Key storylines, top players to follow at the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Lexi Thompson smiles as they walk to the 11th green during the first round of the Palos Verdes Championship.
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The 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship kicks off on Thursday (broadcast schedule, course details, event history here) at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Ahead of the LPGA’s third major of the season, which will feature 18 of the top 20 players in the Rolex Rankings, here are a few of the players and biggest storylines to follow. 

2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Key players to know at Congressional

Nelly Korda

  • As the defending champ, the 23-year-old Korda will look to join Mickey Wright (1960-61), Patty Sheehan (1983-84) and Juli Inkster (1999-2000) – and three-peaters Annika Sorenstam (2003-04-05) and Inbee Park (2013-14-15) – as the only players to successfully defend their Women’s PGA Championship titles. The 23-year-old Korda, ranked No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings, was diagnosed with a blood clot in her left arm in March, forcing her to step away from competition for two months. She returned to action in June at the U.S. Women’s Open and finished T-8, and she held the 54-hole lead last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic before falling in the playoff.

Jin Young Ko

  • The fifth-year LPGA veteran is a 13-time LPGA winner with two major titles on her resume, the 2019 Chevron Championship and 2019 Amundi Evian Championship. The 26-year-old Ko, who ranks No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings and hails from South Korea, ranks third on the LPGA in scoring average in major championships going back to 2017, at 70.85. Only world No. 12 and 2020 KPMG winner Sei Young Kim (70.63) and Inbee Park (70.82) have a better scoring average in that span. She has five top-five finishes in majors since 2019, tied for most of anyone in that span.

Lexi Thompson

  • It’s only a matter of time before the No. 6-ranked Thompson wins a tournament given her recent form: She has five top 10s in eight starts this season with two solo second-place finishes. No player has hit more greens in regulation this season than Thompson (76.5%) and she has 12 top-five finishes in the majors since 2013, tied for second-most in that span.

Minjee Lee

  • The 26-year-old from Australia, No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings, captured her second career major title this year at the U.S. Open, and her second title of the season after also winning the Cognizant Founders Cup in May. She also has two podiums this season, finishing T-2 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship and T-3 at the LA Open. Of note, since the start of 2021, no player has had a better cumulative score to par in the majors than Lee has at 38-under-par (Nelly Korda ranks second at 34 under).

Lydia Ko

  • The 25-year-old New Zealander, ranked world No. 4, captured her 17th career LPGA win in January at the Gainbridge LGPA at Boca Rio, where she beat Danielle Kang by a stroke. On the season, she has six top 10s in 11 starts with her worst finish being a T-25 at the Chevron Championship.

Jessica Korda

  • The 29-year-old sister of last year’s champion, Nelly Korda, has finished in the top-10 in three of six events in 2022 and arrives at Congressional off a T-5 at the Meijer LPGA Classic in her last start. Jessica, a six-time LPGA winner who stands at No. 14 in the world rankings, ranks ninth in rounds in the 60s and 14th in average driving distance.

Jennifer Kupcho

  • The 25-year-old Wake Forest product, ranked No. 9, captured her first major in March at the Chevron Championship, and she won last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic against a similar field, including a playoff against Nelly Korda and Ireland’s Leona Maguire. Kupcho is ninth on tour in total birdies and fifth in eagles.

Brooke Henderson

  • The 11-time LPGA winner recently added to her resume at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, shooting 64 in the final round and beating Lindsey Weaver-Wright in a playoff. She won the KPMG title in 2016 and finished runner-up in 2017. Of note, the 24-year-old world No. 8 has posted eight bogey-free rounds this season, tied for the most on tour.

Past winners of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

Year Winner  Venue  Score Margin Runner(s)-up
 2021 Nelly Korda (USA) Atlanta Athletic Club, Johns Creek, Ga. 19-under 269 Three strokes Lizette Salas (USA)
 2020 Sei Young Kim (South Korea) Aronimink Golf Club, Newtown Square, Penn. 14-under 266 Five strokes Inbee Park (South Korea)
 2019 Hannah Green (Australia)

Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minn.

