KANG BACK ATOP THE LEADERBOARD IN KOREA
Danielle Kang is back in a familiar spot – atop an LPGA Tour leaderboard. After winning last week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai, Kang carded back-to-back rounds of 5-under 67 and leads the BMW Ladies Championship at -10.
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Friday’s round at LPGA International Busan was a bit more eventful for the 27-year-old American. She carded seven birdies to two bogeys in her second round, but still finds herself one stroke ahead of KLPGA players Hee Won Na and Seung Yeon Lee, tied for second at -9.
“I'm hitting it well. Hitting it straight. Chipping well. Putting well,” said Kang, who grew up in California but spent several years living in Busan as a child due to her father’s job. “So honestly, I'm really not paying attention to other people. I think that's one of the things that I've gotten better at. I have not looked at the leaderboard once. I know that people already know that I'm a leaderboard watcher, but I really am caring less what people are doing in my group, what they are shooting. So I'm just worried about my own game and sticking to my own game plan, but it's hard to do.”
First-round leader Minjee Lee shot a 2-under 70 on Friday and heads into the weekend tied for fourth at -8. She is joined by Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko and KLPGA players Ha Na Jang, a former LPGA Tour player, and Somi Lee.
“(Danielle) is a great player, so I have to make birdies, but the course is not easy,” said Ko of what she has to do this weekend. “So try to be straight on tee shots and on the green and make putts.”
JANG ENJOYING LPGA RETURN
Ha Na Jang spent 2½ years on the LPGA Tour, earning four wins in 2016 and 2017 before deciding in May 2017 to return to her native South Korea to be closer to her parents. Another 2½ years later and while Jang does not regret that decision to come home, she is truly enjoying the opportunity this week to reconnect with her LPGA Tour friends.
“The LPGA event held here during this time of year is an annual event,” said Jang. “It's an event I’m honored to take part in and cannot miss. So it feels more like a festival rather than a competition so I really try to have fun.”
Jang has been hobbled over the last few weeks with a stress hairline fracture in her foot. She battled through the injury to win the Hana Financial Group Championship three weeks ago. But the next week, she withdrew from the Hite Jinro Championship and also sat out the following week’s KB Financial Group Star Championship, both KLPGA majors. The rest clearly did its work, as Jang sits tied for fourth at -8 heading into the weekend at the BMW Ladies Championship.
“The doctors actually recommended that I skip the remaining events. So I've been very careful, not practicing as much,” said Jang. “But I did walk for the pro-am event and practice rounds so it is a bit tired but I am being careful refraining from practicing after my rounds. The pain has definitely gotten better compared to (the Hite Jinro Championship).”
FIRST CAREER HOLE-IN-ONE AND NEW CAR FOR GILLMAN
2019 LPGA Tour rookie Kristen Gillman picked a great place to have her first career hole-in-one. She aced the par-3 13th hole, from 180 yards and using a 4-hybrid. Off the tee, Gillman and her caddie John Killeen thought the ball got caught in the wind. But when she heard the crowd reaction, she knew the ball had gone in the hole.
“It was nice to finally have my first hole-in-one because it's kind of been a running joke between me and my friends that I've holed out a lot of shots on par 4s and par 5s but never on a par 3,” Gillman joked after her round.
To add to the celebration, Gillman won a BMW 7 Series sedan, an upgrade from the Toyota Camry she currently drives around Austin, Texas.
“I didn't even look at the car because I didn't even know I made a hole-in-one,” said Gillman, who heads to the weekend tied for 30th at -3 after her second-round 71. “When I asked my caddie he said, “It's the nicest one. That's the one you want.’”
Rolex Rankings No. 11 Danielle Kang (67-67)
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 30 putts
- Kang is in her eighth season on the LPGA Tour; she has wins at the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the 2018 Buick LPGA Shanghai and the 2019 Buick LPGA Shanghai
- This is Kang’s 20th event of the 2019 season; she won last week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai and has eight other top-10 finishes
Rolex Rankings No. 157 Hee Won Na (66-67)
- She hit nine of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, with 25 putts
- Na is in her second season on the KLPGA Tour; she finished second, two weeks ago at the Hite Jinro Championship, one of the KLPGA’s five majors, and has one other runner-up finish in 2018
- She is playing in her first LPGA Tour event
Rolex Rankings No. 114 Seung Yeon Lee (67-68)
- She hit nine of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, with 26 putts
- Lee is in her second season on the KLPGA Tour; she won the 2019 NEXEN - Saint Nine Masters
- This is her second LPGA Tour event, joining the 2018 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, where she finished 43rd