Kang aims to recapture major magic

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2017, 5:51 pm

Danielle Kang has always been one of the most effervescent players on the LPGA tour.

Her enthusiasm grew, to the point of exhaustion, however, after capturing her first career professional tournament, a major no less, in July when she won the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

In the following months, Kang has struggled to regain her form as she tries to balance the opportunities created by her breakthrough victory with the demands of travel on Tour and the need to bring her best game to the course every week to be competitive.

Kang, a 24-year-old Californian, is one of the 81 players in the field this week at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship.

She's played in just seven Tour events since her win, missing the cut in the first three (including the U.S. Women's Open and the Women’s British Open), withdrawing from the fourth and finishing tied for 18th, 24th and 66th in the past three.

Kang birdied the final hole to win the Women's PGA Championship, edging the defending champion, Brooke Henderson of Canada. Kang shot all four rounds in the 60s at tough Olympia Fields Golf Club outside Chicago, and had just five bogeys for the week, all in the final two rounds.

"Winning the major was great, and, honestly, I wasn't ready to compete afterward," Kang said last week at the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship, which was played in her "homeland" in South Korea.

Kang won the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship in 2010 and 2011, and she was expected to flourish once she turned pro. Instead, it took Kang 144 tour events to find the winner's circle for the first time.

She went through some trying times, including the death of her father, K.S., to brain cancer in 2013 and injuries that led to her missing six tournaments in 2016.

"It's a difficult journey. I started to think that I won the U.S. Amateur so long ago," Kang said. "I just wanted to have a win that's recent. A lot of people have told me you can't focus on winning one tournament out here or winning 40 tournaments out here.

"My mom mentioned that the U.S. Amateur is something no one can take away from me. I won it back-to-back. So I don't dwell on it anymore. I've changed my attitude on that in the last couple of months."

Kang is currently No. 23 in the world rankings and 21st in the Race to the CME globe standings on the LPGA. She has banked nearly $2.5 million in her professional career while recording 13 top-10 finishes since joining the tour in 2012.

She has rebounded from a rough 2016, when she suffered torn tendons and a lunate bone fracture in her left wrist, disk problems in her neck and surgery in December to remove a pterygium (benign growth commonly known as surfer's eye that can be caused by sun exposure) in her right eye.

Her vision in the repaired eye has yet to return to what it was, as she still lacks depth perception. Kang's wrist still has micro-tears, but her orthopedist cleared her to play.

"I just need to keep up with the rehab," she said, "and constantly be aware of the risk because it's golf – you hit the ground on every single shot. As long as the doctors give me the green light, I don't think about it."

Family comes first to Kang. She has two tattoos on her right hand. "Just Be" was inked on her index finger seven years ago. And on the side of her hand is a Korean word honoring her father.

"That says 'Dad' in his writing," Kang said. "When I go, 'Hi, nice to meet you' (and shake hands), everyone can meet my dad. I took it off one of the letters he wrote me and had it stamped."

Kang said winning this year came with emotions that lingered after her last putt fell at Olympia Fields. She confessed her reserve for competition was depleted for a spell that continues.

"Not winning while my dad was alive had been the biggest regret," she said. "Finally, winning, I could breathe again," Kang said. "I am free. I love golf, and I want to play, but it's been an obsession. Now there is inner happiness.

"People say when they win they get a monkey off their back. That was a gigantic rhinoceros, elephant, mammoth off my back."

It's time to move forward – she said her father would tell her so – and for Kang, there's no better time to win again than right now.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''