9-under 279 One stroke Sung Hyun Park (South Korea)
 2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) Kemper Lakes Golf Club, Kildeer, Ill. 10-under 278 Won in playoff Nasa Hataoka (Japan), So Yeon Ryu (South Korea)
 2017 Danielle Kang (USA) Olympia Fields Golf Club (North Course), Olympia Fields, Ill. 13-under 271 One stroke Brooke Henderson (Canada)
 2016 Brooke Henderson (Canada)

Sahalee Country Club, Sammamish, Wash.

6-under 278 Won in playoff Lydia Ko (New Zealand)
 2015 Inbee Park (South Korea) Westchester Country Club (West Course), Harrison, N.Y. 19-under 273 Five strokes Sei Young Kim (South Korea)
 2014 Inbee Park (South Korea)

Monroe Golf Club, Pittsford, N.Y.

11-under 277 Won in playoff Brittany Lincicome (USA)
 2013 Inbee Park (South Korea)

Locust Hill Country Club, Pittsford, N.Y.

5-under 283 Won in playoff Catriona Matthew (Scotland)
 2012 Shanshan Feng (China)

Locust Hill Country Club, Pittsford, N.Y.

6-under 282 Two strokes Mika Miyazato (Japan), Stacy Lewis (USA), Suzann Pettersen (Sweden), Eun-Hee Ji (South Korea)
 2011 Yani Tseng (Taiwan)

Locust Hill Country Club, Pittsford, N.Y.

19-under 269 10 strokes Morgan Pressel (USA)

The NBC golf research team contributed to this report.

2023 LPGA Drive On Championship: How to watch, who’s playing in season’s first full-field event

Jin-young Ko of South Korea and Nelly Korda on the 17th tee during the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship.
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The LPGA Tour makes its return to the Arizona desert this week at the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club. The season’s first full-field event features eight of the world’s top 10 players plus a slew of fresh faces as this year’s rookie class gets its first taste of competition as tour members.

This week’s event features 144 players (plus two Monday qualifiers) competing for the $1.75 million prize purse in a 72-hole tournament that will implement the LPGA’s new cutline policy for the first time. Beginning this week, the 36-hole cut will change from the top 70 players and ties to the top 65 and ties advancing to weekend action. The LPGA says it hopes to “establish a faster pace of play” with the change.”

Arizona last hosted the LPGA for the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club, where Jin Young Ko earned her first of four LPGA titles that season. The tour last played at Superstition Mountain in the Safeway International from 2004 to 2008, where Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam (2004, 2005) and Lorena Ochoa (2007, 2008) each won twice, and Juli Inkster won in 2006.

The tournament marks the first of four events over the next five weeks (taking off the week of the Masters, April 7-10) and kicks off the crescendo that’s building to the LPGA’s first major of the season, The Chevron Championship, April 20-23 in its new location at The Woodlands, Texas. The 72-hole LPGA Drive On Championship features 144 players, in addition to two Monday qualifiers, who will compete for a $1.75 million purse.

How to watch the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship

You can watch the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship on Golf Channel, Peacock, and the NBC Sports app. Check out the complete TV and streaming schedule:

  • Thursday, March 23: 9-11 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, March 24: 9-11 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, March 25: 6-10 p.m. ET, live stream; 7-9 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, March 26: 6-10 p.m. ET, live stream; 7-9 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship

Sitting out this week are world No. 1 Lydia Ko and No. 5 Minjee Lee, but No. 2 Nelly Korda and No. 3 Jin Young Ko are back in action following Ko’s return to the winner’s circle two weeks ago in Singapore, where she held off Korda by two strokes. Also in the field this week are:

