The afternoon wave took advantage of the gettable Great Waters course as five-time LPGA Tour winner Danielle Kang and Jennifer Song came out on top of the LPGA Drive On Championship – Reynolds Lake Oconee leaderboard at -7. Kang’s bogey-free 65 is her lowest 18-hole score since she recorded her last 65 in the final round of the Cambia Portland Classic.
Song, starting off No. 10, got out to a hot start Thursday with four consecutive birdies on Nos. 12-15 with another on No. 18. Her front-nine 31 ties her season-best nine-hole score, as she went to fight through one bogey on No. 5 and add three more bogeys to end day one tied for the lead.
“I feel great. This course is really tough and in the afternoon the greens got really crusty, so there was a lot of calculation,” said Song, who hit 14 of 14 fairways and 18 of 18 greens today. “The wind picked up a little bit so it was kind of confusing, but I managed it pretty well. I'm really happy about 7-under par today. I didn't think that was possible to shoot that score out there, but I had a great round.”
Song, who has three top-10 finishes since the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open in August, knows keeping consistent is a major key to stay on top this week. “For the rest of the tournament I just want to keep doing what I'm doing,” said Song. “I want to play great rounds the next three rounds, but I'm not going to change anything. Just stay positive and just keep one shot at a time and I think everything will be handled.”
Following Kang and Song in third is fellow American Ally McDonald at -6. McDonald, who has two consecutive T13 finishes in her last Tour events, carded six birdies on the day and felt good about her play after the first competitive round in Greensboro, Ga.
“I mean, overall I've been playing really solid. I feel like I drive the ball well. I rely heavily on my ball striking. And then today I was just able to get some putts to fall, which is -- that's good to see,” said McDonald. “It's what I been working the most on, just trying to see the ball go in the hole. I feel like I've been hitting really good putts but they just haven't been going in. That helps when you hit the ball close, which my ball-strike was probably one of the best days I've had this year.”
Two-time major champion Ariya Jutanugarn, despite hitting the water on her finishing hole for a bogey,
and Lindsey Weaver are tied for fourth at -5, with a trio of players – Marissa Steen, Bianca Pagdanganan and Pernilla Lindberg – in a tie for sixth at -4. Lindberg said today proved that she had truly felt her game start coming together at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship after finishing in a tie for 18th at Aronimink Golf Club.
“I really did feel that little kind of click, and especially in my long game, off the tee but also with my irons. Just few technical calls things I been working on, and it finally kind of clicked. And then you kind of just want to preserve that,” said Lindberg. “It's always hard to do in golf, but I feel like I'm close to being there again.”
DANIELLE KANG IS READY TO PUTT HER WAY TO FINISH LINE
Winner of the Tour’s inaugural LPGA Drive On Championship in late July, Rolex Rankings No. 5 Danielle Kang is at the top of leaderboard once again after a first-round 65. The only player to have won twice this season, there is no question that the 28-year-old, who celebrated her birthday on Monday, has been grinding, especially on the putting green.
“Recently just like my friends have been helping me out with my putting and I saw another putting coach, so I think having putts drop for me just kept me going and kept the good feel -- I don't know,” said Kang. “I'm trying. I'm trying.”
Kang also had a special visitor following her group today - LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, who made his on-course commentary debut giving insight on Kang, Stacy Lewis and Mel Reid. “He just has really positive vibes all the time. I think it was really fun to see him out there just to be a little bit different. Did a little interview with him. Think only the commissioner can pull me aside middle of the round and do things like that,” she said with a chuckle, “I thought it was very fun for us and for people at home and fans at home.”