SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A day after chipping a tooth when she fell asleep while stretching, Danielle Kang was all smiles at the HSBC Women’s Championship when the American fired a second consecutive bogey-free round to open a four-shot lead on Friday.
The 25-year-old has recorded just one victory on the LPGA Tour, at last year’s PGA Championship, and the Californian was well on her way to doubling that tally when she seized control with a course record-tying eight-under-par 64.
Kang, who started the day tied for fourth after an opening 68 at the New Tangjong Course, jumped to the top of the leaderboard with four birdies on her outward nine before moving effortlessly away from her rivals with four more coming in.
The American heads into the weekend on 12-under 132 after 36 holes, four ahead of compatriots Nelly Korda and Marina Alex on another day of low scoring at the 63-player limited-field event being played at the Sentosa Golf Club.
“Honestly, the game is coming easy right now. There are lots of birdies out there. I’m more focused on being present and just hitting the shots. I’m hitting it well, rolling the putt well,” Kang said in a post-round interview.
“I’m not really worried about the results of how those shots come out. It feels like just a cruising day. Just hit fairways, greens and have a run for a birdie.”
Australia’s Minjee Lee also made a significant move up the leaderboard to sit five strokes off the lead with a six-under 66, joining American Cristie Kerr and Korean Chella Choi in a three-way tie for fourth place in a tight tussle behind Kang.
Last week’s winner in Thailand Jessica Korda, Nelly’s elder sister, Briton Charley Hull and former winner Jang Ha-na are also in contention, the trio joining two others in a tie for seventh place on six-under for the tournament.
Overnight leader Jennifer Song saw all her good work from Thursday undone when she dropped five shots in her opening three holes to plummet down the standings, although the American rallied in an erratic round to finish the day on four-under-par.
Looking ahead to the weekend, Kang said she would continue to think about “fairways, greens and putts” and hope her troublesome tooth does not flare up to scupper her chances of victory.
“Every time I hit a shot, I’m like, it keeps scratching – it’s raw here, but it’s okay,” Kang added while pointing at her cheek. “I just don’t chew on this side. I’ll be fine.”
(Reporting by John O’Brien; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)