Twenty-two major champions will compete in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week at Westchester Country Club. With a $3.5 million purse and the chance to win a historic title, competition will be fierce from top to bottom of the 156-player field. So, with such a large field of world-class players, who should you keep your eyes on? Here are our picks for the top five to watch:
Inbee Park, the defending LPGA Champion (she won in 2013, too), has two wins so far this year: the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout and the HSBC Women’s Championship. Four other top-tens contributed to her current number two rank on the LPGA money list. She’s a five-time major winner—including a breakout win at age 19 at the 2008 US Women’s Open, which she came back to win again in 2013, the year Park became the second woman ever to have captured three Grand Slam events in the same season (Babe Zaharias is the only other one).
Lydia Ko is currently ranked first on the Race to the CME Globe, having notched victories in the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic and the Women’s Australian Open this year, as well as five other top-ten finishes. The 18-year-old New Zealander is the youngest player of either gender to be ranked top in professional golf (she was 17 when she achieved that recognition). She turned pro in 2014, scored three tournament wins, and won the inaugural Race to the CME Globe, taking home the $1 million bonus. Despite her youth and relatively short career, she’s been called the “best player to never win a major.” Could this be her first?
Fourth in the Race to the CME Globe, Stacy Lewis is the highest-ranked American golfer on the list. She hasn’t posted a win this year, but has placed in the top 10 in seven of the 10 events she played—with three second-place finishes. Last year, Lewis captured three victories and swept the LPGA’s three most prestigious honors—the Rolex Player of the Year, The Vare Trophy, and the Money List title. Lewis’ first professional win was a big one: the 2011 Kraft Nabisco championship. She followed that up in 2013 with her second major, the Women’s British Open title.
Sei Young Kim is celebrating her rookie year on the LPGA tour with two wins so far: the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic and the Lotte Championship, where she defeated Inbee Park by holing out for an eagle in the first playoff hole. Kim won five times on the Korean LPGA in 2014 and 2013 and led that tour in driving distance both years.
Cristie Kerr could be a darkhorse. The two-time major winner (with victories including the LPGA Championship in 2010) hasn’t been a teenager for a few years (she’s 37), but she’s won once and chalked up three top-tens this year so far. She jumped to seventh on the Race to the CME Globe list with a near-stellar performance in the Manulife LPGA Classic this past weekend. The lefty plays golf right-handed and has won 24 times as a professional.
Some others to watch this week include:
Korean Amy Lang captured her second LPGA title this year at the Honda LPGA Thailand.
Brittany Lincicome won the ANA Inspiration this year, her fifth LPGA title. Lincicome, the Kraft Nabisco Championship winner in 2009, lost the LPGA Championship title last year to Inbee Park in a playoff. She led the LPGA tour last year in driving distance by averaging 271.462 yards off the tee.
Anna Nordqvist won this year’s ShopRite Classic in Atlantic City just two weeks before the KPMG, moving her up the money list and definitely putting her in contention at Westchester.
Morgan Pressel, the youngest-ever winner of a modern LPGA major (the Kraft Nabisco—now the ANA Inspiration–in 2007) is having a comeback year of sorts in 2015, logging a T3 in the recent ShopRite Classic, second in the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, and third in the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major.
Suzann Pettersen has had an up and down year so far in 2015, but gained some momentum with her win Sunday at the Manulife LPGA Classic.