Relaxed Kang holds Drive On Championship lead

Danielle Kang dealt with anxious moments the night before the first LPGA tournament in over five months but she played calm and relaxed during the first round of the Drive On Championship in Toledo, Ohio.

The 27-year-old Kang recorded six birdies during a bogey-free 66 round on Friday to hold a one-shot lead over England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff after the first trip around Inverness Club.

Kang didn’t think there was anything special about her round that included three birdies on both the front and back nines in the LPGA’s first event after a break of 166 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Honestly, there was no hot streak,” Kang said after a round that began on the 10th tee. “It was kind of consistent. Few pars, birdie here; few pars, birdie there. It was very spaced out birdies, to be honest. I made definitely some good saves, good putts.

“Even if you hit a good shot, it’s not an easy putt. I almost 3-putted from like nine feet. Definitely had a really good attitude and it was really fun to be back.”

Four of Kang’s birdies came on par-4 holes, including one on No. 9 to end her round. She hit 15 of 18 greens and needed just 27 putts.

Kang described her consistent round this way: “I would say I just didn’t have any hiccups on any part of the game.”

Shadoff also avoided bogeys during a round in which she carded five birdies.

She began on the back nine and was 1 under at the turn and later made consecutive birdies on Nos. 2, 3 and 4. She added a final one at No. 8.

Shadoff said the performance was better than she could have envisioned.

“It’s hard to have expectations when you haven’t played in almost six months,” Shadoff said. “I just wanted to come out and find my feet a little bit. I’m playing for the next five weeks, and I’m really happy with my start and where my game is, especially around such a tough track like Inverness.”

France’s Celine Boutier and South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace are tied for third at 4 under. Amy Olson, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and Australia’s Minjee Lee are another shot back in a tie for fifth at the tournament that is being played without fans on the course.

“Everybody was asking me like, ‘Is it going to be weird playing without fans?'” Olson said. “I was like, ‘It’s just going to be weird to play, I think, and actually have to putt out.’

“But it’s really nice. It’s like riding a bike. You kind of I guess fall back into the rhythm, it seems like. But it was nice to have a beautiful day to start and not be dealing with winds or rain or something like that.”

While Olson fared well, Lexi Thompson struggled with a 1-over 73 and is tied for 28th place. Thompson had three bogeys and just two birdies.

Among the group of golfers tied at 2-under 70 is Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, who was competing six weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. Ciganda said she doesn’t know how she contracted the virus.

“I was feeling a little sick and just very muscle achy and headache and I wasn’t feeling great,” Ciganda said after Friday’s round. “I got some fever, so I decided to go and get tested and I tested positive for COVID-19. After 10 days I was feeling fine.”

Sitting out the tournament are Mexico’s Gaby Lopez and American Marina Alex, both of whom tested positive for COVID-19. Lopez announced her positive test on Wednesday and Alex revealed her results on Thursday.

The event is the first since South Korea’s Inbee Park won the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open on Feb. 16.

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