NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Sunday should fit all fandom as the leaderboard at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is both eclectic and intriguing through 54 holes.
There’s a multiple major champion, a leader in search of her first, popular players, top-10 players and fringe players. You’ve got a 7-time major winner who ranks 143rd in driving distance and the longest hitter on tour – who happens to be ranked 712th in the world.
You also have a pristine venue in Aronimink Golf Club that hasn’t allowed anything lower than a 5-under round this week and hasn’t receive a single complaint.
Sei Young Kim (67) holds a two-stroke lead over Brooke Henderson (65) and Anna Nordqvist (68) through three rounds in the women’s third major of the season. With a bogey at the last on Saturday, Kim stands at 7 under par.
Inbee Park (66), the aforementioned seven-time major champ, is at 4 under. Bianca Pagdanganan (65), the aforementioned ball-bashing, world No. 712, is alone in fifth place at 3 under. Four others are tied at 2 under.
Bianca Pagdanganan, world No. 712, powers way into contention at KPMG
“I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, but I’m also excited about going into the final day,” said Kim, a 10-time LPGA tour winner, but never a major champ. “I just want to take each shot at a time and just keep focus, and the results will follow.”
Sunday, however, will be unlike anything the players have experienced in a major championship as the leading threesome will not be in the final group.
In fact, Kim, Henderson and Nordqvist will tee off at 8:49 a.m. ET. The last group will go out at 9:22 a.m., with no one following the leading trio within 14 shots of the lead.
Henderson fires 65 in search of second career win at Women’s PGA
“I feel like it’s everybody’s goal starting Thursday to be in that final group on Sunday, so it’s definitely an exciting feeling,” Henderson said. “Maybe a bit of an adrenaline rush, which is great.”
The reason for the rearrange is network television. NBC Sports is broadcasting the final round and slated to do so from noon-2 p.m. ET on Sunday. With the championship’s move to the fall, a result of the tour’s 5 ½-month coronavirus pandemic, less daylight and more sports with which to contend made alterations necessary.
The final group played in 5 hours and 18 minutes in Round 3, which, all things the same, would result in a 2:07 p.m. conclusion for the leading threesome on Sunday – with others still playing.
“It’s definitely going to be kind of weird, but I feel like all year we’ve kind of had the horseshoe-early starts for the final rounds because of daylight,” said Nordqvist, who won this event in 2009 as one of her two major titles. “[I]t was really chilly when I came to the course this morning, and it was about 7:30, so hopefully it’s not too bad [on Sunday].
KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage
“You know, there’s definitely some adrenaline, so I’m sure it won’t be that hard to wake up tomorrow.”
“Well, I’m not really a morning person, so it’s just always really hard to get up in the morning,” countered Park, a three-time Women’s PGA champion who will tee off in the penultimate group at 8:38 a.m. “It’s just going to be another day like that tomorrow. I try to go to bed early, but that’s just really tough to do when your life cycle is kind of late and late.”
Should the event go past the allotted window, Golf Channel will take on the finish.
The timing could prove fortuitous as rain is forecast in the area, beginning around 3 p.m.
“It’s definitely an advantage to tee off later, especially here, because it’s a bit warmer,” said Kim, as the temperatures could dip into the upper-50s when the final round begins. “But the only thing I have to keep in mind is that earlier tee times will be a little chillier temperature wise, so I’ll make sure I have my hand warmers and be ready to play tomorrow.”
As awkward as it all might seem, this could work out with a Sunday champion and no Monday finish – and, possibly, no controversy as well.