  • No. 4 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 7 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 8 In Gee Chun
  • No. 9 Hyo-Joo Kim
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka
  • 2022 major winners Ashleigh Buhai, Jennifer Kupcho, Chun, Henderson

Rookies and Epson Tour graduates making their first starts as LPGA members include 20-year-old Lucy Li, a two-time Epson Tour winner who might be best known for playing the 2014 U.S.  Women’s Open as an 11-year-old; South Korea’s Hae Ran Ryu, who took medalist honors at LPGA Q-Series; and 18-year-old Alexa Pano, who finished tied for 21st at Q School to earn her card but might be best known from her role in the 2013 Netflix documentary, “The Short Game.”

Past winners, history of the Drive On Championship

The Drive On Championship was initially created as a series of LPGA events that marked the tour’s back-to-competition efforts following the pandemic. Each tournament used the “Drive On” slogan in support of the tour’s resilience, beginning with the first series event in July 2020 at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, where Danielle Kang won by one stroke over Celine Boutier. The second event, held in October 2020, replaced the three stops originally scheduled in Asia, and was held at Reynolds Lake Oconee Great Waters Course in Greensboro, Georgia. Ally McDonald captured her career first LPGA title by one stroke over Kang.

The last two “Drive On” events were staged in Florida, at Golden Ocala Golf Club (Ocala) in March 2021 and at Crown Colony Golf Club (Fort Myers) in February 2022. Austin Ernst cruised to her third career title at the 2021 edition, beating Jennifer Kupcho by five shots. The 2022 tournament marked a fresh start for the event (no longer including results or records from the 2020 and 2021 events), where Leona Maguire became the first Irish winner on tour with her victory in 2022.

Last year at the Drive On Championship

Ireland’s Leona Maguire gifted her mom and early birthday present with her first career win at the 2022 LPGA Drive On Championship. A 27-year-old Maguire, a standout at Duke and former No. 1 amateur, carded a final-round 67 to finish at 18-under 198 and won the 54-hole event by three strokes over Lexi Thompson. She became the first woman from Ireland to win on tour, and her 198 tied her career-best 54-hole score.

More about Superstition Mountain

Superstition Mountain’s Prospector Golf Course opened in 1998 and was a combined design effort by Jack Nicklaus and his son Gary. The course plays as a par-72 and stretches to 7,225 yards in length, with the women playing it at 6,526 yards. The course was home of the LPGA Safeway International from 2004-08, and was recently selected by Golfweek as one of the “Top 100 Residential Courses.”

Of note, Superstition Mountain is a female-owned facility, originally purchased in 2009 by Susan Hladky and her husband James, who died in 2011. Hladky has made a point of opening her courses to women and college players, twice hosting U.S. Women’s Open qualifying and the site of a 2025 NCAA women’s regional tournament. She’s also given membership to eight LPGA players, who play out of the club: Carlota Ciganda, Mina Harigae, Dana Finkelstein, Jaclyn Lee, Charlotte Thomas, Caroline Inglis, Jennifer Kupcho and Brianna Do.

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2023 March Madness — Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet 16 appearance

2023 March Madness: Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet 16 appearance

Members of the Utah Utes celebrate their win over the Princeton Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament.
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The No. 2-seeded Utah (27-4) women’s basketball team held off a pesky 10th-seeded Princeton squad on Sunday, winning 63-56 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships for the first time since 2005-06 and just the third time in the program’s history.

“I’m proud of our team,” said eighth-year head coach Lynne Roberts after the second-round win at Utah’s Hunstman Center. “We set out to do this a year ago. We lost in this game at University of Texas and the goal was to be able to host (this year) so that we could have that home-court advantage and it made a difference.”

Utah’s fourth-year junior Alissa Pili backed up her recent second-team All-American honor with another 20-plus-point performance, scoring 28 on 8-for 13 shooting with 10 rebounds and going 11-for 13 on free throws. Sophomore forward Jenna Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds.

