Seven Australians will tee it up at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota later this evening at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the third of the LPGA Tour season’s five major championships of the 2019 LPGA Tour season.
A field of 144 players will face a stern test this week, competing over a demanding par 72 layout with thick rough and the course set up as the longest test in the 65-year history of the tournament.
Playing at 6,807 yards, Hazeltine will break the record previously established at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer, Illinois, which measured 6,741 yards in 2018.
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is the fourth richest tournament the women’s game, the 2019 purse is US$3.85 million meaning the winner this week will take home the first prize of US$577,500.
This week will mark the 65th playing of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship which began in 1955 as the LPGA Championship, and is the second-longest running tournament in LPGA history, behind only the U.S. Women’s Open.
Of the Australians competing this week West Australian star Minjee Lee will be searching for that so far elusive first major championship, and once again looks the most likely of the Australian contingent to contend come Sunday afternoon.
Lee, 23, has been close to reaching the summit of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings since her win at the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open back in April, but has dropped back down to No. 3 on the back of some great performances in recent weeks from American Lexi Thompson.
For Lee, Australia’s highest ranked golfer, a win could see her achieve a lifelong dream of becoming the No 1 female golfer on the planet, but she does also need the stars to align for this to happen.
For her to become number 1 the following scenarios would need to fall in place –
– Win this week and Jin Young Ko finish solo third or worse.
– Solo second and Jin Young Ko finish solo 14th or worse, Lexi Thompson finish solo third or worse, and Sung Hyun Park, Nasa Hataoka, Jeongeun Lee6 or Inbee Park do not win.
The other Australians in the field this week are LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb (who is also hosting Karrie Webb scholarship winners Grace Kim and Becky Kay this week), Webb’s fellow Queenslander Katherine Kirk, Victorian Su Oh, who equalled her best LPGA performance last week finishing tied for 2nd at the Meijer Classic, New South Wales’s Sarah Kemp, West Australian Hannah Green and former Evian Masters Champion and now full time LPGA teaching professional Wendy Doolan.
The defending champion this week is South Korean former world number 1 Sung Hyun Park, who looks to join five other players who have successfully defended their KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory: Mickey Wright (1960-61); Patty Sheehan (1983-84); Juli Inkster (1999-2000); Annika Sorenstam (2003-05); and Inbee Park (2013-15).
Brooke Henderson, the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Champion, was the last defending champion to make a serious bid for back-to-back victories. After winning at Sahalee in 2016, she finished runner-up in ’17 at Olympia Fields and comes into this event in red hot form after winning last week’s tournament on the LPGA Tour, the LPGA Meijer Classic.
There are also nine winners past winners in the field — Laura Davies (1994, 1996), Shanshan Feng (2012), Brooke Henderson (2016), Danielle Kang (2017), Cristie Kerr (2010), Inbee Park (2013, 2014, 2015), Sung Hyun Park (2018), Anna Nordqvist (2009) and Karrie Webb (2001).
Hazeltine National Golf Club, just outside Minneapolis in Minnesota has previously hosted a string of major golf tournaments including two US Women’s Opens and the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Since the KPMG PGA Championship was rebadged five years ago and moved under the guidance of the PGA of America’s first female president, former LPGA Tour player Suzy Whaley, it has continued to thrive.
“You know, I think all of us dreamt of that,’’ said Whaley. “I think we all wanted to showcase the best females athletes in the world in a way that they deserve on network television, on championship venues that typically only hosted male championships.
“We wanted to deliver an experience to them that was tremendous but also to showcase women’s golf in a way that compelled others to play the game. We wanted to invite others to play the game and do it through watching role models, amazing worldly role models that are on the LPGA Tour and we’re thrilled to be part of that.
“When I lift that trophy on Sunday in honour of the 2019 champion, it’s really an honour of all the women that play on this tour that represent the game of golf in such an incredible way.”
Catch all of the action from the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship live on Fox Sports Australia channel 503 from 8:00 am Friday morning.
KPMG Women’s PGA Championship Tee Times (AEST):
11:02pm: Su Oh, Sarah Kemp, Haeji Kang
11:24pm: Katherine Kirk, Sei Young Kim, Bronte Law
12:19am: Minjee Lee, Lydia Ko, Michelle Wie
4:49am: Karrie Webb, Angela Stanford, Carlota Ciganda
4:16am: Wendy Doolan, Lee-Anne Pace, Daniela Darquea
5:00am: Hannah Green, Jennifer Song, Lindsey Weaver