It’s been a stressful few months for Danielle Kang. But this week, Kang is playing without worry.
The major champion has weathered cold and windy conditions in Incheon, South Korea to take a share of the lead heading into the weekend at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
“I’m really happy,” Kang said after the opening round. “I’m not really worried about golf. That’s one of the main things I’ve been stressing about.”
Kang relishes a tough test, having twice won the U.S. Women’s Amateur as well as the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields. It should come as no surprise that she was in her element in the 25-yard winds that Mother Nature threw her way in Korea.
“I actually really enjoy tough conditions,” Kang said Thursday. “Every part of your game has to be in play.”
Getting all aspects of Kang’s game in play has been a challenge in recent months. She’s missed the cut in five of her last six starts, but the one cut she did make resulted in a top-5 finish. The more Kang struggled, the more stressed she’s felt about her game.
“I have been feeling like I was in a little bit of a funk,” Kang said after her fifth place finish. “I told my caddie that this week we were just going to pick a number and play my game and forget all the swing thoughts, forget everything, and just play it by feel."
Her last start came at the Evian Championship, where she missed the cut. She hasn’t competed since. The hiatus gave her an opportunity to reassess her game heading into the season’s final weeks. Thursday, Kang said there were “a lot of things I’ve been doing differently.”
Recently, she deleted her Twitter account. And for the first time in five years, she may have a new coach.
Four days after missing the cut at the season’s final major, the longtime pupil of David Leadbetter posted on Instagram a photo from the Butch Harmon School of Golf. In the photo, the renowned golf instructor looked on as Kang completed her backswing. Harmon’s school is based in Las Vegas, the same city Kang calls home.
“It’s just working on the right things with my coach,” Kang said Thursday without identifying her instructor by name. “I’m hoping that my game is going to get there soon.”
During her time off, Kang focused on her short game. She’s currently ranks 57th on Tour in greens in regulation, which has her hitting less than 70 percent of greens. When she misses her target, Kang wants to have a solid chance of getting up and down. That’s an area of her game where she shines. This week, Kang has hit just 24 of 36 greens, but has scrambled her way into a share of the 36-hole lead.
“I’ve been working hard the last few months, and for a while now, where my game is starting to see some consistency,” Kang said Friday. “I've prepared, so we'll see what happens.”
That stress-free attitude will serve Kang well this weekend.