Hannah Green wins KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

by Samuel Abasi Posted on June 24th, 2019

Chaska, Minnesota: From a young age, LPGA Hall of Famer Karrie Webb took note of Hannah Green’s mental strength. Her level temperament, she said, was built for a major championship stage.

Webb knew early on what the rest of the world found out at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where longshot Hannah Green led wire-to-wire to become the third Australian to win an LPGA major, joining Webb (seven) and Jan Stephenson (three).

Green is a gamer.

“I’m pretty much speechless,” she said through tears. Ranked 114th in the world at the start of the week, the LPGA sophomore was playing in only her seventh major championship.

As 2018 KPMG winner Sung Hyun Park charged, Green rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the demanding par-4 16th to extend her lead to two strokes. The tournament went from potential blowout, when Green’s lead ballooned to four, to shootout, when eight players were within three shots with four holes to play. Green, 22, rattled off three bogeys in the middle of her round, but she didn’t panic.

Not even when she dumped her approach into a greenside bunker on the 72nd hole and had to drain a 6-foot par putt to avoid a playoff.

“I really didn’t want to play that hole again,” said Green, who understandably battled strong nerves the last five holes.

Webb missed the cut at Hazeltine National but came back out to walk the fairways with Green, a two-time winner of Webb’s namesake scholarship.

The first time Green ever attended a professional event was the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, courtesy of Webb. The Aussie legend invites rising stars to stay with her during a major so they get an all-access, inside look at what it takes to be successful at the next level.

On Saturday night, Webb prepared an Aussie BBQ back at the house she shared with Green, Su Oh and two current scholarship recipients, Grace Kim and Becky Kay, who accessorized their wild costumes on Sunday with an Aussie flag cape, thick headband and fake moustache. Webb’s menu of Aussie rissole and beef short rib, along with plenty of laughter, provided a relaxed evening for Green before the biggest round of life.

Webb heard Green tell the media earlier that she’d gotten lucky — she holed a shot from the bunker and a 60-yard pitch from the rough. Luck is part of every win, Webb told her. Embrace it, don’t be embarrassed by it.

Green battled a nasty, cold rain without waterproofs in the opening round. She doesn’t own rain pants — they’re too noisy and baggy and her boyfriend, touring pro Jarryd Felton, had to run back to the house to get her jacket. The staff brought out towels.

Green was a long way from Perth, but it felt like she had plenty of support in the Midwest. She even put together a 2,000-piece puzzle with her housemates.

Every part of Green’s week at Hazeltine added up to a perfect fit.

She became the first wire-to-wire winner of this major since Yani Tseng in 2011, and even more amazing is who she held off to claim the silver trophy. She started the final round with a one-shot lead over Ariya Jutanugarn, the most powerful player on tour and a two-time major champion. Jutanugarn didn’t make a birdie in her round of 77.

Then it was Park, another former No. 1 and two-time major winner, making an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 68 that left Green no margin for error.

Watching it all unfold was Webb, as clutch as there was in her prime, the only woman to capture the “Super Slam” of five different LPGA majors. She stayed with Green in a house all week, along with the two most recent scholarship winners — Becky Kay and Grace Kim — who were draped in Australian flags at Hazeltine.

“I feel like I won a golf tournament today I’m so excited for her,” Webb said. “You didn’t do it yourself, but you supported someone who realized that dream.”

They all charged the 18th green to celebrate with Green, spraying her with cans of beer in true Aussie fashion. It’s become a tradition on the LPGA Tour for friends to spray winners with water bottles, and Webb would not allow that to happen.

“It was Budweiser,” she said.

Green, who won three times on the Symetra Tour in 2017 to earn an LPGA Tour card, became the first Australian to win an LPGA Tour major since Webb won her last one in 2006 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

“I’m speechless,” Green said as she fought to get the words out through such strong emotions. “I was really nervous playing the last five holes.”

She finished at 9-under 279 and won $577,500.

It was hard work, even though Green never surrendered the lead on a cloudy day at Hazeltine with some light drops of rain at the end.

