The LPGA Tour heads to Washington this week as the Women’s PGA Championship tees off at the Sahalee Country Club.
The likes of world number one Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn and last week’s winner Anna Nordqvist come in as favourites, but Korea’s Inbee Park is seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive PGA Championship win.
The 27-year-old claimed the title last year by a convincing five strokes thanks to Saturday seven-under-par 66 on the Westchester Country Club par 73 layout. The Women’s PGA Championship had a fixed venue for a period of time, but 2016 marks the fourth time in as many years that there has been a new venue. The change has seemingly had no effect on Park as she prevailed each time. Her wins in 2013 and 2014 came virtue of play-offs, showing that she has nerves of steel when it comes to major moments.
Her 2015 season was one of her best yet as she added to her PGA title by winning another major in the form of the Women’s British Open, along with the North Texas Shootout title and prestigious Lorena Ochoa Invitational. All this added up to her overtaking Lydia Ko and being the top female golfer for a period of time, although 2016 has been a very different story.
The seven-time major winner has struggled with a serious thumb injury that is threatening her career and has been forced to withdraw three times from tournaments on tour this season including twice in her last two outings.
She has shown glimpses of last year with a runner-up finish at the Kia Classic and performed well at the first Women’s major, the ANA Inspiration, where she tied for sixth place. The Korean has shown her fighting spirit as she battles against her thumb injury and still manages to produce top finishes.
While it is unclear whether Park will be able to bear through the pain, she is sure to make a valiant attempt to claim four in a row, something not many could dream of on the LPGA Tour.
From a South African perspective, Ashleigh Simon, Lee-Anne Pace , Paula Reto and Bertine Strauss are in the field.
Pace is coming into the week with some form, having recorded a second place as well as five further top-30 finishes on tour this year. She also tied for 14th at the ANA Inspiration and will be hoping to improve on her share of 62nd place at last year’s PGA Championship.
Ashleigh Simon is fresh off a top-25 performance at the ShopRite LPGA Classic last week and has finished in the top-30 in three of her last four starts. Paula Reto was in the lead after 18 holes last week before fading, but does have five top-25 finishes this season including two top-10’s. She finished a credible tied-18th at the ANA Inspiration.