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Len Ziehm On Golf

Refreshed Kang is ready to defend her KPMG title at Kemper Lakes

The champion will defend at this week’s 64th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes. There was some doubt about that when Danielle Kang pulled out after 11 holes at the Meijer Classic in Michigan two weeks ago, citing only “personal reasons.’’

Last week Kang didn’t seem ready for a major title defense either. She was 1-over-par after two rounds of the Walmart Southwest Arkansas Classic and missed the cut.

Kang explained herself Tuesday after completing her pro-am round on the Kildeer course that previously hosted the men’s PGA Championship in 1989. She was basically just “worn out’’ after a fourth place finish in the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago.

“I pulled a muscle briefly, so I wasn’t feeling that great at the start of that week,’’ Kang said of the WD during the first round in Michigan. “I didn’t want to say that because I just wanted to come back to being 100 percent before I told people that I have not been feeling well. The U.S. Open is so emotional, and I’m so dramatic.’’

Kang said the brief muscle pull came when she hit a shot out of the rough in Michigan. She tried to play through the discomfort but quickly decided “there was no point. I would rather just rest and give my body a break.’’

So that’s what she did, and that apparently did the trick.

“I’m good now. I just needed to sleep,’’ said Kang. “I hibernated. After I WD-ed I slept 18 hours, 20 hours and 11 hours. I only got up to eat one meal a day. I was so tired. I don’t know why,’’

Her play in Tuesday’s rain-hampered pro-am suggests the recovery is complete. She led her team to a 15-under-par 57, which was the best score in the morning wave. Thunderstorms delayed play in both the morning and afternoon.

Last year Kang, winner of back-to-back U.S. Amateurs in 2010 and 2011, held off Canadian Brooke Henderson to win her first LPGA tournament at Olympia Fields – and it was one of the circuit’s five majors, no less.

Henderson, on the other hand, has been great in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She tied for fifth after getting a sponsor’s exemption in 2015, became the youngest player (at 18) to win the title in 2016 and lost by one stroke to Kang last year.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Henderson this year, either. She was a late withdrawal from the U.S. Women’s Open after learning of the death of her grandfather, finished way down in a tie for 44th place in Michigan and didn’t play in the Southwest Arkansas Classic. She did, however, score a repeat win in a two-day team event — the CVS Health Charity Classic, which included some PGA Tour players. It ended on Monday.

“Last week was a bit different,’’ said Henderson. I took a week off and was able to rest a couple days,’’ she said. “The CVS Health Charity Classic was a lot of fun. It’s exciting to play against the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and the best on the LPGA Tour. It’s always a fun challenge.’’

Her pro-am pairing was also fun on Tuesday. She took her first look at Kemper Lakes in the company of Scott Ozanus, chairman of KPMG’s America region; KPMG ambassador Condoleezza Rice and Aramark president Eric Foss.

“The golf course is incredible,’’ said Henderson. “It’s beautiful. It’s quite wet, but it’s in really good condition. It’ll set up for a very challenging and fun week for all of us.’’

Players will get their last pre-tournament look at the 6,741-yard par-72 course in Wednesday’s practice rounds. Feature event on site Wednesday is the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit. Keynote speakers are Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State; KPMG chairman and chief executive officer Lynne Doughtie and retired U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard.

Three Olympians –figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Maia Shibutani and hockey player Hilary Knight — will also be featured in a panel discussion.