“Ring the Bell!”

The phrase can be heard often at the LPGA Tour’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla. these days. When the words pierce the air, a staffer will ring Hall of Famer Pat Bradley’s mom’s bell, just as she did whenever the six-time major champion did something well. The tour recently received the bell from the World Golf Hall of Fame, and now it resides in the lobby of the LPGA’s offices.

With purse sizes increasing significantly this season across the LPGA’s marquee events, the tour has had plenty of wins to celebrate.

“I’ve had some situations where I’ve gone into a meeting thinking we were just talking about the event,” says LPGA Tour commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan, “and the CEO or the lead executive from the sponsor just says, ‘Listen, I’ve got great news. We’d like to increase the purse by 25 percent or to increase the purse by X amount.’”

Between all of the LPGA’s five majors and the tour championship, the total money available to players in 2022 is $2.78 million more on average than last season, marking a 59.4 percent year-over-year increase. The AIG Women’s Open, which began Thursday at Muirfield in Scotland, was the latest major to implement a purse increase. After guaranteeing “at least $6.8 million” last August, the Open bumped it even further this week to $7.3 million.


“To see and have these partners like KPMG this week,” Lydia Ko said at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, “or ProMedica at the U.S. Women’s Open, or AIG did a big jump as well and the many other partners — not just our majors — for them to believe and see what we see and believe in women’s golf and go for that woman’s empowerment is very special.”

The length of the LPGA’s discussions with existing sponsors on increasing purse sizes has ranged from a few years to mere minutes. The reasons the companies have provided for boosting the prize money, however, are generally consistent.

“It is an opportunity for them to express their own company values and an opportunity for them to support something that they believe in,” Marcoux Samaan tells Just Women’s Sports. “It’s really exciting because it’s often not a great negotiation. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re all in this together to support the players and to support the organization.’”

These companies are especially interested in getting in on the ground floor as women’s sports grow across the board, Marcoux Samaan explained. Interested sponsors are seeing the data that shows that women’s sports fans are more passionate than men’s sports fans.

Their investments also go beyond the dollar amounts. Some have focused on getting their sponsored event on national television. Dow Chemical Company, the title sponsor of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, pays for the final round to air on CBS. Other ancillary offerings include travel stipends, courtesy cars and “the best food that you could ever imagine,” according to Marcoux Samaan:

“Every conversation is, ‘How do we continue to support the women on the tour and reach this partner and the sponsor’s goals?'”

Mollie Marcoux Samaan presents Lydia Ko with the Vare Trophy after the CME Group Tour Championship last November. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The staggering monetary growth hasn’t reached the LPGA’s non-major events to the same extent. The purses of the regular-field tournaments have increased by 4.5 percent, from $1,827,778 in 2021 to $1,910,000 this season. The AmazingCre Portland Classic, the LPGA’s longest-running non-major tournament entering its 51st year, announced in May a $100,000 purse increase from $1.4 million to $1.5 million, on the same day AmazingCre was revealed as the tournament’s title sponsor.

While the muted growth of the tour’s regular season tournaments might not impact the stars at the top of the world rankings, those golfers in the middle-to-lower tiers face more of an uphill battle. If they don’t qualify for the majors, they can’t reap the benefits of the massive purses.

Marcoux Samaan said the LPGA typically targets a $2 million purse as a baseline for new events. That means a golfer would have to play in five regular-field tournaments to match the total purse at the U.S. Women’s Open this year.

“We value all of our partners, and we want them to move at the pace that they’re comfortable moving. We obviously would want all of them to be able to grow as the value grows, as they see the continued value of their partnership with us,” Marcoux Samaan says. “I think we’re having those conversations with all of our partners, but we’re also very much grateful for those that have supported us for a long time.”

While the LPGA continues to chip away at the purse sizes in all of its tournaments, the tour’s total prize money grew 36.9 percent from last year to 2022. Marcoux Samaan expects many more bell-ringing moments as the LPGA continues to build on the momentum.

“I think it’s really exciting that people are starting to really see the world-class talent of our athletes, and they’re investing in that, because it is a chicken and egg,” she says. “The more they invest and the more viewership, the more value people will place on the tour and on our athletes, which is really what our goal is.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

Welcome to a mid-season edition of the Just Women’s Sports LPGA power rankings. Two majors have wrapped up since our third iteration, leading to plenty of shake-ups. Two more majors will play out over the next three weeks, with the Amundi Evian Championship teeing off Thursday and the AIG Women’s Open on Aug. 4.

Our new top player, the first to knock World No. 1 Jin Young Ko from the power rankings pedestal, is the defending champion at the Evian Resort Golf Club.

1. Minjee Lee

The newest two-time major champion claims the top spot in our power rankings after her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open last month. Lee nearly won back-to-back majors, if not for In Gee Chun’s four-foot putt on the 18th hole to secure the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship title. The Australian is now second in the Rolex World Rankings and has an opportunity to be the first player to knock Jin Young Ko off her No. 1 perch since Nelly Korda in 2021.

