Kang sizzles in the spotlight

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2017, 1:42 am

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Drum majors don’t high-step into college football stadiums with more bravado.

As bold entrances in golf go, Danielle Kang’s is hard to top.

The first tee at the Solheim Cup is famous for twisting the insides of the sturdiest champions. The tension is supposed to be something short of paralyzing, the pressure suffocating.

Yeah, right.

Kang strutted through the tunnel to the first tee Friday as if some marching band was right behind her.

She came to have fun, and, wow, did she ever.

Kang owned her moment, her first time stepping onto this stage as a Solheim Cup rookie, and then she went on to own the Europeans.

Kang strutted, fist-pumped and high-fived her way through morning foursomes and afternoon fourballs, going 2-0 to help the United States take a commanding 5½-to-2½ lead on Day 1 at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. It equals the largest Day 1 lead in the history of these matches.

“I did not feel overwhelmed at all,” Kang said. “I love it. Seriously, I really love it.”

Kang teamed with Lizette Salas to defeat Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Masson, 1 up, in foursomes. Kang buried an 8-foot putt for par at the last to secure the victory.

Kang partnered with Michelle Wie in fourballs to defeat Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Madelene Sagstrom, 3 and 1.

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Kang made one big putt after another in the afternoon to help the Americans win all four fourball matches, giving the United States its first sweep of a session in the history of the Solheim Cup.

Salas wasn’t surprised at how Kang took to the atmosphere.

“Danielle will agree with me on this, but she loves to be the center of attention,” Salas said. “She brings a fiery attitude to the Solheim Cup, which is great. She’s just meant for this. She loves it.”


“Like Michelle Wie says, I'm a princess,” Kang said. “I like the attention. I love the vibe. I want that crowd. That’s what we play for. I don't think it's just me. It’s what we all play for. It’s just magical, basically. I absolutely love it.”

What a day, what a summer for Kang.

The two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champ endured six frustrating years before breaking through to win her first LPGA title, and she did it in a big way. She made it a major this summer. She won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June.

And now this.

Kang’s entrance Friday set the tone for her big day.

She was fearless from the start.

At the first tee, with the patriotic celebrations and boisterous chanting engulfing her, Kang fed off it.

Playing in the second match off, Kang didn’t defer to Salas in the alternate-shot format. Kang hit the first tee shot.

“We talked about who would play the odd holes and who would play the even holes, and it just set up for Lizette to play the even holes,” Kang said. “But if anything, I wanted to hit the first shot.”

Before Kang did so, however, she sauntered around the tee box with a hand to her ear, beckoning the crowd to make more noise.

U.S. captain Juli Inkster watched in mild amusement.

“I was like, `OK, here we go,’” Inkster said. “I was a little nervous with her pumping up the crowd, but that’s her.”

Lining up behind her teed ball, Kang stepped off and waved her arms again, beckoning one more time for noise.

And then she striped her first drive down the middle.

“I don't think I planned any of it,” Kang said. “I like the roars. I like the noise.”

Kang said earlier in the week that she wanted the Iowa crowds so loud that she couldn’t hear her own caddie.

“I wasn't kidding when I said I want it to be so loud that I can't hear people,” Kang said. “I just feed off of the high energy. I'm a very upbeat person. So the mellow golf doesn't really fit me very well.”

Kang and Salas made their morning victory dramatic. They were 2 up before they three-putted the 17th hole.

Inkster said that only added to Kang’s fun.

“That’s where Danielle said to Lizette, `This only means more TV air time for us,’” Inkster said.

It set up Kang to bury that winning putt from 8 feet at the last.

“Danielle was amazing,” Inkster said. “Every time she had a 4- or 5-footer, she put it right in the heart. She told me she was going to play well. It’s better when you back it up.”

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

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"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.

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"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.

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Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.