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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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.