Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
presented by Insurance Office of America
Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando | Orlando, Fla. | Jan. 16-19, 2020
DANIELLE KANG LEADS AFTER FIRST ROUND OF DIAMOND RESORTS TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
With a 8-under 63, Danielle Kang holds the first 18-hole lead of the 2020 LPGA Tour season. Her round of nine birdies and one bogey to open the 2020 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America puts her two strokes clear of Gaby Lopez, Angela Stanford and Inbee Park.
“To shoot 8 under, every aspect of the game has to kind of click in,” said Kang, a three-time LPGA Tour winner who sits fourth in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. “Hit pretty good drives out there. My wedges were good, rolled in some putts, definitely missed some putts. I saved a couple of the shots that I needed to.”
Lopez, Stanford and Park all returned bogey-free rounds of 6-under 65 to open their 2020 campaigns. It was an especially welcome start for Stanford, who missed last year’s tournament due to injury and then had what she has called the worst season of her LPGA Tour career.
“I feel like I've worked pretty hard this off-season. It's nice to see that result right off the bat,” said Stanford, who is competing for the first time since the Volunteers of America Classic in October. “It's golf. I understand it's not always going to be like that, but out there today, it felt good just to know you've put in a few hours and it's paying off early.”
Brittany Lincicome, making her first LPGA Tour start since giving birth in June 2019, is tied for 22nd after an even-par 71. Defending champion Eun Hee Ji opened with a 3-over 74 and is 25th.
In the celebrity portion of the competition, two-time MLB All-Star Mark Mulder sits atop the leaderboard at +42 in the Modified Stableford scoring system. 2007 World Series champion Eric Gagne and Wounded Warrior Chad Pfeifer are tied for second at +39, while defending celebrity champion John Smoltz is tied for fifth at +35.
INBEE PARK PROPELLED BY SOLID PUTTING DAY
Playing in January for the first time since 2016, 19-time LPGA Tour winner Inbee Park opened her 2020 campaign with a bogey-free 65. The seven-time major winner started her season much earlier than usual in hopes of re-claiming a position on Team Korea for the 2020 Summer Olympics and defending her gold medal from 2016.
“Sometimes it can be tough to get a motivation in when you kind of know like you're going for something that you have already accomplished, but it's always fun to play in a golf tournament and try to win,” said Park, who is currently the second alternate for the Korean squad in Tokyo. “Every day is a competition. The good thing about golf, you start from zero every day no matter how you played. So that really gets my motivation going.”
Long known for her prowess on the greens, Park pointed to a reinvigorated putting stroke as a key to her first-round success at the Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando.
“Last year I was a little bit disappointed with the putter. I hit the ball close a lot of times, but I wasn't able to make enough birdies,” said Park. “I'm just really happy with how I started today. Hopefully, I can keep that consistency going for the next three days.”
CONTINUED SUCCESS FOR SEI YOUNG KIM
2019 could not have ended better for Sei Young Kim, who won the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship and earned $1.5 million, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf. So how did she celebrate?
“I went back to my country, and then every day kind of party, eat a lot,” said Kim with a laugh. “So I gained weight.”
Kim is now faced with the task of carrying that 2019 success into 2020. With a first-round 66 at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, Kim, who will celebrate her 27th birthday on Tuesday, certainly stepped up to the challenge and is tied for fifth going into Friday’s second round. But she also hopes to maintain a good balance to the pressures that inevitably crop up on and off the golf course.
“I got a little bit of pressure because I really want to have good playing, even this year,” said Kim. “I tried to work hard the last couple weeks, but I try and relax, though. Even if I want it too much, I train myself to relax.”
MARINA ALEX STARTS STRONG, WITNESSES CRAZY PAR
One of five LPGA Tour players to shoot an opening round 5-under 66 in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, Marina Alex enjoyed the company of her playing partners to help her reach that mark.
The 2018 Cambia Portland Classic champion also witnessed what she called “the most ridiculous par I’ve ever seen in my life,” courtesy of World Long Drive competitor Maurice Allen on No. 4, a 392-yard par-4.
“I played with [Allen and] Michael Pena, we had a great time,” said Alex, who recorded seven birdies this afternoon. “Pena’s game is great, I was really impressed. Maurice hit some unbelievably long drives. On hole No. 4, he lost one then re-teed and drove it on the green. Not exaggerating, he had to have carried it 380. Then 20 feet downhill, drained it for par. The whole day was fun like that. I made a couple of nice putts, kind of got it going and started to feel like we were back in season again.”
NASA HATAOKA SHAKES NERVES, EAGER FOR DAY TWO
For as anxious as Nasa Hataoka was to start the 2020 LPGA Tour season at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, she didn’t really show it.
The Japanese star shot a 3-under 31 on the front nine and played bogey-free until the par-3 18th. At the tourmament’s party hole, she surrendered her only bogey on the scorecard in the first round, one of 11 players to card a score over par on that hole today.
“I was really nervous before the tournament started, but I’m really happy how I played today,” Hataoka said after a 5-under performance. “Hole 18 is typically a very hard hole, so I’m going to forget about it and start fresh tomorrow. I played with [World Series legend] Joe Carter and it was so much fun. I want to play like it is a normal tournament but have more fun.”
LPGA STARS LOVING THE CELEBRITY LIFE
Gaby Lopez walked off the golf course with a big smile on her face, not just because of her bogey-free 65 but also thanks to a great experience playing with NASCAR stars Michael Waltrip and Denny Hamlin.
“I think being able to learn from so many athletes and so many singers and so many other personalities that we don't get to see as close on any other day, I think it's very, very special to do it and just learn from them, from their experiences, being able to ask them how they react under pressure in their own sport or their particular scenario,” said Lopez, winner of the 2018 Blue Bay LPGA. “So I think it's a really fun event. I like it. I think it's something different that we get to do. Anything different off the normal basis, I'm happy with it.”
