Danielle Kang talks about ‘fangirling’ over Annika Sorenstam, meditating, and mastering golf in the cold

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Danielle Kang admits she’s “always uncomfortable.” The five-time LPGA winner is working with her sports psychologist to try and find ways to achieve a few seconds of comfort in her routine, bringing her mind back to the present.

Early in the week at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, Kang stayed with fellow tour pro Amy Yang, who convinced her to meditate and “stare at nothing” for 20 minutes.

“That was different,” said Kang. “I go, 20 minutes? What? She made me sit there. Took my phone away, everything. I don’t know how she does it, but things like that I have to work on.”

Kang said she purposely sought to get back to the present during a long wait on the par-3 13th Saturday at Lake Nona. During much of that downtime, she actually focused on what Annika Sorenstam was up to in the group behind her. Sorenstam currently leads the celebrity division by two points in the modified stableford format.

“Never really seen her play in tournament mode,” said Kang, “so I was fangirling out there.”

As for Kang, she trails No. 1 Nelly Korda by one stroke heading into the final round. Kang, who is 11 under for the tournament, lost in a playoff to Nelly’s older sister Jessica at last year’s TOC at Tranquilo. Kang last made a bogey on the 10th hole in her opening round and currently holds a share of second with 2020 TOC winner Gaby Lopez.

Temperatures in the Central Florida area dropped some 20 degrees on Saturday at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. Kang knows her body tightens up in the cold, and she historically hasn’t performed all that well.

“We can all look at my stats,” said Kang. “I miss the cut almost every year in the British Open.”

In an attempt to change that script, Kang went out and played when it was 40 degrees in Las Vegas and blowing 30 mph.

Danielle Kang of the United States plays her shot from the 11th fairway during the third round of the 2022 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club on January 22, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

“I tried to keep playing because my caddie’s dream is to win the British Open,” said Kang, “so I need to figure out how to play in the cold and warm up as fast as I can in the morning so my driver is not ready to go by the 15th hole.”

Kang said she was “really proud” to see that cold-weather work pay off at Nona.

“During the offseason, it’s being able to try and swing with how many layers I have on, what’s the max, what I’m capable and not capable of doing,” she said. “There are certain shots I can’t do, shots I can’t hit during the cold weather, and I just take them out of my arsenal.

“Those are the things I have to figure out. It’s a little bit more deeper. Even today there were some drives that I hit, I just can’t hit that kind of shot in that wind while I’m that cold, so something I can still work on.”

To get to the swing she and instructor Butch Harmon have worked on, Kang needs her body to be able to produce the speed she needs. Sometimes, Kang said, she gets to the range and her swing is 7 mph slower.

A key to that speed, she said, will be finding good routines on the road, particularly for her workouts.

“I didn’t have injuries last year,” she said, “knock on wood. … Just being able to fire and engage and be efficient.”