Pros planning risk/reward tactics at KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

Mark McGowan

Nelly Korda (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Sahalee Country Club in the Seattle suburbs may be one of the narrowest golf courses that the game’s elite women are likely to face, but that doesn’t mean that driver will be seldom pulled.

Few courses are as heavily tree-lined as the host venue for the 1998 PGA Championship, 2010 U.S. Senior Open and 2016 Women’s PGA Championship, and as a result, the winning score in each of the three major championships at Sahalee and a combined total of 23 players finished the tournaments in red figures, with 12 of those coming in 1998.

Despite the tight driving alleys, the course plays long. With the course set to play at a minimum of 6,754 yards and possibly as long as 6,942 yards for this week’s event, the par-72 layout will be one of the longest courses ever to host a women’s major, meaning that length and accuracy will be equally important.

World number one Nelly Korda is definitely among the big hitters in the women’s game, and she intends to pull the big stick as much as possible given the difficulty around the greens that add to the narrowness and length.

“Yeah, still going to be aggressive,” she said. “There’s a couple holes where I can’t hit driver, but majority of the round I will be hitting driver just because you don’t want a longer club into these greens.

“Yes, the tee shots are pretty intimidating, but the greens, the second shot in is pretty tough as well.

“So overall, I mean, if you have the length you may as well — you have to hit it. This is the type of golf course where you just got to step up and hit your driver.”

Japan’s Yuka Saso arrives as the most recent major winner having put in an extremely impressive performance at the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club last month – her second U.S. Open win – and she echoed Korda’s sentiments, first stating how she enjoys the test of particularly difficult golf courses.

“It’s very narrow here compared to other golf courses that we play in,” Saso said. “It’s going to be very, very difficult. Have to hit it straight and stay out of the trees. I think it makes us focus more. It makes me focus more when it’s difficult, obviously, and I think that helps a little bit.

“But I don’t know why I play a bit better on difficult golf courses than others. I’m not sure why. I haven’t figured that out yet, but I think also on this golf course the greens are very slopey and I think it’s going to be difficult.”

And she too is planning on pulling driver wherever possible.

“Probably hit drivers most of the holes, unless they move the tee up or the wind changes or anything like that,” she added.

“But, yeah, hitting driver obviously the target gets narrower. But I think I have to hit driver, especially KPMG is one the championships that is very long. I don’t want to have like 5-iron or hybrid second shot.

“So just trying to be more consistent with driver. I still have one more day to get ready, so trying to dial that in so I can have driver off the tee and give myself shorter clubs off second shots.”

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