Out of the Rough: KPMG Women's PGA Championship
It’s time for the second Major of the LPGA season with a trip to Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course in Springfield, New Jersey for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
This event has served as the spearhead in both improving and developing the LPGA to what it is today.
Eight years ago, an alliance was formed to create the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The reimaged Major championship has since become the front-runner for the LPGA. It aided in other major entities and corporate partners following suit.
In 2015, the LPGA was reinvigorated through partnerships of the PGA of America, KPMG and the LPGA which offered new-life into the Tour and its long-standing Major championships.
This alliance allowed for the purses of such events to be drastically heightened as it was increased from $2.25 to $2.5 million in 2015 and then to $4.5 million. The purse had doubled to $9 million last year
Due to this championship’s progressiveness, other Major championships have followed suit. In 2022 the Chevron Championship increased its purse to $5.1 million with a new title sponsor. The U.S. Women’s Open too brought on a new presenting sponsor and increased its purse to $10 million. AIG Women’s Open also increased its purse to $7.3 million and brought the LPGA to historic venues such as Muirfield for the very first time.
Along with an increase in purse size, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship too was the spearhead in bringing the women's game to some of golf’s premier venues, such as this year’s installment at Baltusrol Golf Club.
This week’s field will feature 156-golfers and includes 19-of-the-top-20 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Included in the field is current World #1 Jin Young Ko. She has held the position for 158 weeks, tying Lorena Ochoa’s record.
Ko is a two-time winner this season and is looking to claim her third career Major championship and first KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Lilia Vu too will be teeing it up this week as the winner of the first Major of the season at The Chevron Championship. She joins Ko as the only other two-time winner on Tour so far this season.
Other winners this season on Tour and in this week’s field include Brooke Henderson, Ashleigh Buhai, Grace Kim, Hannah Green, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and last week’s winner and KPMG ambassador, Leona Maguire.
One of the biggest storylines this week is the return of Nelly Korda who has been sidelined due to injury since May. She is the 2021 winner of this event at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Rose Zhang, who won in her professional debut at the Mizuho Americas Open will be making her LPGA Major debut this week as well.
South Korea’s In Gee Chun is the defending champion of this event and is in this week’s field looking to become a back-to-back KPMG Women’s PGA Champion. Chun narrowly beat Minjee Lee and Lexi Thompson by a stroke a year ago.
This is an event that has been dominated by South Korean golfers over the last five years. Three times in those five years has a South Korean golfer won.
Joining Chun as winners of this event and hailing from South Korea are Park Sung-hyun (2018) and Kim Sei-young (2020.)
Hannah Green won this event in 2019 and as previously mentioned, Korda won in 2021.
This week serves as the first time the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be held at Baltusrol’s Lower Course. It’ll be the first time since 2016 that the course has hosted a Major tournament, last hosting the U.S. Open.
The venue has, however, hosted the U.S. Women’s Open twice before, most recently in 1985.
Baltusrol is the only two track club in the United States to have hosted both the men’s and women’s US Opens on both of its layouts.
The Lower Course was designed by A.W. Tillinghast in the 1920s before Robert Trent Jones remastered it in 1952
The course plays as a Par 71 this week at 6,581 yards.
The Lower Course underwent a major restoration in 2020 and this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will give the world its first glimpse of what Major golf will look like at this track since the restoration.
The restorations were completed at the hands of Gil Hanse who did just that, restoring instead of renovating the course, going back to its origins.
The course features wide fairways with relatively small undulations. Due to this, those who are long off the tee will see an advantage this week.
The greens are what will be the difference maker this week. These greens are exceptionally difficult to read. Pace putting will be a valuable tool for any eventual winner.
Baltusrol is known for its closing pair of par-fives.
This includes the 17th, also known as “The Sahara” as the longer of the pair. It’s expected to be a three shot hole for most because of two vast expanses of sand which have to be crossed. It too has grass mounds dotted in the middle of it.
Missing the fairway off the tee will require a long approach shot. Even when hitting the fairway and attempting a shorter approach shot, the hole can trip up a few golfers with a clumsy shot.
The Par five 18th features water down the left side and those who flirt with it can then attack the green it two.
In all, these two closing holes have the ability to make-or-break the tournament for any hopeful winner.
There are 120 bunkers located precisely around the course that have been often times described as ‘cruel.’
The bigger story this week may be the weather. With Tropical Storm Bret looming, there is almost certainly going to be some rain this week. As of the time of writing this there is an 80-percent chance of precipitation on Thursday, 70-percent chance on Friday and 60-percent chance for both Saturday and Sunday. Winds are set to be at the highest on Thursday at 12 miles-per-hour and ten miles-per-hour on Friday before dropping to single digits in terms of miles-per-hour on the weekend. Temperatures too will fluctuate this week, beginning at 66 degrees on Thursday before climbing into the low 80s for Friday through Sunday. Humidity too will be a factor as it’s current set for 85-percent on Thursday before slowly decreasing to 68-percent on Sunday with the rain. In all, it doesn’t look promising.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG)
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Average Driving Distance
Sand Saves Percentage
Par 5 Average Scoring
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Birdie or Better Percentage
Jin Young Ko (+1200)
Ko has been the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings number-one for 158-weeks, tying the record. It’s obvious why she models so well then. Even then, she isn’t the favorite this week according to the sportsbooks. Currently, Atthaya Thitkul is the favorite to win this week’s event. Ko is currently third on Tour in both SG: APP and GIR%, fourth in both SG: TTG and birdie or better percentage, 23rd in par five average scoring, 24th in SG: ATG, 32nd in average driving distance and 61st in SG: PUTT. She’s far-and-away, according to my model, my favorite to win this week. She last played at the Mizuho Americans Open where she placed T13. Prior to that, she won the Cognizant Founders Cup in mid-May. She always won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March and also placed T5th at the LPGA Drive on Championship at Superstition Mountain, T6th at the Honda LPGA Thailand and T9th at the season’s first Major, The Chevron Championship.
Xiyu Lin (+2900)
Lin comes into this week fresh off a T3rd at last week’s Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. She also went T2nd at the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro in late April and T14th at the first Major of the year at The Chevron Championship. She is currently fourth on Tour in par five average scoring, 11th in sand saves percentage, 25th in birdie or better percentage, 30th in both SG: ATG and GIR%, 31st in SG: TTG, 38th in SG: APP, 52nd in SG: PUTT and 63rd in average driving distance. Lin is also 14th in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking as of this week.
Georgia Hall (+3400)
Hall is a name that I tend to gravitate towards when doing these articles. She often models well when it comes to these Major tournaments. She is currently eighth on Tour in par five average scoring, tenth in both SG: PUTT and birdie or better percentage, 14th in SG: APP, 21st in SG: TTG, 23rd in GIR%, 45th in sand saves percentage and 73rd in average driving distance. Her score this week in our model is hindered by a 122nd placement in SG: ATG. She’ll need to find a stroke around the greens this week but the rest of her game will help elevate her. At The Chevron Championship earlier this year, Hall went T12th. She also has results such as back-to-back second place finishes at the LPGA Drive on Championship at Superstition Mountain and the DIO Implant LA Open back in March. She also placed T6th at the LOTTE Championship presented by Koahalei, T10th at both the Honda LPGA Thailand and Cognizant Founders Cup and T14th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
Charley Hull (+5000)
Hull did miss the cut a week ago at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give but on the season has some good showings. She placed T2nd at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions back in January, placed T7th at the LPGA Drive on Championship at Superstition Mountain, T17th at the JM Eagles LA Championship presented by Plastpro and T18th at DIO Implant LA Open. She is currently fifth on Tour in par five average scoring, 15th in birdie or better percentage, 17th in SG: ATG, 22nd in SG: TTG, 33rd in both average driving distance and sand saves percentage, 55th in both SG: PUTT and GIR% and 95th in SG: APP. The approach numbers are a bit concerning which plays in her lower GIR% number as well, but being excellent around the greens and with a strong placement in SG: TTG, I’m not all that concerned.