Danielle Kang started 2022 in fantastic fashion, as five birdies in a seven hole stretch secured her sixth LPGA Tour title and first since August 2020.
Despite a star-studded field, the American was ruthless over the early portion of the back nine, keeping the threats of Gaby Lopez, Brooke Henderson and world number one, Nelly Korda, at bay, as she claimed the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament Of Champions by three shots.
“I knew I was one shot back going into the final round”, said Kang. “After making a bogey on eight I checked the leaderboard to see where I was standing and I saw that Gaby was at 15-under. A few holes later I just needed to know what was going on.
“There was constant cheering around the course and I didn’t know how far anybody was. At times I looked back and saw that somebody was at 14-under on that par-5 at the 11th, so, I just wanted to tie it up. After the 15th I couldn’t find a leaderboard, but I knew I had to make that bogey on the 16th and then make some good shots coming in.”
Up-and-down for the win! 🏆@daniellekang claims her 6th Tour title at the 2022 #HGVLPGA! pic.twitter.com/gzwzRRIuZHJanuary 23, 2022
Starting the final round, there were a number of huge names vying for the first tournament victory of 2022 but, rather fittingly, it was the world number one who started the day one shot ahead of the pack, with Korda looking to carry on the amazing form she displayed in 2021.
The 23-year-old seemed to struggle though on the final day in Florida, with Korda only able to make eight pars and two bogies in her opening 10 holes. That left the competition wide open for the chasing pack.
With the world number one failing to build upon her lead, it was Lopez who took full advantage, with the 28-year-old moving three shots ahead through seven holes. However, the Mexican would see her lead gradually being extinguished by Kang, who was starting to find another gear on the Lake Nona Golf Course layout.
Thanks to a birdie at the ninth, Kang would go on a birdie barrage, with further gains at the 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th moving the American from three back to four ahead, a whole seven-shot swing.
With a comfortable lead, it looked as if it would be plain sailing for Kang over the remaining three holes. However, a pulled approach shot on the 16th, that narrowly missed the hazard, certainly put some pressure on, but, in her typical, efficient style, Kang showed no nerves, putting the bunker shot safely on the green and two-putting for a bogey.
A solid par followed, with Kang safely navigating the treacherous 18th for four rounds in the 60’s and her first win since the 2020 Marathon Classic. What was quite humorous, was that Kang was so in the zone, she didn’t realise she had even won the title! With the reality setting in as she headed for the scorer’s hut.
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