Kang, Salas set up friendly LPGA Match Play showdown

Sports

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AP) — Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas set up a showdown Friday for a spot in the final 16 in the LPGA Match Play. First, they planned to watch “Friends: The Reunion” together.

“Of course,” Salas said.

“There’s a reunion,” Kang added.

“We have matching `Friends’-like doors, the yellow frame,” Salas said. “We have matching key chains. She got the set.”

The friends each won their first two matches at Shadow Creek to set up the duel for a spot in the final 16. On Thursday in hot conditions, Kang beat Madelene Sagstrom 2 and 1, and Salas topped Albane Valenzuela 3 and 2.

Kang is a Las Vegas resident and ambassador for course owner MGM Resorts.

“Tomorrow is going to be definitely interesting,” Kang said. “I’m playing one of my best friends. But at the end of the day, we’re still competitors. Just going to go out there and play the best we can, and at the end of the day I want to win and I know she wants to win. So we’re going to bring our A games and see who comes out on top.”

Salas is coming off her best finish of the year, a tie for fifth last week in the Pure Silk Championship in Virginia.

“We go way back and we know each other’s games, and obviously this is her home course,” Salas said. “I have to focus on me and what I’m capable of. I believe my game is there and I could maneuver my way around this golf course. It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be fun.”

Second-ranked Inbee Park, the Hall of Famer from South Korea who went to high school in Las Vegas and lives in the area, rebounded from an opening tie to beat Celine Boutier 5 and 3.

“Just trying to play a bit better than the day before,” Park said. “There are not many birdies out here, so trying to hit some shots that I really need to hit and trying to eliminate some bogeys out there.”

Stacy Lewis will face ANA Inspiration winner Patty Tavatanakit for a spot in single elimination in the final event before the U.S. Women’s Open is week at Olympic in San Francisco. They were both 1-0-1, with Lewis winning the final two holes with pars to tie Sarah Kemp, and Tavatanakit beating Mi Hyang Lee 2 and 1.

“I just tried to play smart,” Lewis said. “Luckily par was good enough.”

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

“This format is a little strange,” Lewis said. “We’re still trying to figure out how it all works. Feel like you do all this work to get to the point tomorrow where you do have an opportunity to advance, and so you kind of have to throw everything out, forget about what you did the last two days, and really just comes down to tomorrow.”

Top-ranked Jin Young Ko held off Caroline Masson 1 up for her second victory.

Third-ranked Sei Young Kim, the winner in the 2017 event in Mexico, won the 18th for the second straight day for her second tie, this time with Yu Liu. To advance, Kim will need to beat Brittany Altomare and then beat her again in a playoff. Altomare birdied the 18th for a 1-up victory over Ayako Uehara and 2-0 record.

Fourth-seeded Brooke Henderson dropped out of contention with her second straight loss, falling 1 up when Ashleigh Buhai won the par-5 18th with a birdie.

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