Cue your best Paul Revere imitation, because the British indeed are coming. When Mel Reid won on Sunday at the ShopRite Classic on the heels of Georgia Hall winning the Cambia Portland Classic, it marked the first time English players had won back-to-back on the LPGA since 1996 (Trish Johnson and Caroline Pierce). Hall has climbed to 29th in the world rankings and Reid to 35th, heading up five English players now ranking in the top 60 in the world. A British resurgence, indeed.
Hall said the back-to-back wins for England were “a long time coming, and it's absolutely great for English golf and English women's golf. Obviously good for Solheim, as well, even though that's quite a way away, still I'm sure that Beanie (European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew) is watching us all play and taking notes.”
The next hurdle for English players to clear? Trying to join Laura Davies (1994, 1996) as the only English winner of the KPMG Women’s PGA (formerly the LPGA Championship). Davies is in the field this week.
Danielle Kang, ranked No. 3 in the world, has an interesting way of taking a look at golf courses ahead of time. She looks at layouts using the Google Maps application on her phone. When she first looked at Aronimink, she noticed there were several holes that crisscrossed.
“I was looking at it as a practice round more than anything, seeing if I could jump from 10 to 8, things like that,” Kang said. But there is much more she can glean from taking such a look.
“From an aerial view,” she continued, “I like to see how many bunkers are in the fairways, if bunkers are hugging the fairways and roughs, and around the greens how undulated it would be. You can't really see the slopes very well but you can see – for instance, like No. 13 there's a bunker protecting the fairway on the left yet there's rough on the right, so we'd have to check the rough on the right. Yet there's a bunker in front of the green with a cover and a drop-off on the back. Things like that.”
Short shots: Hannah Green figured this week might be a little busy (she is defending champion at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship), so before the LPGA visited Atlantic City last week she visited Aronimink for a practice round. She was impressed by the reception she received at the club.
“I know the members were super excited to have us here, which is sometimes a thing that is quite tough, but they were really upset that they couldn't sneak on and watch us, so it feels like we're very welcome to be here,” Green said. “KPMG do a great job with looking after not only players but also the caddies and all the tournament staff. Yeah, I would say a lot of girls would say this is their favorite event of the year, and I would definitely say it is mine.”
South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park, a two-time major champion and winner of the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, likes what she sees in the challenge Aronimink presents. She often plays very well on demanding courses “because I tend to focus more on weeks where I play on difficult courses.”
Park (27) withdrew from the LPGA season finale last November with a shoulder injury but said she’s now pain-free. “There’s no strain on it right now,” she said.
In the event of a sudden-death playoff on Sunday, the playoff contestants will play, in order, Nos. 10, 17 and 18.
The winningest champion in the history of this event? The late Mickey Wright, who won the LPGA Championship four times (1958, 1960, 1961 and 1963). Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak and Inbee Park each have won the event three times. Park is playing this week.