Kang's breakthrough a family affair

By Randall MellJuly 3, 2017, 1:00 am

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Danielle Kang broke through in spectacular fashion Sunday at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

She broke through all the doubt, disappointment and frustration that mounted trying to live up to the hype that came with turning pro after winning back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateur championships.

Kang, 24, said working through her struggles to finally win in her sixth LPGA season made the victory especially satisfying, but it came with one regret.

“I don't know what it would have felt like to win right away as a rookie,” Kang said. “However, if I could wish anything, I would wish that my dad saw me win.”

Kang’s father died from brain and lung cancer during her second LPGA season.

K.S. Kang was Danielle’s caddie for her U.S. Women’s amateur victories in 2010 and ‘11

“I think that it's been a really difficult road for me for the past four or five years,” Kang said. “It’s life, though. You have to pick yourself up, and you have to keep working hard at it, and then believe in what you're doing, and not letting yourself down.”

In Sunday’s finish, after Kang two-putted from 30 feet for birdie to win her first LPGA title in her 144th start, Kang said her father’s spirit felt especially near.

“What are the odds that my first win is a major?” Kang said. “I'm pretty sure he had something to do with it. It's just incredible. But I know that he was there, because I felt him. I felt him with me every day, and I still do.”

Kang said she could hear her father’s voice as she cleaned up that last putt, which closed out a 3-under-par 68 and sealed a one-shot victory over Brooke Henderson (66), who birdied the final two holes. She remembered what her father told her before she cleaned up a final 4-foot putt to win her first U.S. Women’s Amateur.

“For some reason, I remembered my dad telling me, `I'll buy you a TV if you make this,’” Kang said. “So I wasn't even worried about the putt.”

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

K.S. was a telecommunications executive in South Korea.

The triumph was very much a family affair, Kang said.

Danielle’s brother, Alex, a Web.com Tour player, helped her devise a long-distance game plan early in the week, after she left her practice round Tuesday “overwhelmed” by the challenge Olympia Fields presented. She sent Alex smart phone photo snapshots off tee boxes, asking how she ought to attack certain holes. Alex, who knew the course, helped her map out her plan.

Kang’s mother, Grace Lee, walked the course all week rooting for her daughter.

“I'm so blessed to have her with me, for her to witness my first win, because she actually didn't get to watch me win the Ams,” Kang said. “She wasn't there for that.

“My mom believes in me, just as much as my dad did.”

Kang has a tattoo on the edge of her palm on her right hand, with the word “dad” scripted in Korean. It’s in her father’s handwriting. Danielle says she put it there so when she shakes hands with somebody, they meet her father.

Even now, Kang says she keeps communication going with her father. She keeps a journal in which she writes notes to him.

In fact, she wrote something to him this week.

Kang wrote “We can do it” in Korean.

“He used to tell me, `You trust me,’” Kang said. “And I kept saying that to him this week, `Just trust me, I got it.’ I said that to him this morning.”

The journey to Kang’s first victory was arduous.

Through her first five seasons on tour, she rarely contended. The five top-10 finishes she has recorded this year are more than she has posted in any other season.

In 30 previous majors, her best finish was a T-14 at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2012.

David Leadbetter, Kang’s swing coach, says she’s a major talent, but she was probably too desperate to win through her pro career. He said she tried too hard, and she beat herself up too much over results.

“She’s such a perfectionist,” Leadbetter said. “And, sometimes, her emotions get away from her.”

Kang resolved to work on it this year, and Leadbetter said he could see her maturing in so many ways in that work.

“Hopefully, this will give her some peace and be a catalyst for some great golf, because she can be a top-10 player,” Leadbetter said.

Kang showed what she can do at her best Sunday - rolling in putts from all over the place, making four consecutive birdies on the back nine to build a three-shot lead. She showed just how patient she’s becoming, holding off a hard-charging Henderson. Kang rebounded from a bogey at the 17th to close with that winning birdie.

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

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.