Kang leads as LPGA Tour returns from virus hiatus
Danielle Kang putts on the fourth green during the first round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at Inverness Club. AFP
Danielle Kang produced a flawless round to take the lead at the Drive On Championship on Friday as the LPGA Tour resumed after its five-month coronavirus shutdown.
Kang carded a six-under-par 66 at the Inverness Club at Toledo, Ohio to lead by one shot from England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who also had a bogey-free round with a five-under-par 67. The 27-year-old Kang showed no signs of rustiness after the Tour's long layoff, making three birdies and six pars to reach the turn on three under.
Three more birdies down the stretch, including a birdie on the last capped an impressive round for the 2017 Women's PGA Championship winner. "Bogey-free, six under, I feel pretty good," Kang said afterwards. "There was no hot streak, it was kind of consistent. My caddie and I haven't worked together in six months, so it was fun to be out there."
This week's 54-hole tournament is taking place without spectators, a novelty that Kang said she was still getting used to. "I would definitely think it's calmer, more level headed. Maybe that's good for me," Kang said. "But I also really like the fans. Today was very mellow. I'm pretty sure that's the fans not being around. I also really love it when there are a lot of roars."
A crowded leaderboard lurks just behind Kang and Ewart Shadoff. Frenchwoman Celine Boutier is tied for third with South Africa's Lee-Anne Pace after both women carded four-under-par 68s. Three players, including Lydia Ko, Lee Minjee and Amy Olson share fifth at three under.
New Zealander Ko's round included a birdie on the last just two holes after her only bogey of the day. The 23-year-old former world number one said she simply relieved to be playing again. "It's nice to just be playing," Ko said. "I saw some of the girls and I was like, 'Man, it's nice to not see you through a virtual app or just on social media.' It's nice to just be able to see them."
Ko revealed she had spent her time off practising in Florida, often playing alongside fellow professionals Anne van Dam and Lindy Duncan. "We played for push-ups a lot of times," said Ko. "If somebody made a birdie the other had to do push-ups. We were getting physically stronger at the same time."