Green rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 seventh for a three-shot lead. With the group ahead still waiting to tee off, a 7-year-old girl handed her a blue sheet of paper. It was a poem she wrote to Green, along with the words, “You can win this.” Green, who had given Lily Kostner a golf ball at the ANA Inspiration this year, read the poem and hugged the girl, and then drilled another tee shot to birdie range.

“I had it in the back of my yardage book because I didn’t want it to get rained on,” Green said. “A couple times on the back nine when I was feeling nervous and had some time, I actually read it to myself.”

The nerves didn’t really leave, especially after making three bogeys in a four-hole stretch that dropped her to 8 under, a four-shot lead suddenly down to one.

Mel Reid closed with a 66 and posted at 6-under 282.

Nelly Korda was one behind until a soft bogey on the par-5 15th. Park birdied that hole to get to 7 under, and Green couldn’t afford any mistakes. It looked as if she had it wrapped up when she made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th, the signature hole at Hazeltine, followed by a par on the 17th.

Park wasn’t finished, however, and she hit her tee shot so hard on the 18th that it went through the corner of the rough into the fairway, setting up a tidy approach to the back pin position and one last birdie.

Green answered her final challenge with the bunker save, and the celebration was on with Webb and the two scholarship winners, Stacy Peters from Golf Australia and Jarryd Fenton, her boyfriend who plays on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

“I always wanted to win in front of an Aussie crowd,” Green said. “That’s what it was like today. I’m over the moon.”

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., closed with a 70 to finish 2-over while Hamilton’s Alena Sharp had a 72 to come in at 6-over.

Korda (71) and Reid tied for third, while Lizette Salas (72) and Danielle Kang (70) were four shots behind. The surprise was Jutanugarn, who started the final round one shot behind on a course that measured nearly 6,800 yards, perfect for her power. She tied for 10th.

Green becomes the 11th player to win the last 11 majors on the LPGA Tour, a sign of growing parity. She also is the third winner in the last five LPGA majors who had never won on the LPGA Tour..eltine with some light drops of rain at the end.

Green rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 seventh for a three-shot lead. With the group ahead still waiting to tee off, a 7-year-old girl handed her a blue sheet of paper. It was a poem she wrote to Green, along with the words, “You can win this.” Green, who had given Lily Kostner a golf ball at the ANA Inspiration this year, read the poem and hugged the girl, and then drilled another tee shot to birdie range.

“I had it in the back of my yardage book because I didn’t want it to get rained on,” Green said. “A couple times on the back nine when I was feeling nervous and had some time, I actually read it to myself.”

The nerves didn’t really leave, especially after making three bogeys in a four-hole stretch that dropped her to 8 under, a four-shot lead suddenly down to one.

Mel Reid closed with a 66 and posted at 6-under 282.

Nelly Korda was one behind until a soft bogey on the par-5 15th. Park birdied that hole to get to 7 under, and Green couldn’t afford any mistakes. It looked as if she had it wrapped up when she made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th, the signature hole at Hazeltine, followed by a par on the 17th.

Park wasn’t finished, however, and she hit her tee shot so hard on the 18th that it went through the corner of the rough into the fairway, setting up a tidy approach to the back pin position and one last birdie.

Green answered her final challenge with the bunker save, and the celebration was on with Webb and the two scholarship winners, Stacy Peters from Golf Australia and Jarryd Fenton, her boyfriend who plays on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

“I always wanted to win in front of an Aussie crowd,” Green said. “That’s what it was like today. I’m over the moon.”

Korda (71) and Reid tied for third, while Lizette Salas (72) and Danielle Kang (70) were four shots behind. The surprise was Jutanugarn, who started the final round one shot behind on a course that measured nearly 6,800 yards, perfect for her power. She tied for 10th.

Green becomes the 11th player to win the last 11 majors on the LPGA Tour, a sign of growing parity. She also is the third winner in the last five LPGA majors who had never won on the LPGA Tour.

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