OLYMPIA FIELDS, Illinois (Reuters) - Talented pianist Danielle Kang hit all the right notes to earn a share of the second-round lead with Kim Sei-young at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Friday as the big names queued up close behind halfway through the second LPGA major of the season.
Twice U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kang and South Korean Kim took advantage of ideal morning conditions to card five-under-par 66 at Olympia Fields outside Chicago.
Their seven-under 135 total stood up for the rest of the day, the pair leading by one stroke ahead of the South Korean trio of Amy Yang, Chella Choi and Lee Mi-hyang, as well as England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff and American Brittany Lincicome.
New world number one Ryu So-yeon and defending champion Brooke Henderson are among a group two back, with ex number one Lydia Ko and Michelle Wie trailing by three.
California-born Kang, a first generation American of Korean descent who was expected to take the tour by storm when she turned pro in 2011, is still seeking her first LPGA victory at the age of 24, though her progress has been halted by injury.
Playing with her left wrist heavily strapped after suffering a fracture last year, she described her condition as “playable.”
“As long as doctors give me the green light, I don’t think about it,” said Kang, whose hobbies include playing the piano and saxophone.
“All the doctors, they ask: ‘How is it?’ and I say pain is mental. So if I don’t acknowledge it, it will just go away.”
Kang said her bogey-free round was set up by good approach shots.
“I kept sticking to the iron shots that I trusted all my life. My day was really relaxing. It was stressful but relaxing. I kept giving myself birdie opportunities.”
Co-leader Kim, the 2015 LPGA Rookie of the Year, bounced back into position to challenge for the title, having finished runner-up in this event two years ago.
She dropped four shots in three holes late in her first round, before making an adjustment that paid immediate dividends.
“I realised my grip was a little loose,” said six-times LPGA Tour winner Kim. “I kept pulling it, three in a row (so made) a little adjustment, just stronger than before. That was key.”
Fellow South Korean Ryu eagled the par-five 18th, where she sank a 10-foot putt after a brilliant five-wood second shot.
The ever-smiling Ryu seems to be handling the pressure of playing as world number one, even if she does not sound like it.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed these days,” added the South Korean. “I just try to be the same person, no matter if I’m number one or number 100.”
Seventy-four players made the cut, which fell at two-over 144. Thai Ariya Jutanugarn, the world number one until a week ago, missed it by one stroke after bogeying her final hole.
Editing by Peter Rutherford