With a pair of 7-under 64s on Thursday, American Danielle Kang and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko are tied atop the leaderboard at the 2020 Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana. Kang went bogey-free around Highland Meadows Golf Club, crediting a strong day with her putter, and is looking to become the LPGA Tour’s first back-to-back winner since 2017.
“I worked a lot on my putting for the last couple days. Didn't really like how the ball was coming off my putter,” said Kang, who won last week’s LPGA Drive On Championship. “But I think that I kind of got a good feel out of it; then today my putting worked really well. There are days when the ball goes where you see, and that's what happened.”
Ko carded eight birdies and one bogey at a course that has historically been very kind to her. Ko has two victories and two other top 10s in her five previous tournament appearances, with a scoring average of 68 over those 20 rounds.
“I hit a few shots that were really tap-in range, so when you have three, four of those kind of opportunities, it definitely puts a little stress off the putter, which was kind of the bit that I was struggling with last week,” said Ko, aiming for her first victory since 2018. “So it was nice that a few were really close to kind of put that stress off, and nice to just walk off the hole with the easy birdie.”
American Megan Khang holed out for eagle at No. 5 en route to a bogey-free 65 and holds solo third at -6. A quartet of players are tied for fourth at -5 – American Solheim Cup players Angel Yin and Ally McDonald, 2016 Volunteers of America Classic winner Jenny Shin, and Germany’s Sophia Popov.
KANG PICKS UP WHERE SHE LEFT OFF
Different course, same result. After claiming the LPGA Drive On Championship title on Sunday, Danielle Kang opened the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana with a bogey-free -7 and sits tied for the lead with Lydia Ko after the first round.
“I was told that if you're playing well, you just got to trust your game and keep playing your game, so that's been my plan since last week and this week,” said Kang, who rose to No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking with her victory at Inverness Club. “I'm striking it really well. Putting speed is there. Just got to keep trusting it and play my game.”
This week marks Kang’s first appearance at Highland Meadows Golf Club in 2017 and fifth overall. Her best Marathon LPGA Classic finish is a tie for 22nd in 2015. In her last six LPGA Tour starts, Kang has two wins (2019 Buick LPGA Shanghai, 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship), one second-place finish (2019 BMW Ladies Championship) and two third-place finishes (2019 CME Group Tour Championship, 2020 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio).
KO CONTINUES HIGHLANDS MEADOWS SUCCESS
Highland Meadows Golf Club has been very kind to Lydia Ko. In her five previous tournament appearances, the New Zealander earned Marathon LPGA Classic victories in 2014 and 2016, tied for third in 2015, tied for seventh in 2013 and tied for 20th in 2017.
This week, Ko has returned to the Marathon LPGA Classic for the first time since 2017. While the course has seen some changes, Ko continued her Ohio success with a first-round 64, her lowest round ever at Highland Meadows.
“It's not one of the longer golf courses, but throughout the years they've lengthened some of the holes and added a few bunkers this year. Well, I don't know if this year, or within the time that I've been gone,” said Ko. “It's good to be back.”
Ko had seven birdies on Thursday, five from easy tap-in distance. There really was not much that went wrong with Ko’s day, a fact that brought a big smile to her face.
“At any event when you know you've played well at that course before, gives you confidence and you draw back a lot of the good memories,” said Ko, who is looking for her first victory since the 2018 LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship. “I tried to just play my own game today and give myself good looks for birdies. When I'm kind of out of position, be smart. I actually got pretty lucky in some cases, so I think it was kind of one of those days where it's kind of clicking. So, yeah, I feel very relieved with the way it went.”