear gas smoke after clashes between fans during a s...
Associated Press

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die

Police fire tear gas into a crowd of soccer fans, who panic and rush for the exits. There are so many trying to escape and some of the gates are locked. The stadium becomes a death trap. People are trampled in the desperation. Others suffocate, crushed by the weight of bodies around them. They are […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Iran forward Sardar Azmoun is a doubt for the World Cup after picking up an injury while warming up for Bayer Leverkusen. The Bundesliga club said late Thursday that the 27-year-old Azmoun is expected to miss six to eight weeks after tearing a muscle in his right calf in the warm-up […]
1 day ago
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) walks out to greet teammates after a field goal durin...
Associated Press

Wilson shoulders blame as Broncos fall 12-9 to Colts in OT

DENVER (AP) — Russell Wilson had a chance to put the game away late. He threw an interception in the end zone. The Denver Broncos quarterback had another shot to win the game in overtime. He threw a game-ending incompletion on fourth-and-short while never looking at an uncovered receiver. Brought in for moments such as […]
1 day ago
Bryson DeChambeau looks at his club after hitting his tee shot on the fourth hole during the final ...
Associated Press

3 tied for lead after 1st round of LIV Golf in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Richard Bland, Branden Grace and Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra upstaged their more-illustrious opponents on Friday to shoot 7-under 65s and share the lead after the first round of the LIV Golf Invitational-Bangkok. Marc Leishman and Ian Poulter were a stroke behind while Kim Sihwan, Brooks Koepka and Morgan Jediah were among those two […]
1 day ago
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico powers his car during first practice session for the Japanes...
Associated Press

Verstappen set to win a second straight F1 season title

SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc knows it. So does anyone following Formula One; no calculators needed. Red Bulls’ Max Verstappen is set to win his second straight drivers’ title, and it’s likely to come on Sunday with rain predicted for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Friday’s two practice sessions were run in […]
1 day ago
Winless in ’21, Danielle Kang starts new LPGA year with win