LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The shortest LPGA offseason felt even shorter for Danielle Kang, or longer depending on if she was stuck inside quarantining on a picture-perfect day in southern Nevada. As if moving wasn’t enough to take on during the four-week break, she was twice exposed to COVID-19 while back home.
“It’s been a chaotic few weeks,” said Kang, who took six COVID-19 tests in in the past two weeks, finally getting cleared to travel on Monday for the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
“It wasn’t really a break.”
Kang, last year’s Vare Trophy winner for low scoring average, started practicing in earnest 10 days ago and said she looks at the season-opening limited-field TOC as a pre-season starter. She’ll be paired once again with Cole Swindell and Lee Brice, two Country music stars who have become friends.
“There’s no better way to kick off the season than with this event,” said Kang, who will get to fine-tuning her game during the LPGA’s second month-long offseason, which starts next week.
Giveaway time! Here’s your chance to see me & my good friend @thevacationdr later this month at the #DiamondLPGA event: Comment here with your favorite celebrity golfer to enter to win VIP #DiamondLPGA Access for 4, including concert tix. Here’s the list: https://t.co/ajQkKe9YDS pic.twitter.com/w22LAq5Fqu
— Danielle Kang (@daniellekang) January 14, 2021
The annual LPGA TOC has become the best party on tour, and while there are some distinct differences this week due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show rolls on at Tranquilo Golf Course.
There was talk of keeping the players and celebrities separated during competition, but that part will still look the same. Behind the scenes though, LPGA player dining and locker rooms are at the Four Seasons while the celebrities now stick to the clubhouse. Fans are limited to invitation-only.
The event’s live shows have moved outside to a newly constructed stage, but LPGA players aren’t allowed to attend those for safety reasons.
“Maybe I can sit in my car and roll down the window and hear the concerts,” said Diamond Resorts ambassador Brittany Lincicome.
Annika Sorenstam headlines the celebrity division along with two-time winner John Smoltz. On Tuesday morning, Sorenstam addressed the controversy surrounding her acceptance of the Presidential Medal of Freedom less than 24 hours after the attacks on the U.S. Capitol in which five people died.
“Listen, I share the sadness and the fear with everyone, what happened at the Capitol.” Sorenstam told Golfweek. “But I’m not one to look back.”
Sorenstam and Smoltz will be grouped together with 2020 TOC champion Gaby Lopez in Thursday’s opening round.
Other notable celebrities include Roger Clemens, Toby Keith, Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Maddux and Grant Hill.
The top three players in the world – Jin Young Ko, Sei Young Kim and Inbee Park – aren’t in the field but American stars Lexi Thompson and sisters Nelly and Jessica Korda are competing along with Kang and last season’s Cinderella, AIG Women’s British Open champion Sophia Popov.
There are 25 LPGA players in this year’s field.
Kang, a two-time winner last season, sets short-term and long-term goals for each year, and also takes the time to write down what she’s thankful for from the previous year.
Kang was hesitant to share most of her goals, but she did lay out several areas of her game that she’d like to focus on: fairway woods off the deck; capitalizing more on the par 5s; and feeling more confident over her putts.
“I want to hit more pure putts,” she said. “Whether they go in or not, I want to hit better putts. I don’t want to be stressed when I putt, and that’s something that has really been stressing me out.”
Because of COVID-19 precautions, Kang said she only met with instructor Butch Harmon one time in the past month, which is considerably less than usual. While she wasn’t able to work on the technical aspects as much as she would’ve liked, she did get to focus on strengthening her body to help eliminate the nagging injuries that restrict what she wants to do with her swing.
“I wasn’t able to prepare like I normally can,” she said, “however, I have four weeks off after this week, so that’s kind of the time I’m going to capitalize on.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/19/danielle-kang-lpga-tournament-champions-preview/