For the second consecutive year, Danielle Kang played the first round alongside country-music stars Cole Swindell and Lee Brice.
“I'm a big fan of theirs,” said Kang of her playing partners. “I know when Lee comes out with new singles or Cole says he has pretty cool stuff coming in the future and things like that. So we talk about our own jobs out there because they say they can't do mine.”
Rolex Rankings No. 4 Danielle Kang (63)
- Her 63 is tied for the lowest round of her LPGA Tour career, joining the third round of the 2017 Meijer LPGA Classic and the second round of the 2019 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
- She hit 11 of 13 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 26 putts
- This is Kang’s ninth season on the LPGA Tour; she has three career victories, most recently at the 2019 Buick LPGA Shanghai
- Kang tied for 18th at the 2019 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
Rolex Rankings No. 56 Gaby Lopez (65)
- Her 65 is tied for the third lowest round of her LPGA Tour career; she has one 63 and one 64, and most recently shot a 65 in the second round of the 2016 Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Invitational
- She hit 12 of 13 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 30 putts
- This is Lopez’s fifth season on the LPGA Tour; she won the 2018 Blue Bay LPGA and has eight other top-10 finishes
- Kang tied for 10th at the 2019 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
Rolex Rankings No. 79 Angela Stanford (65)
- Her 65 is her lowest first round since she shot a 65 in the first round of the 2016 Evian Championship
- The last time Stanford shot a 65 to open her season was 2009, when she went on to win the SBS Open at Turtle Bay
- She hit 12 of 13 fairways and 15 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- This is Stanford’s 20th season on the LPGA Tour; she has six career victories, most recently earning her first major win at the 2018 Evian Championship
- Stanford is competing in her first Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
Rolex Rankings No. 16 Inbee Park (65)
- She hit 10 of 13 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, with 25 putts
- This is Park’s 14th season on the LPGA Tour; she has 19 career victories, including seven majors, and won most recently at the 2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup
- Park won the gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics
- Park is competing in her first Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
WHO’S IN THE DIAMOND RESORTS TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS FIELD
26 LPGA Tour Winners from 2018 and 2019
Marina Alex (2018 Cambia Portland Classic), Celine Boutier (2019 ISPS Handa Vic Open), In Gee Chun (2018 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship), Cydney Clanton (2019 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational), Georgia Hall (2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open), Nasa Hataoka (2018 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, 2018 TOTO Japan Classic, 2019 Kia Classic), Brooke Henderson (2018 LOTTE Championship, 2018 CP Women’s Open, 2019 LOTTE Championship, 2019 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give), Mi Jung Hur (2019 Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, 2019 Indy Women in Tech Championship), Eun Hee Ji (2018 Kia Classic, 2019 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions), Ariya Jutanugarn (2018 Kingsmill Championship, 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, 2018 Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open), Moriya Jutanugarn (2018 HUGEL-JTBC LA Open), Danielle Kang (2018 Buick LPGA Shanghai, 2019 Buick LPGA Shanghai), Sei Young Kim (2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, 2019 LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, 2019 Marathon Classic, 2019 CME Group Tour Championship), Cheyenne Knight (2019 Volunteers of America Classic), Jessica Korda (2018 Honda LPGA Thailand), Nelly Korda (2018 Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA, 2019 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, 2019 Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA), Bronte Law (2019 Pure Silk Championship), Brittany Lincicome(2018 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic), Pernilla Lindberg (2018 ANA Inspiration), Gaby Lopez (2018 Blue Bay LPGA), Annie Park(2018 ShopRite LPGA Classic), Inbee Park (2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup), Angela Stanford (2018 Evian Championship), Jasmine Suwannapura (2018 Marathon Classic, 2019 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational), Lexi Thompson (2018 CME Group Tour Championship, 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic), Amy Yang (2019 Honda LPGA Thailand)
Marcus Allen, Maurice Allen, Ray Allen, Josh Beckett, Lee Brice, Joe Carter, Roger Clemens, Richard Dent, Mark DeRosa, Josh Donaldson, Mardy Fish, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Flaskey, Colt Ford, Terry Francona, Eric Gagne, Tom Glavine, Denny Hamlin, John Hart, Ben Higgins, Grant Hill, Case Keenum, Jon Lester, Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux, Brian McCann, Kevin Millar, Mark Mulder, Phil Nevin, Bud Norris, Blair O’Neal, Michael Peña, Patrick Peterson, Chad Pfeifer, A.J. Pierzynski, Alfonso Ribeiro, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Sterling Sharpe, John Smoltz, Cole Swindell, Larry The Cable Guy, Brian Urlacher, Justin Verlander, Frank Viola, Jack Wagner, Tim Wakefield, Michael Waltrip, David Wells, Deron Williams
Professionals: 26 players; 72 holes, stroke play, no cut
Celebrities and amateurs: 49 players; 72 holes, Modified Stableford scoring format, no cut
MODIFIED STABLEFORD SCORING FORMAT
Double bogey – 0
Bogey – 1
Par – 2
Birdie – 3
Eagle – 5
Hole-in-One – 8
Double Eagle – 10
Tournament: @DiamondResorts (Twitter and Instagram), #DiamondLPGA
LPGA: @LPGA, @LPGAMedia (Twitter), @lpga_tour (Instagram)
TV TIMES (all times Eastern)
Friday, Jan. 17 – 12-3 p.m., Golf Channel
Saturday, Jan. 18 – 2-3 p.m., Golf Channel; 3-5 p.m., NBC
Sunday, Jan. 19 – 2-3 p.m., Golf Channel; 3-5 p.m., NBC