Danielle Kang knows that uneasy feeling is eventually going to come during the course of a round, be it on Thursday or Sunday or, perhaps, Wednesday, which is when this week’s Lotte Championship begins.
For a time, Kang wanted to suppress that feeling. It’s one she can’t fully relay verbally, but she’s aware that many in this COVID-19 era have felt it. If fear is too strong a word, anxiety might be more appropriately comprehensible.
Kang admitted, ahead of this week’s event in Hawaii, that she’s been having these feelings on the course for quite a while. Sometimes she handles it quite well, other times not so. “I've won a tournament feeling the way I felt and I've lost a tournament feeling the way I felt,” she said Tuesday at Kapolei Golf Club.
“I want to be able to be in control of how I feel. A lot of people can't. They can't control the way they think, the way they feel, but what I can do is work on it and practice how to accept that or deal with it better. That's one of the things I want to figure out.
“Kia, I failed. I doubled the last hole knowing it was going to happen. It's things like that. At ANA 18th I felt it, but knowing it's going to happen I almost holed out. It's sometimes hit or miss.”
Kang, 28, said she’s been working with, among others, swing coach Butch Harmon on embracing the feeling and not hiding from it.
“I try and create situations to feel it on purpose, because if I do it a million times maybe a million and one will be easier,” Kang said.
Trying to be even-keel isn't the answer. That's just not Kang. She’s an emotional person and player, and as her profile has risen in the game as she said, “everything is magnified.”
Kang won the first two events after the LPGA Tour’s return from the coronavirus hiatus last year, becoming, for a time, the top-ranked American in the world. She’s since picked up three more top-5 finishes, including a pair of seconds, and has one result outside the top 13 this season.
Once No. 2 in the world, she’s currently fifth, only behind Nelly Korda (fourth) among Americans in the Rolex Rankings.
This is the LPGA’s first event since the ANA Inspiration, where Kang finished 13th. The tour was off last week and Kang arrived early to Hawaii, hanging out with friends, enjoying “touristy stuff” and relaxing by the pool.
“It feels amazing. I really needed it. I think my girlfriends needed it as well,” she said. “I think everyone needs each other and that's what friends are for and families are for.”
Kang said she also watched the Masters as her friends made her turn on the TV. She told them, “Hey, it's a Friday. Relax. You got to wait until Sunday. Let's just watch the highlights. They were like, ‘No we got to watch this.’”
It’s now time to go from spectator – and vacationer – to competitor, which is the role Kang most enjoys. She said she wants to play as much as possible, to give herself as many uncomfortable moments as possible, because that one-millionth time might be the corner’s turn.
The journey continues in Kapolei, Hawaii, where the Lotte Championship will be contested Wednesday through Saturday (live Golf Channel coverage, every night from 7-11 p.m. ET).
It’s a good place to start a run that sees the tour go to Los Angeles, Singapore and Thailand in the next month.
“I feel really calm,” Kang said about competing in Hawaii, “and right where I need to be.”