Kang finds her game at KPMG Women's PGA

By Randall MellJuly 3, 2017, 10:52 pm

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Danielle Kang defies the axiom that you can’t find your game at a major championship.

She found it and won with it at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Kang arrived in suburban Chicago frustrated over missing the cut at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in her previous start. She said she was “super-overwhelmed” with the challenge Olympia Fields Country Club presented in a practice round Tuesday and walked off the course without a game plan.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

More than that, Kang was frustrated by her swing, so much so that she and Leadbetter battled over a fix in a practice session on the range Tuesday evening, after she played her practice round.

“Danielle was having a bit of a meltdown,” Leadbetter said. “She probably argues with me more than any student I have. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and she was really unhappy with the way she was hitting it. Sometimes, a player just needs to vent.”

Leadbetter said Kang has a tendency to fan the club open too much going back and then flip it on the downswing, but she felt as if she was actually taking it back too closed.

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They battled over that.

“I was thinking, `Let’s see if we can get out of here without anyone getting hit with a club,’” Leadbetter joked.

Instead of debating technique, Leadbetter gave Kang a simple drill to help. He had her hit 70-yard shots, with a half backswing and half follow through, and it worked.

“Sometimes, it’s just a matter of trial and error to find the right feeling,” Leadbetter said.

The drill helped Kang take the feeling into her full swing.

Also, Kang’s game plan came together with her brother, Alex, a Web.com Tour player, helping her long distance, from his home in Las Vegas. Alex knew Olympia Fields, and Danielle shot him 10 photos from tee boxes, and they talked through a plan with Danielle’s caddie, Cole Pensanti.

“It just shows you how funny this game is, and how quickly things can change,” Leadbetter said.

By the way, Leadbetter said he began working with Kang two years ago, while he was still working with Lydia Ko. He said it was Ko who made the introduction.

“Lydia recommended me,” Leadbetter said. “It’s funny, because they are polar opposite personalities.”

Kang went from appearing so uncertain at week’s start at Olympia Fields to looking like the most confident player on the course on Sunday.

“She put on a ball-striking clinic,” Leadbetter said.

And a putting clinic.

Kang rolled in four consecutive birdie putts on the back nine and a key 20-foot par-saving putt.

“Every single shot was stressful,” Kang said. “Every putt was stressful. I just kept trusting in my own game and trusting in my putting. It's all about believing in what you can do.”

And believing you can work through problems.

“A lot of hard work and perseverance is paying off for Danielle,” Leadbetter said.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.