Kang, Song share lead after LPGA Drive On’s first round

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Americans Danielle Kang and Jennifer Song each fired a seven-under-par 65 to share the lead after yesterday’s opening round of the LPGA Drive On Championship.

Kang, twice a winner since the tour’s August return from a COVID-19 break, and Song, seeking her first LPGA title in more than a decade on the tour, were one stroke ahead of compatriot Ally McDonald through 18 holes at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia.

“I feel great,” Song said. “I’m really happy about 7-under par. I didn’t think it was possible to shoot that score out there, but I had a great round.”

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and American Lindsey Weaver were on 67 with Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg, American Marissa Steen and Bianca Pagdanganan of the Philippines on 68.

The event was created to fill in a gap between US events after the LPGA’s usual Asian swing was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

World number five Kang, who won the LPGA’s two return events in Ohio in August, also began off the 10th tee. She birdied the par-5 12th, added back-to-back birdies at the par-3 13th and par-4 14th, then birdied the par-3 17th.

“I feel good about today,” Kang said. “I made some putts today, which made me really happy.”

After making the turn, Kang birdied the par-5 second and sixth holes and made another at the seventh to grab a share of the lead.

“It’s definitely good to have a good start,” Kang said. “Still got three more rounds left and I have a lot of work to do still.”

Song, also a back-nine starter, began a run of four straight birdies at the 12th, then rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th and birdied the first as well to seize the lead alone.

“I made a lot of putts. Made tonnes of birdies out there,” Song said. “But I think the most important thing was making good judgment, and execution was spot on. I didn’t have any doubt over my shots, so I think that was the key of my round.”

World number 76 Song made her lone bogey at the par-4 fifth but answered with a birdie at the par-5 sixth and closed with another at the ninth.

“I needed to place my shots in the right positions on the green, and I think I managed to do that,” Song said.

“The wind picked up a little bit so it was kind of confusing, but I managed it pretty well.”

The 30-year-old’s closest call with an LPGA victory was in losing a playoff at the 2018 ANA Inspiration, although she was third three weeks ago at the LPGA Shoprite Classic.

Former world number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand shared the early lead on 3-under before taking a triple bogey at the par-3 17th, falling back after finding water off the tee on her way to a 71.