Kang trying to turn valuable advice into a major win

By Randall MellJuly 2, 2017, 12:01 am

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Danielle Kang mingles with a lot of star power.

She is friends with NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, with PGA Tour world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and with Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic gold medal decathlete. She is pals with Lydia Ko and Michelle Wie.

Kang grew up in Southern California, played golf at Pepperdine in Malibu and with celebs at some of the elite clubs around Los Angeles. She doesn’t have to reach out to her famous friends for encouragement, advice or inspiration.

She just turns on her cell phone, and it’s there.

As it was when she woke up Saturday as the co-leader of the third round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club.

“Wayne texted me this morning,” Kang said. “It was pretty cool.”

That’s Wayne, as in “The Great One,” the greatest scorer in NHL history, the winner of four Stanley Cups.

Gretzy boiled down Kang’s challenge this weekend at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to its simplest form.

“He said, 'Just go win it,'” Kang said. “I was like, 'It’s the third round.' ... And he’s like, 'Just go get it done.'”

Jenner called her, too.

So did Hollis Stacy, the World Golf Hall of Famer and four-time major champion.

“I have a lot of people just beyond that, just calling me up and encouraging me to keep playing my game, rooting for me,” Kang said. “I love it.”

KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Come Sunday, Kang’s own star could rise in women’s golf.

With a 3-under-par 68 Saturday, Kang continues to hold a share of the lead going into the final round. At 10-under, she’s atop the leaderboard with Chella Choi (67), two shots ahead of former world No. 1 Jiyai Shin (64) and three ahead of Brooke Henderson (69), the defending champion.

Kang, 24, is looking to break through in a big way in her sixth season on tour. The former two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur is looking to make her first LPGA title a major.

“It would be incredible to be called a major champion, especially out on this tour,” Kang said.

But the challenge for Kang has never been motivation. In fact, the people closest to her know she’s probably wanted this breakthrough too much.

“Patience is a word I use a lot with Danielle,” said David Leadbetter, Kang’s coach. “Sometimes, she tries too hard. She fights with herself, and she is so hard on herself. She’s been too desperate to win.”

Kang confessed she has been frustrated and down in the past about her inability to follow up her two U.S. Women’s Amateur victories with an LPGA title.

But she’s listening to all these people preaching patience.

Kang says she isn’t obsessing over winning anymore. She’s focused on the work, instead, on improving her skills and not beating herself up so much over the results.

She was asked what change in her approach has most led her to Sunday’s opportunity in surburban Chicago.

“If I have to pinpoint, it would be changing an attitude, that winning is not everything,” Kang said. “That’s the change.”

No matter what happens Sunday, Kang is already enjoying her best year on tour. She has four top-10 finishes this year, more than in any of her previous five seasons on tour. She has earned her first lead or co-lead in the final round of a major. She is playing in the final group in the final round of a major for the first time.

These are all giant steps for her.

A year ago, Kang suffered through a left wrist fracture, bulging discs in her neck and eye surgery. There has been a lot of work giving herself this Sunday chance.

There’s been a lot of fight getting this chance, too.

“She probably argues with me more than any student I have,” Leadbetter said. “She questions me more than anyone.”

Leadbetter likes what he sees behind the grilling he gets from Kang.

“She has no fear,” Leadbetter said.

That can’t hurt her going into her first final Sunday pairing in a major.

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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.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.