Hazeltine National Golf Club will present the longest test in the 65-year history of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Playing at 6,807 yards, Hazeltine will break the record previously established at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer, Illinois, which measured 6,741 yards last year.
Defending Champion Sung Hyun Park has made 16 career starts in major championships. She has six top 10s, four top-3 finishes and two victories (2018 KPMG Women's PGA Championship, 2017 U.S. Women's Open). Since her victory last June at Kemper Lakes, however, her best finish in four majors is a T-12 at last month's U.S. Women's Open.
She also has three more opportunities, including this week in Minnesota, to post a major championship victory for the third straight year. The last player to win at least one major three years in a row was Inbee Park (2013-15).
This week, reigning champion Sung Hyun Park 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.
Brooke Henderson is also playing for a slice of Canadian golf history, for if she were to win this week at Hazeltine, she’d become the first Canadian golfer – man or woman – to win multiple major championships. To date, the only Canadians to win golf majors are Henderson (2016 KPMG Women's PGA Championship), Sandra Post (1968 LPGA Championship) and Mike Weir (2003 Masters).
Three of Henderson's nine career professional victories have occurred in Canada (2018 CP Women's Open) or a U.S. State that borders Canada (2017, '19 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give). Minnesota shares a 547-mile border with the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.
Seven players have a mathematical chance to overtake Rolex Rankings World No. 1 Jin Young Ko following their finish at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Lexi Thompson is the only player who is projected to become No. 1 outright with a win. All other scenarios for players depend on their performance compared to the top-ranked players in the world rankings. Note: There may be additional possibilities with tie scenarios and separate projection scenarios would need to be run to check.
No. 2 Lexi Thompson
No. 3 Minjee Lee
No. 4 Sung Hyun Park
No. 5 Brooke Henderson
No. 6 Nasa Hataoka
No. 7 Jeongeun Lee6
No. 10 Inbee Park
The previous four KPMG Women’s PGA Champions have entered the week of their eventual win coming off subpar performances, with the exception of Inbee Park in 2015.
Year KWPGA Champion Finish / Event
2018 Sung Hyun Park T-61 / Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
2017 Danielle Kang MC / Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
2016 Brooke Henderson T-45 / ShopRite LPGA Classic
2015 Inbee Park T-11/ Manulife LPGA Classic
Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn and Lexi Thompson are paired together in Rounds 1 & 2 this week at Hazeltine National Golf Club. While most will quickly note that all three are major champions, the slightly lesser-known bond among the trio is that they each won the Girls Junior PGA Championship. Even greater, Park (2001, '02), Thompson (2007, '09) and Jutanugarn (2011, '12) are all two-time Girls Junior PGA Champions.
Other Girls Junior PGA Champions in the field this week are Cristie Kerr (1995), Brittany Altomare (2006) and Kristen Gillman (2014).
Rookie LPGA Professional Sarah Burnham of Maple Grove, Minnesota, will hit the first tee shot at 7:40 a.m. Thursday in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Her journey to get that honor began with making the cut last weekend in the Meijer LPGA Classic. She posted a 9-under-par 279, which tied her for 33rd place, and earned $13,208. With Meijer LPGA Classic winner Brooke Henderson already in the field as a past KPMG Women’s PGA Champion, Burnham awaited the Sunday night recalibration of the LPGA money list to learn her fate.
Burnham, a three-time All-American and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year at Michigan State University, ranks 145th on the season money list. That was just three dollars above the cut line. She now makes her debut in a Championship conducted just 25 miles southwest of her hometown.
“My caddie told me that we had a shot, but I didn’t know for sure until about 7:30 Sunday night,” said Burnham, who competed in the 2015 U.S. Women's Open as an amateur. “I feel like Minnesota is a big family. There’s not a lot of people that come from Minnesota that travel around to watch us play. This is the chance to see friends and family and I’m real excited.”
A lot of pre-championship chatter has focused on the par-4 16th at Hazeltine National Golf Club. The hole was once described by PGA Tour great Johnny Miller as “probably the hardest four par I ever played.” The hole, which will play as long as 370 yards and as short as 240 yards, features a tee shot that flies over Hazeltine Lake and must be kept short of a creek on the left side of the fairway. The right rough can be penal while the narrow, elevated green angles away and is difficult to hold with approach shots. Hole locations along the right side of the green bring the lake back into play.
When asked what hole stands out to her this week at Hazeltine National, two-time LPGA winner Nelly Korda said: “I think 16 is cool. I think they were in talks of maybe making it a drivable par-4. I think it's actually harder as a drivable par-4 because you're putting the water into play a bit more on the right side. So I think that's going to be a really cool hole and see how people play that down the stretch on Sunday.”
“It's actually a pretty difficult tee shot. You can hit driver, you can hit 3-wood but either one you have to pick a really good line and I think they'll probably make it driveable at some point, too. That will kind of change the hole completely,” added 12-time winner Stacy Lewis. “You think of this short par 4, pretty easy hole but it's really not. You really have to be specific off the tee and whether the fairways are running a lot or earlier in the morning you can probably hit more club. There's a lot of variables that go into that tee shot.
The 16th hole is considered a signature hole for Hazeltine National and is this week’s Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole. During the 2016 Ryder Cup, it played as the seventh hole, but this week’s tournament will place the hole as it typically plays for the Hazeltine members.
Sarah Burnham, who grew up 22 miles north of Hazeltine National Golf Club in Maple Grove, will kick off the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship with the first tee shot at 7:40 a.m. at No. 1 playing alongside Tiffany Joh and Pavarisa Yoktuan.
2018 KPMG Women’s PGA champion Sung Hyun Park opens her title defense at 2:33 p.m. at No. 1, playing with past KPMG Women’s PGA champions Anna Nordqvist (2009) and Danielle Kang (2017)
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko, winner of the 2019 ANA Inspiration, will play with Americans Nelly Korda and Cristie Kerr at 2:44 p.m. off the first tee
Jeongeun Lee6, who three weeks ago became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the U.S. Women’s Open, starts at 8:35 a.m. at No. 1, grouped with 2012 KPMG Women’s PGA winner Shanshan Feng and 2019 LPGA Tour rookie Maria Fassi
Stephanie Connelly Eiswerth won the 2018 LPGA Teaching and Club Professional National Championship to earn a spot in this week’s field; she will tee off No. 1 at 9:41 a.m. with Jeong Eun Lee and Gemma Dryburgh.