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‘I had the swing yips’: Danielle Kang goes from rock bottom to winner’s circle in Shanghai

October 22, 2018

Danielle Kang’s golf game felt like it had hit rock bottom. Just a year after she’d broken through with a major championship victory in 2017, she stood over the ball and struggled to even take her club back. Some shots took her a near eternity to play.

“I actually can’t pull the trigger,” she told Golf Channel. “Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang began the fall’s Asian swing by missing five cuts in six starts. In desperate need of some advice, she reached out to swing coach Butch Harmon to help her at home in Las Vegas. “I had to go through swing changes,” she said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.”

Kang made major progress last week, finishing in a share for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship. This week, she did even better. Kang trailed by one shot entering the final round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai, but something clicked on the back nine and she birdied four of the final eight holes to post a round of three-under 69 that put her two shots clear of the field. Kang had won her second LPGA tournament.

Danielle Kang pulled off a win just weeks removed from battles with the yips.

How did she do it? “I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball,” Kang said. “This week I just kept trusting my golf game.” But that didn’t mean it was easy this week, either. The new 26-year-old — Kang’s birthday was Saturday — battled to stick to Harmon’s advice.

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang told Golf Channel. “Things just weren’t going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn’t do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn’t putt freely.”

She mentioned regrouping heading to the back nine by hitting her golf bag “really hard” with a wedge. Things got better after that.
“We pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole,” she said, referring to herself and her caddie Oliver Brett. “Then things changed.”

Kang knows one win won’t serve as a cure-all for golf’s challenges. But on Sunday in Shanghai, it was more than enough.
I’m just so happy to be where I’m at today,” Kang said. “I’m just happy that I won.”