For the second year in a row, major golf returns to the Pacific Northwest. Last summer, men’s professional golf made its first stop at Chambers Bay for the U.S. Open. Starting today, the LPGA Tour will tee it up for the first time at Sahalee for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
With all of the top 100 LPGA players competing, the total field of 156 for this year’s tournament is arguably one of the strongest on the Tour’s schedule.
Three-time defending champion Inbee Park is positioned to make history this week by becoming the first female golfer to ever win the same major championship four consecutive times. Park, 27, is also looking to cement her place in the LPGA Hall of Fame as Thursday’s round will mark the 10th start she needs to meet the Tour’s 10-year membership requirement. Park’s Hall of Fame induction may be all but guaranteed. However, with a thumb injury still in question, a win this week may be a much taller order.
After missing the cut at last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, her only cut missed since turning professional, world No. 1 Lydia Ko is determined to dominate this time. Ko has won the last two LPGA major championships, becoming the youngest two-time major winner in Tour history. With a win at Sahalee, the 19-year-old would become only the fourth woman in Tour history to win three majors in a row. Boasting two wins and six top-10 finishes this season, Ko easily has one of the best chances to win this week.
Ariya Jutanugarn is another player looking to make history by claiming a fourth straight win. The 20-year-old is the first Thai player to win on the LPGA Tour and has recently moved up to the No. 2 spot in earnings and No. 10 in the world rankings. Jutanugarn is the first player in Tour history to have her first three career wins in consecutive tournaments. If she can find success with the same strategy she used to win at the Volvik Championship – playing without driver – Jutanugarn has a good shot at the title.
Other notable players in the field this week:
• World No 3. Lexi Thompson, who at age 12 was the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open and at age 16 became the youngest player to win on the LPGA Tour. Thompson, 21, has one win and seven top-10 finishes this season.
• Brooke Henderson, 18, became the third-youngest winner in LPGA history after clinching the title at the Cambia Portland Classic last year. Henderson has finished in the top 10 in nine events this year and is ranked No. 4 in the world.
• At 31, world No. 7 Stacy Lewis is one of the more seasoned players in the field. Although she has been winless since 2014, Lewis arrives at Sahalee with top-20 finishes in the last 13 majors.
• Three former Husky golfers will also tee off this week: Sadena Parks of Spanaway, Korea’s SooBin Kim and Jing Yan of China.
It’s no secret that the key to scoring low at Sahalee will be hitting fairways. The second hole is a reachable par 5 for the long-hitters with a risk/reward opportunity approaching the green. Three of four par 3s have water hazards and threaten the largest scoring average in relation to par. The small greens combined with tough pin placements will offer their own challenge, and with holes 14, 15, 16 playing a bit tighter, there will be added pressure to finish strong.
Programming note: “The Golf Show” with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe will broadcast live from the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship “Fan Zone” from noon-2 on Saturday 9-11 a.m. Sunday.