Parked In Overdrive
The season’s second Women’s Major Championship was played this week at venerable Westchester Country Club in New York.
Formerly known as the LPGA Championship (Bird Golf’s East Coast Director of Instruction, Mary Mills won it twice), the 2015 version is now named, the “KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, conducted by the PGA of America.”
The KPMG Women’s PGA is the second-longest running tournament in the history of the LPGA and is one of 5 Major Championships contested each year.
The first two days of the event provided some great scoring by the leaders and a big shock for the World’s #1 player, Lydia Ko.
Ko had never missed a cut on the LPGA Tour, making 53 consecutive cuts as both an amateur and professional, but that impressive streak would end at the KPMG. Undone by a back-9, 40 in Friday’s second round of 3-over par, 76, Ko would miss making the cut by a single stroke.
Likely Rookie of the Year, South Korea’s Sei Young Kim, would lead at the halfway mark with a two round total of 8-under par. One shot behind her was former World #1 Inbee Park and Hall of Famer, Karrie Webb. Suzann Pettersen was at 6-under par and tied with 17 year old Canadian Brooke Henderson.
22 year old Kim has already won twice in 2015 capturing both the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic in February and the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY in April.
Park counts 5 Major Championships in her already impressive resume of 14 LPGA Tour victories and is keenly trying to reaffirm her position as the #1 Player in the World. The amazingly consistent South Korean has placed in the Top 10 of 70% of her starts on the LPGA Tour.
Aussie legend, Webb, is still a force to be reckoned with and remains one the best ball strikers in either Men’s or Women’s golf. The 40-year old has 41 LPGA Tour wins to her name and would surely have accumulated a great many more were it not for a sometimes uncooperative putter.
Pettersen won her 15th career title last week at the Manulife LPGA Classic and seems to be starting to play her best golf, which is formidable.
Henderson lobbied the LPGA Tour to allow her membership in August of last year (it requires a special dispensation for a player under 18 years of age to be given membership) but that request was denied. Unperturbed, Henderson turned professional at the end of 2014 and now gets entries into events by either Monday qualifying or from Sponsor’s invitations. To qualify for membership in 2016, Henderson needs to finish in the Top 40 of the 2015 Money list. Coming into the KPAMG, Henderson had earned $184,745 which was 33rd on the Money list.
On Saturday, Kim and Park would separate themselves from the chasers. Kim shot a 4-under par, 69 to be at 12-under par for the week, but Park played flawlessly and bested Kim by 3, shooting a 7-under par 66, that gave her a two shot lead over her fellow countrywoman.
Henderson, Pettersen and Webb were 4 behind Kim at 8-under par, but if Kim and Park continued to play the way that they did for the first 3 days, they would be out of reach.
After making a birdie on the 2nd hole of Sunday’s final round, Kim made consecutive bogies on the 3rd and 4th holes to give Park a 4-shot cushion. A very resilient and impressive string of four consecutive birdies on holes 5-8, pulled Kim to within one stroke of Park, but that would be as close as she would get.
Park continued to play her unflappable style of golf, consistently hitting fairways and greens and would extend her lead to 5 as she recorded an impenetrable 5-under par, 68 and a four day total of 19-under par.
Webb and Pettersen would finish tied for 7th place and Henderson in a 5th place tie with Morgan Pressel who is continuing her renaissance with several top finishes in 2015.
Lexi Thompson recorded the best round on Sunday with a scintillating 7-under par 66 that gave her 3rd place while Kim claimed the runner-up position after finishing with a 2-under par 71.
With this victory, the 26 year old Park wins her third consecutive Women’s PGA Championship, joining Annika Sorenstam as the only players to record such a rare triple. Park also reclaimed the mantle of the World’s best player and the Rolex #1 ranking with a performance that left that acclaim in no doubt.