Danielle Kang won her sixth career victory coming from behind to shoot a final round score of 68, -16 total, as others on the leaderboard faltered in cold conditions. She became the first winner of 2022 at the Diamonds Resorts Tournament of Champions at Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Sunday.
Since 2016, last year was the first that Kang failed to win on the LPGA tour. A major champion, Kang spent the off-season dedicating herself both physically and mentally in preparation for the new season.
Kang discussed her failure last year, stating that she was “OK” about it since she did the best she could, with the Golf Channel.
“I took some time and reevaluated where I needed to go, and I’m not worried about just this tournament,” said Kang. “I’m more focused on making every day better. So I’m just proud of how far I’ve come, the work that I put in, more so than this week … and I’ve never felt [this] peaceful.”
Kang has a nutritionist and has been working out with a UFC trainer three hours a day to get her core and legs stronger, and for endurance and increasing distance on her shots.
Kang’s coach, Butch Harmon, also recommended that she practice and play in the cold winter conditions of her hometown Las Vegas to toughen her up, given that she is a native of Los Angeles.
The 54-hole leader starting the day and world #1, Nelly Korda, shot over par with a 75 and finished tied for fourth with France’s Celine Boutier at -10. Canadian Brooke Henderson jumped to finish second with a steady final round of 70, -13 total, with two birdies and no bogeys.
Kang was tied with Gaby Lopez to begin the round. Lopez took the lead on the front nine with birdies on holes 5, 6, and 7, but shot par to finish third at -12, after four bogeys beginning on the ninth hole.
“It’s very hard for me to stay in the moment, not think about what’s going to happen, what has happened,” added Kang. “To not worry about the should have, would have, could have.”
Kang’s four under par was impressive with six birdies on the day from holes 5–15. She bogeyed 8 and 16.
On 16, Kang was potentially in big trouble following a rare bad swing pulling the approach shot left to the edge of the bunker. Having three-foot-tall grass behind her, she found the only opening for a back-swing to hit onto the front of the green, leaving herself a long uphill putt that was played too strongly. Kang saved bogey making a putt of around 11 feet coming back.
“I’m just proud of myself because I wasn’t worried about hitting in the hazard,” said Kang. “I wasn’t worried about if I was going to make a bogey and lose a tournament, [and] was more focused on executing the shot that I knew how to execute.”
Kang was bogey free for 51 straight holes. At 5 feet 6 inches tall, she’s not a long hitter, ranking 17th in driving distance in the field with an average of 245.5 yards, and tied for seventh, hitting 44 of 56 fairways. The significant stat was hitting 59 of 72 greens in regulation, which ranked first, and tied for first with 115 total putts.
Other notables were Yuka Saso of Japan, who finished sixth with a score of -9, and defending champion Jessica Korda, who finished seventh at -8.
In the Celebrity Division of this pro-am, former MLB star Derek Lowe won a play-off over the greatest LPGA player of all-time Annika Sorenstam.
Sorenstam is a member and resides at Lake Nona, which also hosted the first Solheim Cup in 1990.
The LPGA moves to Gainbridge at Boca Rio in Boca Raton, Florida, Jan. 27–30, where Nelly Korda is the defending champion.