Atthaya, 7 Thais chase major crown

Atthaya, 7 Thais chase major crown

Women's PGA C'ship doubles prize money

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand plays a shot at the US Women's Open this month. (AFP photo)
Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand plays a shot at the US Women's Open this month. (AFP photo)

BETHESDA: Defending champion Nelly Korda and her rivals -- including eight Thais -- will chase a record US$9 million purse at this week's KPMG Women's PGA Championship after organisers announced a doubling of prize money for the event on Tuesday.

The third women's major of the year tees off at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland today with Korda attempting to repeat her 2021 Women's PGA victory.

A successful title defence will see Korda earn a winner's cheque of $1.35 million after the hefty boost in prize money announced by organisers on the eve of the tournament.

Eight Thai players are in the field this week.

They are Atthaya Thitikul, Patty Tavatanakit, Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn, Jasmine Suwannapura, Pajaree Anannarukarn, Wichanee Meechai and Pornanong Phatlum.

LPGA Tour rookie Atthaya, 19, is the highest-ranked Thai at No.5.

She has already been an LPGA champion with her win at the JTBC Classic in March, and is fresh from finishing joint fifth at last week's Meijer LPGA Classic.

The Ratchaburi native, who will make her Women's PGA debut, has played 13 LPGA events this year with six top-10 finishes.

In the year's first two majors, Atthaya was tied for 17th at the Chevron Championship and joint 24th at the US Women's Open.

World No.14 Patty, 22, has missed the cut in two successive tournaments.

However, the Bangkok star, who won the 2021 ANA Inspiration, could be a title contender this week after her joint fifth place at last year's Women's PGA Championship.

Two-time major winner Ariya will make her eighth Women's PGA appearance, having finished third in the event in 2016 and 10th in 2019.

PGA of America president Jim Richerson said the decision to double the purse -- from $4.5 million to $9 million -- was a result of support from sponsors KPMG and a desire to elevate women's golf.

The bumper purse is part of a broad trend throughout women's golf, where prize money across the five major championships has risen steadily over the past decade.

With the Women's PGA increase, prize money for the five majors now stands at $37.3 million, compared to $13.75 million for the same events in 2012.

News of the increased purse rippled around Congressional on Tuesday after players were informed of the move.

"You heard a murmur kind of going around the clubhouse," US professional Mariah Stackhouse said.

"Hey, 'Did you see that email, 9 mil', and everybody is super, super excited."

Intensive comeback

This week's major is another opportunity for Korda to leave her recent health scare further in the rear-view mirror.

The 23-year-old only returned recently from a four-month lay-off after discovering a blood clot in her left arm.

She narrowly missed out on a victory at last weekend's Meijer LPGA Classic, losing a three-way play-off against compatriot Jennifer Kupcho and Ireland's Leona Maguire.

"I gave myself a chance last week," world No.2 Korda said on Tuesday.

"If you told me that when I was laying in the ER, I would have definitely been very happy with that."

Korda said she has followed an intensive training regime since returning to fitness after hardly touching a club during her long lay-off.

"That was the longest time I think I've ever gone without hitting a golf ball," the Olympic champion said.

"Since I started hitting, it's just been kind of full throttle, and I have been practising pretty much.

"I have not taken more than two or three days off since then. I'm just happy to be out here playing competitive golf."

Korda will play in a group alongside Canada's Brooke Henderson, a winner of the Women's PGA in 2016.

Excellent record

Henderson has an excellent record in the Women's PGA, posting five top-10 finishes in her seven appearances in the major.

"Just the excitement of being back and playing in this amazing championship on incredible golf courses and having the bar raised for women's golf by this championship is really cool for me," Henderson said on Tuesday.

"I think I've just fed off a lot of great memories and hopefully I can do the same this week."

Australia's Minjee Lee is one of the favourites after she won the US Women's Open earlier this month for her second major crown.

Chevron Championship winner Kupcho will be brimming with confidence after winning the Meijer LPGA Classic on Sunday. afp/bangkok post



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