This past weekend, Danielle Kang celebrated her 27th birthday in style, blowing out her birthday cake candles in the Winner’s Circle after successfully defending her title at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.
“Yeah, that's got a nice ring to it – back to back,” Kang said after the win. “I’ve done that in the U.S. Am (she won consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur titles in 2010 and 2011) and did it again (today). It's really cool to defend, so I'm really excited.”
Despite not having her “A” game, Kang fired a bogey-free, 2-under-par 70 in the final round at Qizhong Garden Golf Club. By her own count, Kang short-sided herself five times during the final round, but she was able to get up and down on each occasion, displaying short game skill that we don't often see from a player who is better known for her talents as a ball-striker. Grinding on every hole, Kang fended off the challenge of Jessica Korda (Pro V1), who she edged by a single shot. Kang finished with a winning score of 16-under 272, breaking the tournament record she set last year.
It was a gutsy performance from Kang, who now has three career LPGA Tour victories, including a major at the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship. She’s trusted a Pro V1x golf ball throughout, citing the ball’s combination of distance and control as the reasons behind her choice:
“For me on the LPGA Tour, being able to carry the bunkers, take aggressive lines is important,” Kang told Team Titleist earlier this year. “I think that gives you a little bit of an advantage as a long hitter. I play the Titleist Pro V1x because during ball testing we found out that Pro V1x has higher ball speed for me, higher ball spin. I'm hitting it so far. It's the launch. The ball flies higher, spins more and carries further."
Last season, Danielle transitioned into the 2019 Pro V1x and to learn more, we reached out to Jeff Beyers, Tour Consultant for Golf Ball Performance. Jeff is a member of the Titleist Golf Ball R&D team and he led Danielle through the fitting process that resulted in her switch to the new Pro V1x.
"In Danielle's case, she needed a little higher flight and a little more carry distance, particularly in the long end of the set," Jeff told us. "2019 X provided more speed and spin than the previous generation Pro V1x. In TrackMan testing, we saw an immediate improvement with her driver and fairway metals and she increased her carry by five, six yards with her 4- and 5-irons. That was a nice bonus, because Danielle is comfortable with those clubs. But if she hadn't been able to improve her flight and carry, she was probably going to start looking for a hybrid option."
Another nice surprise that came with the additional speed and spin that Danielle realized with the 2019 Pro V1x was greater command over her shots.
“The combination of more speed and more spin gives me more control," Danielle said. "I like to shape the ball, but I don’t like the ball being wild. If I want to hit a draw I need to curve it a very specific amount. Pro V1x gives me absolute control.”
As we saw in China, that level of control extends to the short game, too. In fact, for most players, Pro V1x spins slightly more than Pro V1 on finesse shots around the green, a performance feature that can benefit many players who need more stopping power on chips and pitches.
We asked Jeff if the short game is also a consideration when tour players are considering new golf ball models.
"Without a doubt. On Tour, we have the luxury of using TrackMan when we test with players like Danielle. That gives us a great baseline, because we can narrow options down very quickly based on the performance features players are looking for and how they naturally launch and spin various shots.
But testing really has to continue out on the golf course. Players need to hit real shots, a variety of shots. And they need to spend a lot of time comparing models around the greens. No player is going to tee up a new golf ball until they know that it's going to perform for them in every phases of the game."
Thanks for the insights, Jeff. And congratulations, Danielle on your title defense in Shanghai!
To learn more about Titleist golf ball fitting options and to find the best golf ball for your game, visit our Golf Ball Fitting page.