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Everything Now: Inside the mind of Danielle Kang

By Randall MellJanuary 24, 2018, 6:17 pm

Danielle Kang loves the big stage.

She isn’t shy revealing how much she relishes the spotlight and how comfortable she is being the center of attention.

She isn’t afraid of the pressure that comes with that.

“People have told me since I was a little girl that I love the attention,” Kang told as she prepares for the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic. “Anyone who knows me will tell you I thrive on that.”

Kang, 25, showed that to the world last July when she broke through to make her first LPGA title a major championship, refusing to blink while holding off a final-round charge from Brooke Henderson at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She showed it again two months later, stealing the show with her dynamic first Solheim Cup appearance.

“When you’re on a big stage, and you’re under the pressure that comes with that, people get scared of failing,” Kang said. “I want that challenge. I love being in that position. I’m not afraid to fail.”

The challenge for Kang this year is getting herself on that big stage more often. It’s in elevating her game so she can contend more consistently.

Kang is working on a swing change to try to do that, and she’s training in the gym more than she ever has, to get her body better fit to do what her new swing requires.

“I trained harder than I ever have in any offseason,” Kang said. “I took five days off and that was it. I worked out four days a week, sometimes twice a day.”

After winning back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateurs, Kang was frustrated trying to follow up that success as a pro. After getting a taste of winning again at iconic Olympia Fields in Chicago last year, Kang wanted more.

The challenge, her swing coach David Leadbetter says, is that she wants it all right now.

“Danielle is a real fighter, a very feisty individual who is very, very determined,” Leadbetter said. “Her goal is to be No. 1 in the world, but she expects so much from herself. If she has a flaw, it’s that she can be too hard on herself. Patience is not her major virtue.”

While Leadbetter may be her swing coach, Kang says a lot of his focus is teaching her patience.

“Yes, it’s not my best quality,” Kang said. “David will give me a drill to work on something, and I’ll hit about 10 balls and want to know what’s next. He is always talking to me about patience. I think he tries to teach me patience by not answering my texts right away.”

Kang said Leadbetter has been preaching patience since they first started working together in 2014.

“Three years ago, David told me I was going to have a big year in 2017,” Kang said. “He told me I was going to win in ’17. I said, 'Are you kidding me? I have to wait three years?’”

Leadbetter told her she might win before that, but something big was going to happen in ’17. So, still winless midway through last summer, she called Leadbetter to blow off some steam the week before the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

“I had just missed the cut in Arkansas,” Kang said. “So I called David and told him, 'Hey, you told me I was going to win in 2017. It’s freaking July, man!’ He told me to relax, it’s coming, and then I won that week.”

Kang’s friend Michelle Wie also encouraged her.

“Not winning, it haunted her, almost,” Wie said. “She was doubting herself a little bit, and I told her at the beginning of the year, 'It’s coming. I bet you a hundred dollars you win before the end of the year.' So now I really enjoy telling her, 'I told you so.' It was huge for her. Winning definitely builds your confidence.”

Kang struggled to contend again in the second half of last year. She pushed Leadbetter before the Asian swing to help her make some swing changes to get longer, though he would have preferred to wait until the offseason. She said her body wasn’t sculpted to make the specific changes, and she ended up pinching a nerve, injuring her scapula. She withdrew from fall events in China and Japan.

“I’ve always done a lot of lateral movement in my swing, sliding to use momentum,” Kang said. “I wanted to be more explosive, and so David’s helping me get more speed and better compression with these changes. Basically, I don’t use my butt enough in my swing. I use my quads.”

Kang said she is working with trainer Brian Chandler in Las Vegas to better shape her body to make the swing changes.

Again, Leadbetter is encouraging her to be patient.

Through her challenges, Kang has always leaned hard on her family: her mother, Grace Lee, and her brother, Alex. She still leans on her father, too, four years after his death. K.S. Kang caddied for her when she won her two U.S. Women’s Amateurs.

Kang says her family always goes the extra mile for her, and she relishes returning the favor.

For her father, she flies the extra 270 miles on a whim.

That’s how far it is from her Las Vegas home to her father’s gravesite in Glendale, Calif. She takes day trips there every now and then just to sit in front of her father’s tombstone and talk. She hops a 5:30 a.m. flight and about 40 minutes later she’s touching down in Los Angeles.

She’s back home by dinner.

“People don’t believe me, but I have never gone a day without speaking to my family members, to my mom and my dad and my brother,” Kang said. “When my dad passed, one of the hardest things for me was not being able to talk to him.”