There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about how the Utes’ previous few seasons have ended – beginning with a rough 14-17 season that was cut short in 2020 due to the pandemic, followed by an abysmal 5-16 record in 2020-21. But the tide turned last year, as Utah rebounded with a 21-12 season that ended with a 78-56 loss to Texas in Austin in the second round of the NCAA tournament one year ago.

So, what changed?

“Last year, everyone was new to the NCAA tournament, so I think everyone was just experiencing it for the first time,” mused Johnson. “Losing in the second round last year, we’re definitely a lot hungrier this year, and then obviously hosting in Salt Lake, it’s fun just being in your own environment, to be around your own fans. I think it gives us an elevated level of confidence, both knowing what it’s like to play in this tournament and also getting to be at home.”

“Yeah, freshman year was kind of rough,” added third-year sophomore Kennady McQueen, who chipped in nine points Sunday. “We did experience losing a lot. … Coach Roberts, she said we are not going to have another season like that. We all stood behind her — the people that stayed — and brought in great people like starting last year with Jenna and Gi (Gianna Kneepkens) and people like that who have had a huge impact in helping us to where we are today. …

“When you get together a group of people that have the same goal in mind and will do make anything to make it happen, I think that’s where we have seen our success rate going up. This past offseason, we just kept getting better, and of course, the addition of the Alissa Pili really helped. When you bring a group of girls that have the same dream and same goal at the end of the year and doesn’t care about personal stats more than winning, I think we get the season that we have today, and it prepares us for deep run in March.”

In particular, McQueen believe it was Utah’s improvement in their defense that was crucial to the turnaround. “Everyone knows how good we are on offense, but if we can’t get stops, it doesn’t matter how good you are on offense,” she said. “So that’s just been a key the whole past off-season and all of this season — just getting better on defense.”

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Alissa Pili revives her love of basketball with record season at Utah

Roberts credits their defensive improvement with a “philosophical mindset change,” explaining, “We worked on [defense] a lot differently, a lot more intentionally. Strategically we made some changes of how we are going to defend, and I won’t bore you with that. But there was a lot, just different things because you have to play to your strengths. You can’t be a run-and-jump pressing team if you don’t have the depth and athletes to do it. You can’t be a zone team if you are not super big. You have to figure out what fits your personnel, and so that’s what we did.”

There’s also the undeniable impact of Pili, a transfer from USC who has found her stride as a Ute, where she recently was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

“She kind of is the straw that stirs the drink for us right now,” Roberts said regarding the 21-year-old Alaska native. “She’s a nightmare to defend because she can shoot the three, and she’s also really athletic and mobile, so it doesn’t matter who we are playing. I think you have to gameplan for her. But then with her three-point shooting, you know, you have to pick your poison.”

But Roberts also gave plenty of kudos to Johnson, whom she describes as “phenomenal.”

“She’s 19 going on 40,” Roberts said of Johnson. “She’s the most mature, even-keeled consistent player we have. What I love about her is she is who she is. She’s confident in who she is. She knows who she is. She also is incredibly busy off the court.

“We were talking as we were getting ready to watch film, just shooting the breeze a bunch of us, we were talking about movies. And she was like, Oh, I don’t watch movies. Why not? I don’t have time. I get bored. What do you mean you don’t have time? Do you watch shows? No, I don’t ever watch TV. It is because she is doing all of these other extracurricular activities.”

As for guiding the Utes to becoming a championship program, Roberts still sees it as an uphill battle – but one that she and her players are ready for.

“I always use the analogy of pushing the boulder up the hill,” she said. “And doing things for the first time, you have to have that mindset. You have to keep pushing. It’s been incredibly fun to see the support, and I think the swell is a perfect word for it. Most importantly, our players feel it.

“This is why you play, right? And it means so much. I know I say it over and over, but this is not going to be a flash-in-the-pan [season]. This isn’t going to be a ‘Oh, remember that year they had such an incredible year?’ We are going to keep doing it.”

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