A par on No. 1 was all that Las Vegas resident Danielle Kang needed to kick off an absolute display of match-play mastery on Wednesday. In front of a small gallery of invited guests that included two-time PGA TOUR winner Sang-Moon Bae, Kang was absolutely in her element with a 7-and-6 victory over Albane Valenzuela.
“I felt right at home. This is my home golf course. I know to hit it, where to miss it. I think that's a big advantage that I have, knowing the reads, how the greens break,” said Kang, who never dropped a hole on Wednesday. “I just had so much fun out there. I had a lot of people cheering me on today. Butch [Harmon, my coach] is coming to watch. We had a lot of fun.”
This week presents another opportunity for Kang to add to her illustrious match-play career, with two U.S. Women’s Amateur titles and two Solheim Cup appearances already on her resume. To do it at her beloved Shadow Creek would be an added bonus. Ever the match-play veteran, Kang knows that anything can happen once the ball is in the air.
“I still need to make birdies. I still want to make birdies. I have to hit good shots,” said Kang. “I'm mainly focused on playing the game that I need to play, and I let her play her game. But at the same time, I know exactly what I need to do and how many shots I have left. That's the fun of match play. You focus on what you want to focus on.”
BRITTANY ALTOMARE OVERCOMES TWO 3-DOWN DEFICITS FOR VICTORY
Three down – a deficit that Brittany Altomare overcame not once but twice on Wednesday afternoon for day one of the inaugural Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play at Shadow Creek Golf Course.
The first time was after the first three holes. A birdie at No. 5 cut into the lead of Yu Liu, who turned it around the very next hole to leave Altomare staring at 3-down once again on the leaderboard.
“I didn't start off very well, started bogey-bogey-bogey so I didn't really deserve to be up at any point,” said Altomare, who carded a birdie on No. 18 to win the match. “Then I kind of pulled it together and realized the golf course is tough, so you just have to play smart and aggressive. I started settling down and made a birdie and a bunch of pars coming in and hung in there. You have to be patient in match play, because literally anything can happen.”
The comeback reminded the eight-year Tour veteran of her Friday Four-Ball experience with Nelly Korda at the 2019 Solheim Cup. Joining forces for Team USA, Altomare and Korda squared off against Azahara Munoz and Charley Hull. Their European opponents had them 4 down with six holes to play and 3 down with three remaining, but Altomare sank a 25-foot birdie to tie the match and collect a half point.
Altomare admitted she relied on that experience at points today.
“Nelly and I were down four at one point and we came back to tie it. I kept thinking to myself, ‘Just stay patient. Things will happen,’” Altomare said. “I know I keep saying it, but it honestly is what I did all day. Try to stay patient and not get too worked up out there.”