Does The Traveling Hannah Green Magic Show have one more day of wonders for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship? There were no hole-outs from bunkers or the rough by Green on Saturday at Hazeltine National but there was more sleight-of-hand with a putter that’s made ball after ball disappear. Green moves into Sunday’s final round at nine-under-par 207, one stroke ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn as she chases history.
Green, who won three times on the Symetra Tour in 2017, has yet to notch an LPGA title – let alone a major championship – but the 22-year-old Australian showed few signs of nerves in her third-round pairing with the long-hitting Jutanugarn, fashioning a solid 70 despite an unruly driver. She put the ball in the short grass only six times off the tee yet still hit 16 greens.
And, oh my, that putter is truly her magic wand. She waved it 30 times in the third round – three on the final green – and is averaging only 26.6 putts per round on the week. After opening the third round with three consecutive pars, Green rolled in a 15-foot birdie on No. 4 and then made one from another Zip Code on No. 5. She played par golf the rest of the way with two birdies and two bogeys.
“Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous on the first tee,” Green said. “Obviously it's my first time in this position so I feel like I will be a little bit nervous come tomorrow but I think when I have more time to wait in between shots that's when I started to feel the nerves and I was like, okay, my heart is beating. I think I need to just slow things down and take my time and make sure I'm not rushing into any shots.”
Green’s one-stroke lead could have been two but missing fairways finally caught up to her on the last hole when she drove into the rough and made only her third bogey in 54 holes. Of course, she’s also made a birdie by holing a bunker shot on Thursday and saved par by knocking in a 60-yard wedge out of the rough on Friday. So she’s got that going for her.
“I hit a bad drive,” Green said about No. 18. “I was lucky enough to be able to have a clear shot to be able to hit the green. I knew it would be a hard two-putt and I mean I've had some really long putts today but that was early in the round. Yeah, pretty disappointing to end with a 3-putt. That's my first one all week.”
Jutanugarn could have been tied with Green, but on the drivable par-4 16th hole she fanned an iron off the tee into the penalty area to the right of the 245-yard hole and made a bogey. A bounce-back birdie on No. 17, her sixth of the day, got Jutanugarn back within two strokes and Green’s bogey on No. 18 made the margin one.
There are plenty of others within striking distance to give Green something to think about as her head hits the pillow Saturday night. Lizette Salas and Nelly Korda, both also seeking their first major, are at 211. Sei Young Kim, who with eight has the most LPGA wins without a major among active players, is at 212 along with defending KPMG Women’s PGA champion Sung Hyun Park.
Seven-time major winner Inbee Park, who is trying to tie the great Mickey Wright with a fourth Women’s PGA championship, is at 213 along with Danielle Kang, Lauren Stephenson, Amy Yang and Angel Yin. Jin Young Ko, Hyo Joo Kim and Moriya Jutanugarn are at 214.
Last year, Jutanugarn had a seven-stroke lead with nine holes to play in the U.S. Women’s Open but squandered that and had to go four extra holes before defeating Hyo Joo Kim. She knows all about final-round pressure, surviving it and learning from adversity.
For Green, this will be a new experience and once again she will be paired with Jutanugarn and have to watch her 3-wood off the tee rocket past her driver. But so far, Green has played entirely within herself, not letting the magnitude of the moment take her out of her game.
This magic show may have one more act in Chaska, Minn., before it hits the road.