It was a bogey-free Friday for Danielle Kang at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, her 16th time doing so since 2020. The American carded three birdies and an eagle in the second round, posting a 5-under 67 to sit one back of the lead going into the weekend. Kang’s eagle came on the par-4 seventh hole after a 155-yard, 7-iron hole out and she welcomed the boost of momentum after parring the first six holes of the day.
“I was having a little bit of a slow start,” Kang said. “I struck the ball well on the front nine, gave myself awesome opportunities on probably 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and hit good putts and they just weren't dropping. I wanted to hit it really close on 7. Even on 2, I probably landed it around 2 inches from the hole and it spun back to about 8 feet and I ended up missing the putt. On 7 I was like, ‘Let's just hit it as close as possible.’ I saw the ball tracing and I went, ‘Just go so close I don't have to putt,’ and then it went in, so it was super cool.”
The most special part of the day though for Kang was getting to play with pal and country music singer/songwriter Lee Brice with World Series champion John Smoltz rounding out the threesome. Brice and Kang are good friends and have teed it up in the Tournament of Champions before, so Kang had some fun teasing Lee about his game.
“We always have fun. I know he was a bit stressed out because John (Smoltz) is a really good player and a serious player, and so am I, and Lee is a bit more relaxed and easygoing,” she said. He didn't want to get in our way, but he never gets in my way. He seemed to have fun. I just kept making fun of him. I told him I would give him 100 bucks if he hits it even on the green at one point. He has really good humor about it. He gave me his guitar pick and I started making putts, so I kept it.”
Kang was tied for the lead through 36 holes in the 2021 edition of this event, and while a 68-67 start would have any player feeling confident, she remains religiously devoted to the process, refusing to overanalyze her results. At 9 under and one back, Kang is chasing Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda, but she isn’t too concerned with the state of her game as the field heads into what’s forecasted to be a cold, blustery weekend.
“I said it the last two days, you guys are probably going to hear me repeat the same thing: I'm not focused on the result,” she said. “I'm just trying to do the job in front of me and hit the best I can with the shot that's in front of me. It's just progressing, not just today, not just tomorrow, not just Sunday, but the rest of the year, and working towards the goal that I'm trying to get as consistent as possible. So today I was bogey-free, but I missed so many putts on the front nine. But I tried not to think about it and I dropped it as quickly as I can. Things are going to happen that I'm not going to like, but I’m going to have to keep moving forward. That's the most difficult thing that I'm working on.”