Danielle Kang, Inbee Park right at home in LPGA Match Play


NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Danielle Kang and Inbee Park made themselves right at home at Shadow Creek in the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play.

Kang, a Las Vegas resident and ambassador for course owner MGM Resorts, routed Albane Valenzuela 7 and 6 on Wednesday in the most-lopsided match to start group play. Park, also an area resident, got up-and-down for birdie to win the par-5 18th to tie Jennifer Chang.

“I felt right at home,” Kang said. “This is my home golf course. I know where to hit it, where to miss it. I think that’s a big advantage that I have, knowing the reads, how the greens break. I just had so much fun out there. I had a lot of people cheering me on.”

The second-ranked Park rallied to avoid an opening loss in the final event before the U.S. Women’s Open next week at Olympic in San Francisco.

“I was very satisfied how I played the last hole,” Park said. “Overall, play today was not as good as what I should have played. Made few mistakes out there. I’m trying to cancel that out for next two days, and hopefully I can get through.”

The tournament is the LPGA Tour’s first match play event since the 2017 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico.

“Feels just really weird playing in the hometown and just waking up on your own bed and just going to the tournament,” Park said. “It’s something I’ve never done before.”

Park and Chang are in a four-player group with Celine Boutier and Gaby Lopez. Boutier beat Lopez 4 and 2 to take the early lead for a spot in the final 16. In the sixth-ranked Kang’s pod, Lizette Salas beat Madelene Sagstrom 5 and 4.

Top-ranked Jin Young Ko edged Natalie Gulbis 4 and 2. Gulbis got into the field as sponsor exemption replacement for Michelle Wie West.

“My swing feel wasn’t good, so I try to find which feel is better for my swing,” Ko said. “But I found a little bit No. 14 or 15. I had great round with Natalie.”

Caroline Masson kept pace in the group, beating Anna Nordqvist 3 and 2.

Stacy Lewis beat Mi Hyang Lee 5 and 4.

“I guess strangest part is that there is not a whole lot of people watching,” Lewis said. “I’m used to match play with thousands of people around, so that part was a little strange. But this golf course is growing on me the more I play it. I feel like it’s a ball-striker’s course. If you can really think your way around you can play pretty well.”

She had a message for the players who skipped the event.

“They’re really taking care of us this week,” Lewis said. “Girls that aren’t here, you should want to be here. This is such a cool week with everything they’re doing for us. The golf course is absolutely perfect.”

In the other match in Lewis’ group, ANA Inspiration winner Patty Tavatanakit tied Sarah Kemp.

Third-ranked Sei Young Kim won the 18th with a par to tie Ayako Uehara.

Fifth-ranked Brooke Henderson fell 1 up to Jenny Coleman.

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