OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – The great Bobby Jones liked to say, “There is golf and then there is tournament golf.” He could have added: “There is tournament golf and then there is major championship golf.” Nothing is like Sunday at a major, not for the players, the caddies, the fans and everyone involved in the event.
Sometime late this afternoon, as the shadows creep across the fairways and greens of Olympia Fields, someone’s life will change. She will be holding the trophy that goes to the winner of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and her name will be scrawled into a history book peopled by a precious few.
As one agent told me: “For the rest of your life you will be introduced as a major champion. It’s like going from being Elton John to being Sir Elton John. It never goes away.”
Never ending, also, is the regret for those who come tantalizingly close and end up painfully short. For the rest of their lives, in their quiet, alone moments, perhaps as they seek sleep on a restless night, they will relive this shot and that putt, wondering what might have been.
This final-round leader is packed with powerful stories. Sitting on top at 10 under par are Chella Choi and Danielle Kang, two talented twenty-somethings, who have one LPGA victory and no majors between them. Sunday will plop them on a stage unlike any they have known -- in the final group of a major.
Their nearest challenger at two strokes in the rearview mirror is Jiyai Shin, the former Rolex No. 1 and two-time major winner who left the LPGA for the Japan LPGA in 2014 to be nearer her home in South Korea. She has the experience of twice getting the job done at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and, if the wind blows today, she knows how to handle that.
Three back is defending champion Brooke Henderson, who has a ton of experience in pressure situations despite being only 19 years old. Last year she stared down Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn on Sunday at Sahalee and birdied the first playoff hole to take the title from Ko.
And at six under par, four back, are 2015 Rolex Rookie of the Year Sei Young Kim, at 24 already a six-time winner on tour, and Amy Yang, who among her 15 top-10 finishes in the majors has the disappointment of two runner-ups without winning one of the big five events.
If you are looking for someone who could make a move from back in the pack, sitting at five under par is a ton of talent, including major winners Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie and So Yeon Ryu, this year’s runaway leader for Rookie of the Year Sung Hyun Park as well as Gerina Piller and Moriya Jutanugarn, both looking for their first LPGA win.
Buckle up for a big day. It’s not golf, it’s tournament golf. And it’s not just tournament golf, it’s major championship golf. It’s Sunday. It’s the final round at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Today, someone gets golf’s version of being knighted. For the rest of her life she will be known as a major champion.