So she started a journal after he passed, a journal just for him, where she writes down the things she would like to tell him. It’s her way of continuing to talk to him every day. She also got the word “Dad” in Korean tattooed near the palm of her right hand.

If golf fans didn’t know how close Kang was to her father, they learned in heartwarming detail after she broke through to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer. She wrote, “We can do it,” to him in her journal the week of the Women’s PGA.

“After he passed, I still kept sending texts to his cell phone,” Kang said. “I finally stopped because I wasn’t sure who was going to receive the messages.”

Kang says her journal is sometimes filled with the simplest things.

“Every day I’ll write something,” Kang said. “It may just be, 'Hi dad, I went to the grocery store today and bought three boxes of cereal because I didn’t know what I wanted.' It’s just a way to keep talking to him.”

So are her day trips to his gravesite. She would love to go there this year to talk about another victory, and how much fun she had being on the big stage.

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Next up for Koepka: Buddies and a bachelor party

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Coming off a successful title defense at the U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a nap. It appears he won’t be getting one anytime soon.

Koepka normally wakes up by 6 a.m. without using an alarm, but without much down time since his victory at Shinnecock Hills he slept in until 8:20 a.m. Sunday morning, prior to his 10:40 a.m. tee time. Any impact to his pre-round routine appeared negligible, as Koepka fired a 5-under 65 that included seven birdies over his first 13 holes.

“I felt like today was kind of the first day I got everything back,” Koepka said. “I was definitely running behind, but it was nice to catch up on some sleep.”

Koepka became the first U.S. Open winner to play the week after since Justin Rose in 2013, and he finished the Travelers at 9 under with four straight sub-par rounds. While he’s got some free time in the coming days, it won’t exactly be restful.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“We’ve got 11 guys that I’m pretty close with, so I’m looking forward to hanging out with them in Boston for a few days and then [getting] back down to West Palm for a night, and then we’re off to my best friend’s bachelor party,” Koepka said. “I was really hoping to get some rest, but I don’t know how much that will happen.”

Last year, Koepka took a month off following his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills, only touched a club once, and still finished T-6 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. While this will be his final competitive start before Carnoustie, he expects to make a strong run toward a third major title next month in Scotland.

“I’m shutting it down for a while. I don’t feel like I need to play,” Koepka said. “I feel like my game’s in a good spot, played really well this week. Just some stupid mistakes and mental errors. That’s all it was, lack of focus and low energy. To be honest with you, I’m not surprised. I did play well though, I putted well, and I’m somewhat pleased.”

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Spieth ends busy stretch without top-10 finish

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:39 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – There were no final-round heroics this time around for Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship.

After taking the title last year with perhaps the most memorable shot of the year, Spieth appeared poised to make a robust defense of his title after an opening-round 63 gave him a share of the lead. But that proved to be as good as it would get, as he played the next three rounds in a combined 3 over to drop outside the top 40 on the final leaderboard.

It marked the end of a pedestrian run of six events in seven weeks for Spieth, during which his best finish was a tie for 21st at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

“A lot of cut-line golf, which is somewhat unusual historically for me, fortunately,” Spieth said after closing with a 1-under 69. “Kind of a grind, but I made actually a lot of progress where I needed to within the last few weeks.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth has struggled to get on track on the greens this year, but he has started to turn a corner in recent weeks, specifically during a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament, and he picked up more than three shots on the field this week in strokes gained: putting.

“My putting’s right on point where it needs to be. It’s getting better every single week,” Spieth said. “It’s the best it’s been in a couple years.”

Unfortunately for Spieth, a slight uptick in putting has coincided with some regression from his normally reliable ball-striking. Of the 74 players who made the cut at TPC River Highlands, he ranked 61st in strokes gained: tee-to-green.

“I’ve just got to kind of get my alignment back in order on the full swing. It’s tough when you swing and you think you hit a good shot, and you look up and the ball’s, it could be 15 yards right or 15 yards left, and it’s all because of alignment,” Spieth said. “It’s literally the same thing I went through with the putting. I’ve just got to find a way to get it back on track with the full swing.”

Having concluded a busy stretch, Spieth noted that he now has “a few weeks off.” But still in search of his first quality chance to contend heading into a final round this year, he didn’t rule out the notion of adding a start before defending his title at Carnoustie next month.

Spieth is not in the field for next week’s Quicken Loans National, but he won the John Deere Classic in both 2013 and 2015, which will be played the week before The Open.

“As far as leading into The Open, we’ll see,” Spieth said. “Last year I went in after three weeks off and it didn’t hurt me. So I believe I can get the work in whether I’m playing or not, to get the repetitions.”

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.