Danielle Kang is mounting a serious charge at Rolex No. 1 Jin Young Ko and Ko’s lead in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
With back-to-back victories, Kang is giving herself a chance to become just the third American to ascend to world No. 1 since the rankings were established in 2006.
With her victory at the Marathon Classic Sunday, Kang remained No. 2 in Monday’s release of the rankings but is substantially closer to Ko than she was two weeks ago, when the LPGA tour made its restart amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
How important is reaching No. 1 to Kang?
“Definitely a goal of mine,” Kang said. “Been striving towards it for my whole career.”
Ko, who has reigned at No. 1 for 67 weeks, the last 55 in a row, has yet to make an LPGA start this year. She has remained in her homeland to play the Korean LPGA amid the pandemic. Ko isn’t scheduled to play this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open or next week’s AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon, the LPGA’s first major of the year.
Kang is scheduled to play both events in Scotland.
Kang has gone from No. 4 in the world, 2.94 average world ranking points behind Ko two weeks ago, to No. 2, 1.55 average world ranking points behind Ko this week.
The Rolex world rankings and its 104-week rolling window were temporarily amended during the coronavirus pandemic to focus more on an individual’s playing schedule rather than the actual calendar. Rankings for an athlete continue to be computed on a 104-week rolling period, but that 104-week rolling period differs based on how much an athlete plays while the modification is in place. Weeks when an athlete does not compete do not count towards her individual 104-week rolling period. Her individual points, average points and divisors will not change or age when she doesn’t play.
Fourteen players have reached Rolex world No. 1 in the 14-year history of the rankings, just two of them Americans, Cristie Kerr and Stacy Lewis.
“Moving up to No. 2 was definitely a confidence booster,” Kang said. “I've been playing really great, consistently, before and after quarantine.”
Kang has been working with Butch Harmon as her swing coach since the fall of 2018.
“Butch always tells me, 'Good golf takes care of everything,’” Kang said. “I'm really trying to focus on my game.”
Kang, 27, was a star coming out of Pepperdine, with back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateur titles on her resume, but she expressed frustration with the start to her professional career, failing to win in her first five LPGA seasons. She has more than come into her own, with five LPGA titles, with at least one in each of the last four seasons. Her breakthrough LPGA title was a big one, the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“I think a big part of how I've approached the golf game is I'm really not focused on a lot of other things, other than just getting better at things I want to get better at,” Kang said. “We always have room to improve, and that's the beauty of golf.”