Kang felt the pressure of the final round, but had nerves of steel and maintained her composure to hold off the charging, Brooke Henderson, who won this tournament in 2016.
“Every single shot was stressful,” explained Kang. “Every putt was stressful. I just kept trusting in my own game and trusting in my putting. It’s all about believing in what you can do.”
“Winning is always impressive on the LPGA, and winning a major takes that level of difficulty up a notch,” Annika Sorenstam told LPGA.com via email. “Danielle looked in control most of the weekend; of course, the nerves were there, but she handled herself very well. Like any first-time winner, it’s important to focus on the things you can control and not worry too much about the other players. The old saying ‘stay in the present’ is so crucial.”
Sorenstam saw Kang take control on Sunday, as she posted her fourth consecutive round in the 60’s.
“She won some big events as an amateur a few years ago, so she obviously knows how to get it done down the stretch. I believe her consistency paid off that week — shooting four rounds in the 60’s will do it most of the time,” said Sorenstam. “After her 3-putt on the 10th hole in the final round, she regrouped and never looked back. A few key birdies, in the end, secured the win.”
Kang admits to being a leaderboard watcher and with the defending champion one group ahead making a charge, and being paired with Tour veteran, Chella Choi, who was looking to pick up her second LPGA win; she needed a strategy, a game plan on the final day.
“She started out in a winning position, so I believe her goal was just to trust herself and keep going. The most important part is to convince yourself that your game is enough to win,” said Sorenstam. “I always looked at the leaderboard, but I tried to move forward and not think too much about protecting a lead. Once you’re in a defensive mood, it’s easy to be too careful. Finding the balance between aggressiveness and ‘productive cautiousness,’ as I like to call it, is a fine line.”
It was Kang’s 144th start on the LPGA Tour and while this was her first professional major title; she had a successful amateur career winning the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, however she managed to stay focused without a win on the LPGA Tour.
“You really have to trust yourself and believe that your hard work will pay off,” said Sorenstam. “The margins in this game are so small, and every little inch/stroke counts. As my Dad told me many years ago, ‘There are no shortcuts to success’”.
Kang’s not sure what this does for her career but recognizes that having that major champion on her resume is pretty amazing.
With her win, Kang joins So Yeon Ryu as the second major champion of 2017 which makes her eligible for the season-ending Rolex Annika Major Award, awarded at the Evian Championship to the player with the best performance in the majors during the season. Kang is currently tied for the lead with Ryu.