ROOKIE OF THE YEAR’S SOPHOMORE JINX?
First-round leader Sung Hyun Park, who in 2017 was named the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, is trying to thwart history this week, as no reigning Rookie of the Year has ever won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Jessica Korda carded a 5-under-par 67 on Thursday at Kemper Lakes and is tied for second at the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Korda’s 67 was not only her best in 23 career rounds of this Championship, it was only the second time she scored in the 60s (68, third round, 2017 at Olympia Fields). Korda’s shown signs of breaking out this year, as she won for the fifth time in her career in her 2018 debut at the Honda LPGA Thailand. She then followed that with her second top-5 finish in a major at the ANA Inspiration (T-4) in April (T-5, 2014 Ricoh Women's British Open).
BACK-NINE CHARGE FOR PAST CHAMP
On Thursday, 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Champion Brooke Henderson bogeyed her first two holes (Nos. 10 and 11, as she started on the back). She more than recovered by sinking seven birdies over the next 16 holes, resulting in the round’s low nine-hole score: a back-nine 30 that featured three straight birdies to close her round. A first-round 67 places Henderson in a tie for second.
Henderson has top-5 finishes in each of her three appearances at the Championship: 2015 – T5; 2016 – 1; and 2017 - 2.
GREEN LOOKING FOR MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH AT KEMPER LAKES
Until this week, Jaye Marie Green’s biggest professional accolade was perhaps that she is the only person to medal twice at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, earning the honors in 2013 and 2016. Now sitting in second after 18 holes at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, she is more than up to the challenge of earning her best major finish – and hopefully never having to make a return visit to Q School.
“I love majors because it doesn't make you feel like you have to birdie so many holes,” said Green, who shot a 67 for her first round in the 60s in five trips to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. “It makes you feel like you can be kind of chill and play and let the birdies come to you ... I like more of the grind, where you can make a bogey every now and then and it's okay.”
After turning professional in 2013 following a celebrated amateur career, one that included a runner-up finish to Lydia Ko at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur, Green is still looking for that elusive professional breakthrough. In 106 events since joining the Tour, Green has only been able to crack the top 10 four times, with a best finish of T6 at the 2015 Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic.
But as anyone who walks inside the ropes knows, golf is as much a mental game as it is physical, and Green knows that her game is right there and ready for that glimpse of success.
“I kind of woke up this morning, and I'm like, I care, but like I really don't care, and that's when I play my best,” said Green, who was able to brush off finding water at No. 7 to still make par and keep her round alive. “When you try so hard -- I learned kind of just to let go, and whatever happens.”
LET’S TRY STATESIDE
Jessica Korda has five LPGA wins to her credit, yet only one of those victories has come on U.S. soil. Her third career win, the 2014 Airbus LPGA Classic, took place in Mobile, Ala. Korda has also amassed victories in Australia (2012), the Bahamas (2014), Malaysia (2015) and Thailand (2018) since her rookie campaign of 2011.
PAIR OF ACES
Lexi Thompson recorded a hole-in-one on the 166-yard No. 6 hole Thursday at Kemper Lakes Golf Club. She used an 8-iron. Later in the round, Brittany Marchand recorded a hole-in-one with a 5-iron on the 175-yard No. 17 hole. With the ace, Marchand will take home a 2019 Kia Sorento.
Kemper Lakes Golf Club joins Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass. (1974) and DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del. (2001) as the third club to surrender two hole-in-ones in the same Championship. There have been 24 holes-in-one since 1971.
LEVEL PAR FOR ARIYA
Ariya Jutanugarn, who ranks first on the LPGA's Official Money List, opened with an even-par 72 today. She's tied for 51st place. Jutanugarn went birdie-birdie on Kemper Lakes' initial two holes and took the turn at 2-under, but consecutive bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16 nudged her back to level par. Outside of a third-place finish in 2016, the World's No. 2 ranked player has struggled in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. She's missed the cut twice in three tries and has more rounds of 75+ (4) than those in the 60s (3).
FAR FROM FINISHED
Since 1999, only two eventual champions have held the solo lead following the first round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Yani Tseng (2011 – Locust Hill Country Club, Pittsford, N.Y.) and Brooke Henderson (2016 – Sahalee Country Club, Sammammish, Wash.). Cristie Kerr shared a tie for the lead in 2010 when she won at Locust Hill.
Last week’s winner at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, 19-year-old Nasa Hataoka of Japan, carded a first-round 3-under 69 and sits in a tie for 10th place. The last player to follow an LPGA Tour victory with a win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship the following week was Yani Tseng in 2011 (LPGA State Farm Classic).
Hataoka’s best finish in a major came one month ago at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, where she finished in a tie for 10th.
There are 12 players in the field searching for their first career major win who have finished as the runner-up in a major during their career.
Jennifer Song – 2018 ANA Inspiration
Brittany Altomare – 2017 Evian Championship
Jodi Ewart Shadoff – 2017 Ricoh Women’s British Open
Mirim Lee – 2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open
Charley Hull – 2016 ANA Inspiration
Jin Young Ko – 2015 Ricoh Women’s British Open
Amy Yang – 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, 2015 U.S. Women’s Open
Sei Young Kim – 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Hee Young Park – 2013 Ricoh Women’s British Open
Katherine Kirk – 2010 Ricoh Women’s British Open
Candie Kung – 2009 U.S. Women’s Open
Angela Stanford – 2003 U.S. Women’s Open
There are eight players in the field searching for their first career KPMG Women’s PGA Championship who have finished as the runner-up at this event.
Lydia Ko – 2016
Sei Young Kim – 2015
Brittany Lincicome – 2014
Catriona Matthew – 2013
Stacy Lewis/Eun-Hee Ji – 2012
Morgan Pressel – 2011
Michelle Wie – 2005
FIVE STRAIGHT FOR CURDT
One week after competing against her male PGA colleagues in her first PGA Professional Championship, Alison Curdt of Reseda, Calif., posted a 4-over-par 76 in the first round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. It is Curdt’s fifth consecutive appearance in the women’s major championship. She birdied the 18th hole for a rollercoaster 4-over-par 76.
“The course played very fair today. I hit a couple of wayward shots and didn’t recover very well,” said Curdt, a PGA Master Professional and PGA Director of Instruction at Wood Ranch Golf Club in Simi Valley, Calif.. “Overall, I felt I struck the ball 80 percent solid today. I had a couple of difficult drives that put me in tough positions and the up and downs weren’t as clean as I liked.
“Each Championship gets a little more comfortable. Being here this fifth time, I feel like I belong and can compete. It makes me realize that I have the skills to compete.”
Curdt is a member of an eight-player contingent of PGA of America and LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals in the 156-player field. She is the only player among the group to hold dual PGA and LPGA membership.
“We are all in this together,” said Curdt. “There are a few returners each year and I have gotten to know them as friends and colleagues. We leave here and go straight back to work and bust our butts and help others improve their game.
“It’s been great forming some different types of bonds with the other PGA and LPGA pros, because we are all in this together. We all do the same thing. We work and then show up here and try to do our best. It’s fun to travel with them and to see them and have buddies here during the Championship.”