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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.

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Simpson revisits 'the pop-up' to open '14 matches

By Will GraySeptember 26, 2018, 2:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – It remains, much to Webb Simpson’s dismay, one of the more memorable shots in recent Ryder Cup history.

Simpson had the burden of the first tee shot for the U.S. the last time the Ryder Cup was played in Europe, paired with Bubba Watson in the first morning fourball session at Gleneagles in 2014. With thousands watching, his 3-wood went sky high and, to Simpson’s generous estimate, 205 yards.

“Are you referring to the pop-up?” Simpson joked when a journalist asked him to revisit the moment.

It was the start of a regrettable match for Simpson and Watson, who never won a hole and were trounced by Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, 5 and 4. But time heals all wounds, and given four years to reflect he’s now able to crack a smile about a swing where the setting clearly got the best of him.


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“That was a shot I had in my bag all year. It was like the fifth time I had done it,” Simpson said. “I was losing my concentration a little bit and I teed it up a little too high. I had done it a few other times that year. Usually it goes straight down, and that one went straight up. At least it hit the fairway.”

Simpson was relegated to a spectator for the 2016 matches, although he admitted he didn’t miss a shot and that the Patrick Reed-Rory McIlroy singles match drew both he and wife Dowd off the couch in excitement. But thanks in large part to his breakthrough victory at The Players Championship in May, he’s set to play on his third squad, in search of his first team win.

While it seems likely he’ll reunite with Watson as a partner this week, American captain Jim Furyk could be well-served to slot them somewhere down in his morning lineup to avoid a Gleneagles duplicate.

“We’re more nervous here than any other tournament, and it’s not the fans. It’s a good thing,” Simpson said. “Everybody that made both teams can deal with pressure. But yeah, the first tee, that environment is fun and a little more – probably a little more nervous there than the second or third hole. That’s why you might see me teeing off on the evens.”

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Bubba feeling under the weather in France

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2018, 2:14 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bubba Watson’s week has gotten off to a much better start than it did the last time he was in France.

At the 2011 French Open, Watson was scrutinized when he struggled to describe his tour of Paris. “I don’t know the names of all the things, the big tower, Eiffel Tower, an arch (Arc de Triomphe), whatever I rode around in a circle,” he said at the time. “And then what’s that – it starts with an ‘L’ – Louvre, something like that. One of those.”

Watson also criticized tournament officials for failing to control fans and their use of cell phones.


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Things have gone much smoother this week, even though Watson is feeling under the weather. He also said the criticism he received during the ’11 French Open was unfounded.

“It was sad that people wrote or took my comments or whatever I did, because I don't really remember. It's so long ago. But it was sad that they did that because I loved it. I've always loved it,” he said. “It was sad, but I learned from it.”

Watson, who seems likely to play with Webb Simpson in the team sessions, said the crowds have embraced him, with fans chanting “Boo-ba” during his practice round on Wednesday.

The bigger concern for Watson this week may be his health. Sounding hoarse and tired when he spoke to the media, he explained that he started to feel sick during last week’s Tour Championship, and he was still trying to recover. 

“It's a long year. We're all tired,” Watson said. “You can tell, my voice, I'm exhausted. A lot of us were kind of getting sick, gosh, I don't want to say not quite half the field had something, and then you know, traveling all the way over here, we're all battling something.”

The bigger concern for Watson this week may be his health. Sounding hoarse and tired when he spoke to the media, he explained that he started to feel sick during last week’s Tour Championship and he was still trying to recover.

“It's a long year, we're all tired,” Watson said. “You can tell, my voice, I'm exhausted. A lot of us were kind of getting sick, gosh, I don't want to say not quite half the field had something, and then you know, traveling all the way over here, we're all battling something.”

 

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Furyk: Not worried about ' overconfidence, complacency'

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2018, 12:44 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – After seeing the course for the first time this week on Tuesday, the U.S. Ryder Cup team convened for a dinner.

Although the team wasn’t giving away any secrets, according to captain Jim Furyk the goal was to allow players to share ideas on the course, potential pairings and to further solidify this week’s game plan.

“We sat down and had a great conversation with the players last night. The players spoke a lot,” Furyk said following his team’s morning practice. “There's not a worry on my end of any overconfidence, complacency. No one is putting the cart before the horse here.”


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Specifically, vice captain Davis Love III said he reminded the team of a speech Michael Jordan gave at the 2012 matches.

“We started a little bit last night talking about the ultimate goal. Michael Jordan said if you think about the goal of winning the championship you’re not going to be able to play. You’re going to be too nervous,” Love said. “You break it down goal by goal.

The U.S. team only played nine holes on Wednesday at Le Golf National, the back nine, and will likely play the front nine during Thursday’s practice before the matches begin. Although Furyk has said the key to this week is getting the U.S. team to understand the course, he’s also aware of the need for rest following a grueling stretch of playoff golf for most of his squad.

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Underdogs? Label doesn't concern Bjorn

By Will GraySeptember 26, 2018, 12:37 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – As the opening-day sessions draw near, European captain Thomas Bjorn is keeping his plans close to the vest. But he’s not getting bogged down in the notion that his squad might be the underdog this week at Le Golf National.

Jim Furyk’s American squad is one of the strongest on paper in Ryder Cup history, with only Phil Mickelson lower than 17th in the latest world rankings. It’s led Las Vegas oddsmakers to install the Americans as slight favorites in the biennial matches despite the fact that the Europeans haven’t lost at home since 1993.

Bjorn didn’t make any changes to his three practice foursomes one day to the next, lending some potential clarity to who will be paired with whom once the competition begins in earnest. And while he’s not shying away from the notion that his team might lack the firepower of the Americans, he’s not going to make it a significant focus in the team room, either.


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“My job is to create a process for those 12 players to go out and perform their best. Are we underdogs? Probably on paper we are,” Bjorn said. “But we still believe that we can win. We still believe that we can go out and do a job on the golf course, and we concentrate on us.”

Bjorn remained coy when asked if he plans to ensure all 12 players see the course for at least one match Friday, although he reiterated that a plan is in place and “everyone knows where they are going.”

But with strength on both sides, Bjorn did open up about his expectation that this week’s matches could take an already historic competition to another level.

“These teams are the two best teams, world ranking-wise, that have been across from each other in this event,” Bjorn said. “It’s all lined up to be something special, so it’s for those 24 players to go out and show that.”