Lee leads the LPGA in all of its major award categories at this stage in the season. She’s earned 135 Player of the Year points, awarded based on top-10 performances and worth double in majors. Lee holds a 40-point edge over Jennifer Kupcho in the POY race.

She also earned 84 points in the Rolex Annika Major award race with her victory and runner-up finish in the last two majors. Kupcho and Chun, with 60 points each from their respective major wins, are tied for second.

Lee is also leading the Vare Trophy race with a 69.025 scoring average. If that lead held for the remainder of the season, the Australian would have the second-lowest winning scoring average in tour history, trailing only Annika Sorenstam’s 68.7 average in 2002.

Lee is averaging -1.05 in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, a -.121 advantage over Jessica Korda. The winner earns a crisp $1 million at the end of the season. It’s another potential million-dollar paycheck Lee could cash alongside the $1.8 million she earned at Pine Needles Golf Club.

Starts: 11
Wins: 2
Top-10s: 5
Notable finishes: Victories at the U.S. Women’s Open, Cognizant Founders Cup, T-2 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: 3rd

2. Jennifer Kupcho

Kupcho has won two of her last three tournaments, raising trophies in back-to-back LPGA starts in Michigan for the most titles on tour so far in 2022. Her victory at the Chevron Championship set her up for success at Midland Country Club, with Lizette Salas asking her to team up during the first round at the Dinah Shore Course.

“In the end, I think it really calmed us down to have each other by our sides,” Kupcho said at her victory press conference. “So, to come out on top, it’s really amazing next to Lizette.”

After starting the season in 44th place in the Rolex World Rankings, Kupcho has surged into ninth despite earning zero points for her victory at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. The team event doesn’t give any out.

Kupcho is now the third highest-ranked American in the world, trailing just Nelly Korda (third) and Lexi Thompson (sixth).

Starts: 15
Wins: 3
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Wins at the Chevron Championship, Meijer LPGA Classic, Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational,
Last month: 9th

3. Jin Young Ko

The reigning LPGA Player of the Year hasn’t won in eight starts, knocking her out of the top spot in these rankings for the first time this year.

For most, that’s normal. For Ko, it’s an aberration.

Should she not win for the second time in four years at the Amundi Evian Championship this week, she’ll have gone her second-most starts between victories since her third-career title at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March 2019. The 13-time winner went 10 starts between her wins at the 2020 CME Group Tour Championship and 2021 Volunteers of America Classic.

Ko breaking that streak at one of the upcoming major championships would reaffirm her grip on the No. 1 spot in the World Rankings. Moreover, it would bring her closer to another historic mark on her resume.

Ko has held the No. 1 spot for 137 weeks in her career, the second most all-time. She trails recently inducted LPGA Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa, who spent 158 weeks atop the rankings.

Starts: 9
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Victory at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, Runner-up Palos Verdes Championship, fourth U.S. Women’s Open
Last month: 1st

4. Atthaya Thitikul

Thitikul’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year lead teetered at the PGA Championship as she entered the weekend tied for 41st while Hye-Jin Choi, her top competitor, sat in ninth.

Instead, the No. 4 player in the world delivered the lowest score Saturday to vault into sixth place. Thitikul followed through with a fourth-place finish, two strokes behind In Gee Chun’s winning mark. She now holds a 53-point edge over Choi, who ended up T-5 at Congressional’s Blue Course.

The Thai teenager has been one of the most consistent players on tour, riding back-to-back top-5s into the Amundi Evian Championship this week. She’s leading the LPGA with 4.3 birdies per round. Her ability to score low makes her a constant threat to top leaderboards this season.

Starts: 14
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Victory at the JTBC Classic, fourth KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-4 HSBC Women’s World Championship
Last month: 4th

5. Lydia Ko

Ko’s ironwoman top-30 streak finally ended with a T-46 finish at the PGA Championship. The result came a year after her last finish outside the top-30, with a T-52 at the 2021 PGA. This week, she has her first opportunity to win a major championship since the 2016 ANA Inspiration.

“I think we all try and peak at the majors,” Ko said at the U.S. Women’s Open. “You’re just trying to play the best golf you can and, at the same time, not think of it any differently than any other event. But to play solid, I think it just shows what point my game is at. I know there are things to improve, but there’s still a lot of good from there.”

Ko has played her most consistent golf at the Evian Resort Course. Including her maiden major win in 2015, she’s posted six top-10s in eight starts at the Amundi Evian Championship.

Starts: 12
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Win at the Gainbridge LPGA, T-3 Palos Verdes Championship, Fifth U.S. Women’s Open
Last month: 2nd

6. Brooke Henderson

Henderson’s victory at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club completed a boomerang of a season for Canada’s winningest golfer. The 24-year-old started the season on a tear with four top-10s, including a second-place finish to earn fifth place in the first edition of these power rankings.

Then Henderson faltered. She withdrew from the Lotte Championship and missed the cut in both Los Angeles-area tournaments.

