Last year, Danielle Kang was lifting a trophy on the 18th green at the CME Group Tour Championship, but it wasn’t the CME Globe. With a 2020 scoring average of 70.082 across 13 events in a schedule shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kang took home the Vare Trophy, awarded annually to the player with the season’s lowest scoring average. This year, the 29-year-old is looking for more, sitting at 12th in the Race to the CME Globe, and considering she’s carded nine top-ten finishes so far in 2021, the $1.5 million is certainly within reach at Tiburón Golf Club.
“I feel like this year has been two years long,” said Kang. “It's never-ending. I've had a really long season. I've been on the road for a lot of weeks right now, so I think I'm getting a little bit tired. But hitting everything the same distance except my driver, so trying to figure that out. Trying to finish on a high note. I know it has been a winless season, so hopefully I can kind of manipulate my way around the golf course.”
Kang’s year has been nothing short of successful. She represented Team USA in both the Olympics, where she finished in a tie for 20th, and the Solheim Cup, in which she carded a point for the red, white, and blue. She ranks fourth in putting average on the LPGA Tour at 29.05 putts per round and sits at eighth in putts per Green in Regulation at 1.76 strokes. The five-time Tour winner’s best finish at the CME Group Tour Championship was a T3 in 2019, and Kang looks to mimic that performance this week.
“I don't feel very comfortable,’ Kang said of her preparation so far. “Normally I do but I played it today and I think the golf course is softer than it has ever been, which means we're not getting much run-off on the fairway. I have longer clubs in but the greens are kind of firmer, and then it's soft and really grainy. Chips around the greens are quite difficult. I'm a little bit uncertain at this point because the drills that I've done on the practice facility are not really matching the ones on the golf course. I don't know if that was just a weird day today. I know that Florida grass is different than where I normally am used to, but because it's softer it's really grabbing. I even tried to hit with different shots and clubs, rescues even, which means it's really hard for me to hit a good shot.”
With just four rounds left in the competitive season, Kang has been reflecting on how and where she can improve her game, both on and off the golf course. While the promise of a large purse looms large at CME and while her plans for 2022 are definitely at the forefront of her mind, you can bet that she’ll have her eyes on becoming the Race to the CME Globe champion along with her 59 other counterparts. But, goals change as the calendars turn, and Kang has some new things she’ll be thinking about next year.
“I'm going to have to try and focus a bit more on everything outside of golf than technique. I really focus on technique and mechanics, but there is so much I can do, and after that, it becomes sleep, nutrition, health, those things. I have to wake up in the morning and be able to do what I practiced. That hasn't been the case. So, I don't know how to fix that yet, but I'm sure there are experts, so I'm going to have to ask for their help.