News & Opinion

Kang gives U.S. jolt of can-do moxie

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – When did answering questions honestly become such an issue?

The number of negative tweets and storylines about Danielle Kang’s candid and authentic response to questions asked of the American in her joint interview with teammate Lizette Salas on Wednesday here at Gleneagles, site of this week’s Solheim Cup, seemed to miss the mark.

American Danielle Kang,  Solheim Cup
American Danielle Kang, who will sit this morning’s opening session at the Solheim Cup, embraces the one-on-one challenge of match play.

What clearly was refreshing to me was seen as undesirable to others.

First, let’s understand one thing about these Solheim Cup matches: They were started three decades ago as exhibitions but have evolved into fierce competitions. For one week every two years, the American and European opponents really don’t like one another, as Kang suggested.

“That psychological part of it is what’s fun for me, that I’m going after this one person,” Kang said of the match-play element. “Either she wins, or I win. It’s kind of 50/50, higher-percentage chance there, and it’s kind of fun.”

Kang will not play in this morning’s opening foursomes (alternate shot) session (pairings).

At age 26, Kang has embraced the Solheim Cup experience. She posted a 3-1-0 record as the Americans won the 2017 matches in Des Moines, Iowa. Kang is one of only three U.S. players with winning records in the Solheim Cup. Morgan Pressel is 10-7-2 in five appearances, and Lexi Thompson is 5-2-4 in four editions.

“I’m definitely going to embrace the first tee,” Kang said of the massive 2,500-seat caldron surrounding the opening tee. “I’m going to embrace whenever I get a chance to hit it. I’m going to embrace the fans out there for the entire golf course, whenever I get to play.”

Isn’t this what we want to see, 12 players hungry to play well and win a point, and more importantly to embrace the experience?

Many observers in the U.K. are putting Kang in the same pot as Patrick Reed, who on this very course at Gleneagles made the famous “shush” gesture to quiet a partisan European crowd during the Americans’ 16½-11½ loss in the 2014 Ryder Cup. At the time, many observers saw the act as arrogant and even disrespectful, but that was how Reed handled his Ryder Cup debut experience.

Kang welcomes the noise of a team event and intends to feed off of it, regardless of whether it will be for or against the Americans.

Her approach is one of respect but not compliance.

“I can’t shush the crowd,” Kang said. “I like noise. I can’t be shushed. I don’t know how you guys would be shushed, but I like noise.”

The U.S. team, which leads the biennial series, 10-5, will seek to win its third consecutive Solheim Cup under captain Juli Inkster, which would be a first for an American captain.

With six rookies on the team – a scratch earlier this week by Stacy Lewis because of a back injury prompted the addition of Ally McDonald – and playing on foreign soil, the Americans can use the breath of fresh air that Kang presents.

“I don’t really know Ally’s game very well, but I do know that I trust Juli’s judgment,” Kang said of the newest member of the team.

How refreshing to hear Kang support Inkster’s decision. The last captain of a U.S. team at Gleneagles, Tom Watson, was undermined by one of his own players, Phil Mickelson, on Sunday night after the lopsided loss.

It’s clear after listening to Kang that she is all in for the matches. In a week when the U.S. team is not nearly as strong as it has been in the past, and playing overseas, Inkster needs as many Kangs as she can get.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli