Golf

Kang masters nerves as Ko fizzles out

SYLVANIA (Ohio) • With only one more LPGA event before the year’s first women’s Major, the Women’s British Open, Danielle Kang will be the heavy favourite in Scotland, especially as the top South Korean golfers, including world No. 1 Ko Jin-young will not be travelling.

The American solidified her status as the sport’s most in-form player after she completed back-to-back LPGA Tour triumphs – the first to do so since China’s Feng Shanshan in 2017 – by winning the Marathon Classic on Sunday.

Kang closed with a final round three-under 68 to finish at 15-under 269, one clear of overnight leader Lydia Ko (73) and England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff (67).

The victory, which moved Kang two places up to world No. 2, came a week after she landed the Drive On Championship, the Tour’s first tournament since it was shut down in February due to the pandemic.

Her win, however, had as much to do with former world No. 1 Ko’s dramatic late collapse. The Kiwi, poised to end two years and 44 tournaments without a victory, looked to be cruising after opening up a five-shot lead with six holes to play at Highland Meadows.

But the 23-year-old endured a nightmare finish down the stretch that included bogeys on the 14th and 16th before a disastrous double-bogey seven on the 18th.

Kang sensed blood once she saw Ko stumble.

“My caddie looked at me and said, ‘You’re right in it,'” the 27-year-old Kang said afterwards. “I looked at him and said, ‘I’m five down with six holes to go.’ I kind of liked that mentality, made some good birdies coming in and kept it together.”

The LPGA Tour now heads to Britain for the Ladies Scottish Open, which starts on Thursday, and Kang has set her sights on winning her second Major after the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship.

“I’ve been playing really great consistently before and after quarantine,” the five-time Tour winner said. “A big part of how I’ve approached the golf game is I’m really not focused on a lot of other things other than just getting better at things I want to get better at.

“We always have room to improve. That’s the beauty of golf.”

For Ko, who is now ranked 55th, the wait goes on.

“I think it’s God’s way of telling me it wasn’t my day,” she said wistfully. “When you look back, you’re like, ‘Maybe I should have done this, maybe I should have done that.’ But, what can you do?”

Elsewhere, native Californian Rose Zhang won the longest US Women’s Amateur title match in 54 years, ending Gabriela Ruffels’ bid to become the championship’s first repeat winner since Kang in 2011.

The Australian missed from three feet, watching as her par putt lip out of the 38th hole on Sunday.

Neither player led by more than two-up throughout the 36-hole match, which meant the event had to go to extra holes for the first time since 2001.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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