CHASKA, Minn. — There are many different types of players who can win on the LPGA Tour week to week. That’s evident, as 13 different players have won in the 15 events that have been played in 2019. But the range of player who wins the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is likely to be more narrow because the style of play necessary to win is very different from that of the normal LPGA Tour event.
The biggest difference?
“This course, you can’t be aggressive,” said Ariya Jutanugarn, who shot 2-under 70 in her first round, one shot off of the early lead. “You have to be patient.”
That’s not to say the rounds being played at Hazeltine National Golf Club this week are devoid of aggressiveness. For the first time this season, Jutanugarn hit driver — and she did it twice. Players are still hitting difficult high-risk shots. They’re just not firing at pins, trying to make birdies on virtually every hole like they might in a normal LPGA event.
For instance, the event preceding this one, the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, saw a winner who shot 21-under. The average score of the winner of the last three KPMG Women’s PGA Championships is 9.7-under par. The average score of the winner of each four-round tournament thus far this season is 14.9-under par.
“Some of the holes you can be aggressive, but most of the time you can’t because you won’t get a reward out of it,” said Annie Park, who shot 2-under 70. “It’s about where you place yourself. Each shot truly matters.”
Looking at Hazeltine from a purely yardage-based perspective, you’d think this week it’ll be someone who hits the ball really far who will win. At 6,831 yards, it’s a big, demanding golf course. But just being long isn’t going to be enough.
“I think somebody that’s going to be pretty accurate off the tee will be a big thing,” said Lydia Ko (1-under in the first round), “because some holes if you’ve got a 30-footer it’s not really a bad position to putt from so you’re not really attacking all of the pin positions.”
That methodical type of play requires you to sustain yourself on making pars, can be a really hard way to play. It’s not super fun or flashy. It’s more of a dig in and grind it out way to play golf.
As the heavy rain fell during the first round, the second wave of players teeing off had to dig in especially hard.