Danielle Kang boarded the LPGA’s charter flight after back-to-back victories in Toledo, Ohio, and headed to Scotland in search of a three-peat. Ariya Jutanugarn, who happens to make her return to competition this week at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, was the last player to win three consecutive starts on the LPGA in 2016.
The overseas bubble is considerably tighter in Scotland than it was in Toledo. Players are staying 45 minutes away from North Berwick’s Renaissance Club at a Marriott property in Edinburgh. Players and caddies were tested for COVID-19 before getting on the charter and again before they were allowed to go to the golf course. There’s no going out for food or even a run this week. Kang, who currently ranks No. 2 in the world, appreciates the strict procedures that are in place.
“Yes, it’s definitely exceeded my expectations,” she said. “We are really strict in how we are moving about. No one has any intent on breaking any rules, but it’s more so the safety for us and safety for people in the country … I wasn’t really that nervous coming over here. I just thought it was interesting, you know, being able to fly international because there have been so many talks about not being able to fly from country to country. I felt excited more than anything to come here.
“Only thing I can do is look outside the window of a car and see Edinburgh. I can’t go anywhere, although the fact that I get to play golf, that’s what I’m the most happy about and the safety protocols on the way we walk from the car park to the golf course to how spread out everything is and dining and you have to wear masks. We have to have the temperature checks at the hotel, leaving the hotel, at the golf course, sanitizing everything before … even with dining with the take-out food and spaced seating, outside and inside, it’s pretty great actually.”
European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew lives in North Berwick and while she’s able to stay home this week, it’s certainly not business as usual for the rest of the family.
Danielle Kang from Las Vegas, Nevada talks with her caddie, Oliver Brett, about a long putt from just off the green on the 17th hole during the final round of the Marathon LPGA Classic golf tournament at Highlands Meadows Golf Club. Kang is looking for a three-peat this week in Scotland. (Photo by Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports)
“Even our dog’s been thrown out,” she said. “The kids and the dog are all with my mum.”
There are 144 players in the field at Renaissance, including seven Scots: Carly Booth, Gemma Dryburgh, Kylie Henry, Kelsey MacDonald, Alison Muirhead, Michele Thomson and Matthew.
Dryburgh, who won twice on the Rose Ladies Series before posting a career-best finish at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Inverness — a tie for sixth — will hit the first tee shot at 6:30 a.m. local time on Thursday. Sadly, no fans will be onsite to see it.
“Yeah, so I’d say to be honest, I’m not a morning person,” Dryburgh admitted. “So I think tomorrow works out, I’m going to have to wake up at half-past three because it’s a 45-minute drive and I have to stretch and all that and eat breakfast. It’s going to be an early, middle-of-the-night start. Once I’m up and on the course, I’m sure I’ll be fine, and I think take advantage of the hopefully calm conditions that early in the morning.”
Kang has three wins in her last seven starts on the LPGA along with three additional top-3 finishes. Her scoring average in those seven starts: 68.22
Such consistently stellar play, however, doesn’t mean that she’s cruising in Scotland. Quite the contrary. She’s already grinding, noting that the Renaissance will test every part of her game.
“This might sound very generic,” said Kang, “but acceptance, to be honest, is going to be toughest for me … I don’t really have control over that here, and I think that’s going to be the toughest for me, where if I hit a great shot and I end up in a place that I don’t want to be, I just have to let it go and work it out from the shot that has been given, and that is something that’s going to be a challenge, definitely, that I’m going to face.”