Rose Zhang’s Professional Career and the Hype Surrounding Her
Rose Zhang’s professional career is off to an incredible start. At just a few weeks into her journey as a professional golfer, she claimed victory at the Mizuho Americas Open, her first LPGA event. The buzz surrounding Zhang is at an all-time high, and she faces the challenge of living up to the expectations set by her remarkable amateur career. While she has made a promising start in the professional circuit, the true measure of success in golf often lies in the number of major championships won.
The KPMG presents an opportunity for Zhang to make her mark as a professional. Although she has participated in eight major championships since 2018, including a notable T11 finish at the 2020 Chevron Championship, this will be her first appearance at a PGA Championship. While it may be unlikely for her to win in her major debut, the course’s suitability for her precise ball-striking and consistency cannot be ignored. After witnessing Zhang’s achievements thus far, it’s hard to doubt her capabilities.
“I think it’s going to be really good for women’s golf,” said Korda, highlighting the significance of Zhang’s rise. “Hopefully, we have some great battles coming down the stretch over the years.”
Korda returns (again)
Nelly Korda, currently ranked second in the world, makes her comeback on the major stage after withdrawing from the Mizuho Classic due to a back injury. Confident about her recovery, Korda stated that she wouldn’t be participating in this year’s KPMG PGA Championship if she weren’t feeling 100 percent.
“The golf swing involves a lot of torque, so I believe many golfers struggle with low back issues,” Korda explained. “Additionally, when you’re traveling for four weeks in a row, sleeping in different beds, and flying right after your round, sometimes you experience tweaks that require rest.”
In Korda’s career, the PGA Championship has been a tournament of extremes. Her best finish was a victory in the 2021 edition, which remains her only major win. However, she has also had mixed performances in the past, finishing tied for 30th and tied for third, among other placements. Although Korda hasn’t secured a win on the LPGA Tour this year, her recent third-place finish in the Chevron Championship demonstrates her competitiveness. Given her track record and talent, it’s reasonable to believe that she is due for another major victory. Korda finished in the top 10 at two of the sport’s five majors last year, emphasizing her potential.
Entering the tournament after her back injury hiatus, Korda shared that the break provided her with a much-needed rest. However, now that she’s back, she feels “a little bit more hungry” for a win.
“I think all the momentum that you had kind of goes away because I didn’t touch a golf club for two weeks,” Korda explained. “It’s like going to the gym after a really long time. The first week is kind of tough, but then once you get into the groove of things, you kind of get it back.”
The “best player in the world” against a deep field, tough course
The question of who the best player in the world is right now sparked conversations between Nelly Korda and Lilia Vu, winner of the year’s first major. Although Korda hesitated before settling on a name, Vu immediately proclaimed Jin Young Ko as the top contender.
“I played with her at Founders, and she didn’t even come close to missing a single shot,” Vu marveled at Ko’s skills. “Putting, ball-striking, off the tee, just amazing. It was really cool to see her go on and win that week, too.”
Ko has already secured two victories this year at the Founders Cup and the HSBC Women’s World Championship, maintaining her position as the world’s top-ranked player for 158 consecutive weeks, which ties a record.
On the other hand, Ko’s recent major wins date back to 2019, despite consistent top-10 finishes in three of the past four majors. As one of the favorites at Baltusrol, she faces a challenging task ahead. The field comprises 43 of the top 50 women in the world rankings, including Lilia Vu, the only player besides Ko with multiple wins this season. Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee, and Atthaya Thitikul, among others, also pose a formidable threat to Ko’s pursuit of victory.
The championship course at Baltusrol presents significant challenges. Tee shots demand precision, with Vu describing it as “target golf.” The rough is thick, and the greens are fast. Vu acknowledged that positioning oneself well on the fairway plays a crucial role in tackling the demanding pin positions.
Vu appreciates this style of golf because it allows her to focus on each shot required by the course. The women’s game is known for its accuracy, and Baltusrol will surely highlight this aspect.
Lexi Thompson’s quest for another major victory
It was perhaps one of the most tense moments in women’s golf last year. Lexi Thompson, coming down the stretch at the 2022 KPMG PGA, looking for her first major win since 2014, with a 2-stroke lead and only five holes left.
It all looked to be building up to a win until Thompson proceeded to not only bogey three of her last five holes on her way to coughing up the lead and the championship, but she also did it by seemingly losing her way on and around the greens. A bladed short chip on the 16th hole went off the green where she then putted and slammed it past the hole before missing the comebacker for par and making a bogey. It was the kind of meltdown that leaves scars.
Thompson comes into this tournament not exactly playing her best golf, either. She missed the cut at this year’s first major and hasn’t won on the LPGA Tour since 2019. She always seems to find her way into competition at most majors but can’t seem to close the deal. Since her sole major win in 2014, she has 11 top-five finishes in majors, and four of those were runner-up finishes too.
Thompson’s talent, and her ability to get in the mix at these tournaments, feel like it should be enough to get her another major victory sooner or later, but the odds this week don’t seem to favor her. She’s a long shot to win (66-to-1) heading into the week.
Last year at the 2022 KPMG PGA Championship, Lexi Thompson experienced one of the most tense moments in women’s golf. With a two-stroke lead and only five holes remaining, Thompson seemed destined for her first major win since 2014. However, a series of bogeys, combined with struggles on and around the greens, led to her downfall. A bladed short chip on the 16th hole sent her putt off the green, followed by an unsuccessful comeback attempt, resulting in a bogey. It was a meltdown that left a lasting impact.
Thompson’s recent form doesn’t inspire great confidence either. She missed the cut in this year’s first major and hasn’t won on the LPGA Tour since 2019. Although she consistently finds herself in contention at majors, she struggles to seal the deal. Since her sole major victory in 2014, Thompson has accumulated 11 top-five finishes, including four runner-up positions.
Thompson possesses immense talent and regularly contends in major tournaments, making it likely that she will secure another major victory sooner or later. However, the odds for her success this week are not in her favor. Heading into the tournament, she is considered a long shot at 66-to-1.
How many major championships has Rose Zhang won in her professional career?
Rose Zhang has recently turned professional and has won her first LPGA event, but she has not yet won any major championships in her professional career.
Has Nelly Korda won any major championships in her career?
Yes, Nelly Korda has won a major championship in her career. Her victory came in the 2021 edition of the KPMG PGA Championship.
Who is currently considered the best player in women’s golf?
Jin Young Ko is currently regarded as one of the best players in women’s golf. She has been consistently ranked at the top and has multiple victories on the LPGA Tour.
The upcoming KPMG PGA Championship holds great anticipation for Rose Zhang as she continues her professional career and strives to make her mark on the major stage. The return of Nelly Korda after her back injury adds further excitement to the tournament, along with the challenge posed by the deep field of talented golfers, including Jin Young Ko, who currently holds the title of the world’s best player. Lexi Thompson’s quest for another major victory adds a compelling narrative to the championship, despite her recent struggles. As the tournament unfolds, golf enthusiasts and fans await the unfolding drama