No. 5 Kang grabs lead at LPGA Tournament of Champions

Miami (AFP) –


Fifth-ranked Danielle Kang fired a bogey-free seven-under-par 64 to seize a one-stroke lead after Thursday's first round of the season-opening LPGA Tournament of Champions.

The 28-year-old American, seeking her sixth career LPGA title, made three sets of back-to-back birdies at Four Season Golf & Sports Club in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Defending champion Gaby Lopez of Mexico and US sisters Nelly and Jessica Korda shared second on 65 with Americans Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome another shot back.

The opener of the 71st LPGA campaign featured event winners from the past three seasons, those in 2018 added in a one-off because of the depleted number of tournaments played in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A celebrity event is played alongside the LPGA competition, with only a handful of player and sponsor invitees allowed as spectators due to virus health and safety rules.

Kang birdied the second and par-3 third, added another set of back-to-back birdies at the par-3 ninth and par-5 10th and then made a late run of three birdies in four holes.

After a birdie at the par-5 13th, Kang rolled in a 20-footer for birdie at the par-3 14th, then pitched to two feet and tapped in for birdie at the par-4 16th to grab the lead alone.

The Kordas are daughters of 1998 Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda and their 20-year-old brother Sebastian reached his first ATP final last week at Delray Beach.

Jessica Korda started off the 10th tee with three birdies and an eagle at the par-5 13th, then added back-to-back birdies at the par-5 17th and par-3 18th.

She took bogeys at the second and par-5 seventh but closed with a 10-foot birdie putt at the ninth to share the lead with her sister at 6-under.

World number four Nelly Korda, five years younger than her sister at 22, closed with three birdies and an eagle in her last seven holes.

After opening with a bogey, she birdied the par-3 third and par-4 fourth, then followed a bogey at the sixth with birdies at seven and eight. The younger Korda made another bogey at 10, but answered with birdies at 12, the par-3 14th and 16 before making eagle at 17.

Canada's Brooke Henderson and Americans Angela Stanford and Lexi Thompson shared seventh on 67 with Germany's Sophia Popov and South Korean Chun In-gee another stroke adrift.