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Kang, Ko Share Marathon Classic Lead as LPGA Goes Low Again

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Lydia Ko is tied for the lead after one round at the LPGA Marathon Classic in suburban Toledo. (GETTY)

SYLVANIA, Ohio — It was a low-scoring first round at Highland Meadows Golf Club as players attacked pins and 65 golfers broke par, but at Thursday’s end it was Danielle Kang and Lydia Ko who are tied atop the LPGA Marathon Classic presented by Dana, with each posting a 7-under par 64.

“I worked a lot on my putting for the last couple days,” Kang said. “I didn’t really like how the ball was coming off my putter. I think I kind of got a good feel out of it then today my putting worked really well.”

Ko has a career scoring average of 68 over 20 rounds of play at Highland Meadows Country Club.

“I was told that if you’re playing well, you just got to trust your game and keep playing your game,” said Ko. “That’s been my plan since last week. I’m striking it really well, putting speed is there. I just have to keep trusting it.”

Unlike a week ago where players were massively challenged by nearby Inverness Club, clear skies and a few days removed from rain allowed for extra roll on accessible pin placements.

Below are stories from Thursday’s top finishers and other headlines.

A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

Upon walking 18 holes with Kang, it is fairly clear how much she communicates with her caddie Oliver Brett. A shot or thought could be good, bad or indifferent, but it is that open dialogue and feedback that seemed to have allowed for mutual success.

“I’m thankful for my caddie,” Kang said following last week’s Drive On Championship. “Him and I have a lot of trust going on and off the golf course where we know exactly what each other needs. I know exactly how he looks at the golf course; he knows what I want on the golf course. He’s been with longer than Butch (Harmon) has been with me.”

In today’s age, it is easier to have a falling out with a caddie whether it is a lack of results, lack of communication or sometimes both but for Kang to trust Brett, it shows a different level of respect and trust.

“Caddies do a lot of different jobs for different players,” said Kang. “For me, he’s very specific, targets and a lot of these tee shots, that kind of blind tee shots, and we try to narrow down. So the smaller the target, the better the focus and try not to be too generic with the numbers.

“That’s kind of really important between him and I this week because you can attack a lot of the pins. So instead of saying around 155, we have to be specific about the numbers, whether it’s a little bit behind or short of it. That kind of communication is very important for me this week.”

While her success alone is reason enough to smile, it seems fairly clear that Kang is in good spirits and that her hard work during the time off has paid dividends.

“Golf is fun and I like coming out,” Kang said. “More so than anything I love playing the competition. I am just out here to enjoy the golf that I can play and the ability that I’m able to do.”

BE AGGRESSIVE

Ko finds herself tied for the lead as her iron play helped her convert several short-range birdies. Though Ko hit just five of 14 total fairways, the two-time champion hit 14 of 18 greens and needed 25 putts to get around Thursday.

“I hit a few shots that were really tap-in range, so when you have three, four of those kind of opportunities, it definitely puts a little stress off the putter, which was kind of the bit that I was struggling with last week,” she said.

Though Ko has not been back in the last couple of years, her love for this event is quite clear

“It’s not one of the longer golf courses, but throughout the years they’ve lengthened some of the holes and added a few bunkers,” said Ko. “It always makes you draw on good memories. I think I hit some not-so-good shots, but got really lucky where I had an opening and could go for the green. When that’s kind of the case, you try and take advantage of those.”

Ko actually drew inspiration from her fellow co-leader based on a remark stated in an interview, where Kang talked to Annika Sorenstam who advised the need to play as aggressive as she could and just put the pedal to the metal.

For Ko this was a message sent and she wanted to do the same.

“For me the term ‘aggressive’ is, even if I am playing safe, being committed to the shot,” Ko said. “That’s really important for me, to be really committed and hitting each shot with my 100 percent authority. I think the confidence in being aggressive really is something that I am confidence in being aggressive really did that I’m continuing to on.

“At the end of the day for me to be out there and just swing it aggressively and confidently, I think the confidence in being aggressive really is something that I’m continuing to work on.”

Ko currently is tied for 101st in the Race to the CME Globe and is looking for her first win since the 2018 LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.

BACK IN THE SWING OF THINGS

The first thing Megan Khang said when describing her round was that she was not comfortable, which upon first impression would make it hard to believe that she finished Thursday at 6 under and one stroke off the lead.

Her caddie Kurt Moskaly has helped out with committing to her swing and accepting whatever the result was. Khang has been pleased with her putting and her flatstick was used 24 times over 18 holes. She also hit 11 of 14 fairways which showed her swing has picked up where it left off at the end of her time at Inverness Club.

“I wasn’t feeling super great coming out, but I knew once I got back out here everything would come back to normal,” she said. “I can always message my dad when I have an issue, which is a great perk. I tell Kurt what I’m working on, so I always make sure he knows that we’re on the same page when it comes to the swing and playing and just kind of feeling confident over the ball. That’s really all you need out here, is a lot of confidence and belief in yourself.”

ALEX BACK ON TOUR

Regardless of how her first round went, Marina Alex had to be smiling after putting out on the ninth green early Thursday afternoon. Of course a 2-under round does not hurt, but Alex was able to successfully return following a positive COVID-19 test, which she revealed in a recent statement on Twitter.

Alex was declared positive in a test administered July 21. She tested negative on three additional occasions in the week following the test, but by LPGA rules, she was forced to withdraw. She played Thursday with Kang and Angel Yin.

MARATHON CLASSIC PRESENTED BY DANA FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD

T1. Danielle Kang -7

T1. Lydia Ko -7

3. Megan Khang -6

T4. Ally McDonald -5

T4. Sophia Popov -5

T4. Jenny Shin -5

T4. Angel Yin -5

T7. Jodi Ewart Shadoff -4

T7. Maria Fassi -4

T7. Kristen Gillman -4

T7. Nelly Korda -4

T7. Andrea Lee -4

SHE SAID IT

“It takes me back to the junior days, or college days even. I really don’t mind it. You know, I’ve had some great caddies on the bag and there are some good ones out there, but, you know, my push cart never talks back. I’m kidding. It’s just nice. It’s very quiet. It’s just me, myself, my own thoughts. I have no one to express any negative thoughts to. So it really puts me a little bit at peace out there.” – Sophia Popov on her decision to carry a pull cart

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