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Hannah Green takes early lead at KPMG Women's PGA

A fine start for the West Australian on such a demanding layout (file) (Photo: Bruce Young)
Most Australian golf fans imagined it would have been a West Australian to lead the Australians at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and after day one they have got it right, although with the greatest respect to Hannah Green they might not have been expecting it to be her.

A 22 year old in her second LPGA Tour season, Green has been slowly but surely establishing herself on the LPGA Tour after a stunning season on the Symetra Tour in 2017 but most felt that it would be her fellow West Australian, Minjee Lee, who would be to the forefront, even early in the week in the third major championship of 2019.

Green, though, has put together a bogey free opening round of 4 under 68 on one of the more demanding layouts the LPGA Tour will face in 2019, not only in terms of the Hazeltine National Golf Club’s layout but also that the opening round was played in cool and damp conditions, adding further to one of the longest layouts the LPGA Tour plays.

Green birdied three of the four par 5’s and threw in another when she birdied the 16th (the 7th hole of her opening round) at which she holed a bunker shot.

Green has recorded only one top ten this season and, coming off the back of a missed cut at last week’s Meijer Classic, a performance of this significance on such a tough test was perhaps not expected. There is however little doubting her considerable talent, potential and capacity to perform well at the highest level.

Green leads by one over Korean, Hyo Joo Kim, and England’s, Mel Reid, with the group another shot back at 2 under including two former world number ones, Ariya Jutanugarn and Sung Hyun Park, not surprisingly two of the longest hitters in the female game and the almost constant big event contender, Amy Yang, who birdied three of her last six holes to get as close as she has.  

Green had additional support today with Australian amateurs, Becky Kay and Grace Kim, in the US on a Karrie Webb scholarship in attendance. She wasn't the only player to have obvious fans but they were there in full voice.

With the intermittent rain it was a stop-start sort of day for Green and the rest of the field in terms of weather equipment.

“I don’t own a pair of rain pants,” said Green when asked about how she dealt with the elements. “That was difficult. I only brought one jacket and I was freezing cold. My caddy and I both really weren't prepared for the rain. I thought it was going to come much later in the day after 9 holes.

“Luckily there was a staff member from the course coming out with towels, otherwise I don't know if I would have been able to keep hold of the club. But yeah, it was really tough.

Like, the first 6 holes were really difficult and all of us were taking a lot of time to obviously clean-up and clean the grips and stuff like that. It nearly took three hours to play 9 holes which is horrible but I didn't think we could have played any quicker than that. I'm really happy to be under par and bogey-free.

“I don’t mind playing in it (the rain). “If I was better prepared, I would have been a little bit more at ease. I've played a lot of golf in the rain so I have experience with it. You just have to stay patient and make sure you don't rush -- yes, you don't want to fall too far behind but don't want to rush into anything.”

“It's a longer week than (other) tournaments, it's more draining than with the courses that we play and there's more, I guess, shots that you have to play at a Major but I think you just have to be really patient.

“I know that sounds silly and everyone says that every week but this is the week that you need to do it and I think I was really good out there. I didn't really rush into anything. I wasn't -- I was always comfortable with the club and the shot that I was seeing.

"I think that was really what was the difference today compared to how I played last week and even how I've played even at the start of the year.”

Su Oh began both nines with a double bogey but did well to fight back for a round of 74 after recording four birdies and an eagle in addition to four other bogeys.

It was also a score recorded by Minjee Lee, who after a rough start, birdied her final two holes and although six shots from the lead she is certainly very much in calculations on a golf course that is likely to get even more difficult as the week progresses.

New Zealand’s Lydia Ko is well place at 1 under and in a share of 10th after a significantly better showing than has been the case for much of the year.

Ko has been working with yet another new coach, David Whelan, and after she round discussed how that is working.

“He’s one of the best things on Tour, I was like oh, maybe I could just kind of get his insight on what he thinks and I think we were trying to simplify it.

“He's getting me to understand my swing a little bit more so that even if he's not there, I'm still able to figure it out. It's just trying to get a few key points just to make sure that I can think about it but not think about it too much.

"And when I'm out on the golf course and swinging freer then I think those are probably the basics and just making sure that every shot I hit I'm hitting with confidence and not worrying about it.”

Other Australians in the field include Katherine Kirk and Sarah Kemp 79 and now PGA coach Wendy Doolan 84.

 

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