The thing that makes winning major championships so difficult is that they are both bigger and fewer. The attention is greater; the courses are harder and the money is richer. But there are only five majors annually on the LPGA Tour. So the opportunities are extremely limited. This week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is one of those rare chances to earn a place in golf’s history.
For the sixth consecutive year, the PGA of America is taking the KPMG to a classic venue that previously held a men’s major. Atlanta Athletic Club joins Aronimink GC, Hazeltine National GC, Kemper Lakes GC, Olympia Fields CC and Sahalee GC as major venues that have played host to a Women’s PGA since the first KPMG was played at Westchester CC in 2015.
And as further proof of the elevation of the women’s game over the last decade, all three of the 2021 LPGA Tour majors that travel are at sites that have held men’s majors. Atlanta AC follows the U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club and precedes the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie GL. The ANA Inspiration is at Mission Hills CC every year while the Amundi Evian Championship is at the Evian Resort GC in France annually.
The other added pressure of the majors is that they are held in the shadows of giants. Atlanta AC was the home course of Bobby Jones and Atlanta was the birthplace of Louise Suggs who, in 1950, was one of the 13 Founders of the LPGA Tour. She’s also one of the best ever, winning 61 times with 11 majors, including the 1957 Women’s PGA.
This KPMG Women’s PGA arrives at a time of unparalleled talent on the LPGA Tour. With Yuka Saso winning the U.S. Women’s Open and Patty Tavatanakit taking the ANA Inspiration, the last 10 majors have been won by 10 different players, going back to Jin Young Ko at the 2019 ANA, which she followed up at the Amundi Evian later that year.
In fact, since KPMG and the PGA teamed with the LPGA Tour to elevate the LPGA Championship in 2015, 25 players have won the 31 majors with Jin Young Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, Sung Hyun Park, Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun and Inbee Park the two-time winners during that stretch.
Until Nelly Korda won the Meijer Classic on Sunday, the 13 events this year had 13 different winners. Joining Tavatanakit, Saso and Korda in the 2021 winner’s circle are previous major champions Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Hyo Joo Kim and Ariya Jutanugarn as well as top Rolex Rankings players Jessica Korda, Ally Ewing and Austin Ernst along with rising stars Wei-Ling Hsu and Matilda Castren.
A crucial component of the Women’s PGA – an innovation since emulated by other sporting events – is the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit. This will be its seventh year of bringing together leaders from business, politics, sports and media to help forge a path for women to the C-suite. This year’s keynote speaker is Patty Jenkins, the award-winning writer/director of “Wonder Woman” and “Wonder Woman 1984.”
She’ll be joined by Angela Hwang, Group President, Pfizer Biopharmaceutical Group; Paul Knoop, KPMG U.S. Chair and CEO; two-time LPGA major champion Stacy Lewis; Laura Newinski, KPMG U.S. Deputy Chair and COO; Condoleezza Rice, 66th U.S. Secretary of State and Chuck Robbins, Chairman & CEO, Cisco with NBC Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tafoya serving as emcee.
“We have high expectations that the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and the KPMG Women's Leadership Summit will inspire and challenge young women professionals to aspire to amazing heights and to know that they can do more,” said Laura Newinski of KPMG. “Even more importantly, we know that the championship week as well as the KPMG Women's Leadership Summit will inspire leaders to make different decisions about opening those doors and knocking down those barriers and making it happen for talented women to have a way to success that they didn't see before.”
The 156-player field includes eight PGA/LPGA Club Professionals who qualified during the 2020 PGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship, won by Sandra Changkija. She’s joined by Joanna Coe, Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth, Moira Dunn-Bohls, Ashley Grier, Allie Knight, Samantha Morrell and Alisa Rodriguez.
The 2020 Women’s PGA, which was pushed into October by the pandemic, was won by Sei Young Kim who, at the time, was on the short list of the best players in women’s golf yet to win a major. That’s a list that Nelly Korda, with five LPGA Tour victories at the age of 22, likely tops now.
“I'm so excited,” Kim said after winning at Aronimink. “I'm hiding my tears at the moment. It was a major that I really wanted. It’s a dream come true. I'm waiting for a while to reach my biggest goal to win a major tournament, so I'm very glad to win the first major tournament at the KPMG.”
Kim, who already had 10 LPGA Tour victories, was aware that a major championship lifts her to a higher shelf in the trophy case of golf’s history.
“I won't lie, I did feel the pressure starting last night,” she said after hoisting the trophy. “I feel the pressure every week but especially in a major championship. I've felt pressure every time I've played in one, and I feel it in the players' eyes when I come to a major championship, everybody is really eager to win this one.”
A month later, Kim added her 12th victory at the Pelican Women’s Championship. This week, she’ll try to become the first back-to-back winner of the Women’s PGA in the KPMG era and the first since Inbee Park won three in a row 2013-15. Majors, after all, are where history is made.