Henderson has since turned her season around, finishing within the top 16 in her last four starts. That run includes her 11th-career victory at the Shoprite LPGA Classic. Despite the rollercoaster nature of her season, Henderson is third on the tour with a 69.791 scoring average.

Starts: 13
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Victory at the Shoprite LPGA Classic, runner-up Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, T-4 Honda LPGA Thailand
Last month: Not Ranked

After losing her lead at the PGA Championship last month, Lexi Thompson hasn't won a major since 2014. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

7. Lexi Thompson

Not all runner-ups are created equal. Thompson’s runner-up finish at the PGA Championship was her fourth at a major, and came after she squandered a two-stroke lead to Chun on the final three holes. Thompson’s lone major victory remains her title at the 2014 ANA Inspiration.

That low moment doesn’t take away from Thompson’s impressive campaign near the top of leaderboards. All of her top-10 finishes this season have come inside the top 6. Thompson’s 69.6 scoring average is second only to Lee. She’s hitting the most greens in regulation (76.8 percent) of any player on tour. Thompson missed her first cut of the season at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational last week, and the 27-year-old is fourth in the Annika Rolex Major award, one win away from seizing the lead.

Thompson took a chance off the board by not entering the field at the Amundi Evian Championship field this week. Instead, she’ll have to wait for her opportunity at major redemption when she tees off at the AIG Women’s Open.

Starts: 10
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: T-2 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-4 Chevron Championship, second LPGA Drive On Championship Crown Colony
Last month: 5th

8. Nasa Hataoka

After missing the cut at the LOTTE Championship in April, the Japanese star started working with a new coach and has turned her season around. Including a win at the DIO Implant LA Open, she’s finished in the top-6 in four of her last six starts.

Her last top-6 was a T-5 at the PGA Championship. Her final-round 69 at Congressional Country Club was the only score in the 60s on Sunday for her best finish at a major this season.

Starts: 14
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Victory at DIO Implant LA Open, T-5 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: 3rd

9. In Gee Chun

Chun’s first-round 64 at the PGA Championship matched Mickey Wright’s five-stroke opening round lead at the same tournament in 1961. No one else even got to eight-under par at any other point that week. Chun followed it up with a three-under 69 in the second round, giving her a six-shot cushion entering the weekend. After losing the lead, she came back to win the fourth LPGA title of her career.

Only Anna Nordqvist (three) and Inbee Park (four) have won as many different major championships as Chun, who added the PGA trophy to her victories at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2016 Evian Championship.

Starts: 13
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 2
Notable finishes: KPMG Women’s PGA Championship Win, T-2 HSBC Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: Not Ranked

10. Hye-Jin Choi

The rookie leads the LPGA in top-10 finishes this season, made more impressive by the fact the 22-year-old is seeing some of these courses for the first time.

Because of her success in South Korea, however, she has made major starts on the LPGA Tour before this year. As an amateur, she finished runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and she made two starts at the Amundi Evian Championship in 2017 (T-14) and 2019 (T-49).

Starts: 14
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 8
Notable finishes: Third U.S. Women’s Open, Third Lotte Championship, T-5 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: Not Ranked

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

On Friday, June 24, six-year LPGA Tour veteran Lauren Kim sat scrolling through Instagram. As she processed the ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning the 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade that guaranteed women the right to an abortion at a federal level, she clicked on friend Michelle Wie West’s Instagram story.

The first post celebrated the engagement of one of Wie West’s friends.

Tap — a comment on the devastation of Roe V. Wade.

Another tap — an announcement of a new product launch.

Kim texted Wie West afterward, explaining how her Instagram stories poignantly reflected Kim’s own experience with the news, as she attempted to process a life-altering Supreme Court decision while going about her day.

That message set off a chain of events culminating in over 20 LPGA players sharing a statement the following Tuesday that decried the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson and advocated for women’s reproductive rights as “human rights.” After the LPGA’s own delayed and all-encompassing response to the ruling, players didn’t want their voices to get lost in the shuffle. The final impetus came from a conversation with LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan, who explained the tour’s stance and encouraged them to share their personal views separately.

“I can kind of say as a blanket statement,” Kim said, “that a lot of us did feel like it was so hard to be part of a women’s organization and not have a stance on this.”

When the Supreme Court handed down the decision on June 24, the LPGA was in the middle of the second round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., only 12 miles away from the Supreme Court.

A Golfweek reporter approached 2017 rookie Mariah Stackhouse after she finished her round that day and was the first to notify her of the landmark decision.

“My response to that was definitely extremely raw,” Stackhouse said. “I didn’t have much time to really think over it.”

Stackhouse then called Kim, who wasn’t in the field for the PGA Championship, and they spoke for 30 minutes about the ramifications of the ruling. Later, another friend texted Kim a screenshot of a Golf.com reporter’s tweet that the LPGA didn’t plan to release a statement. Unsure if that meant no statement on the day of the decision or no statement period, Kim continued to ponder courses of action.

“I think there being possibly no statement was what kind of spurred our whole statement and feeling this responsibility to speak out,” she said.

Kim jotted down some thoughts reacting to what went on that day.

On Saturday morning, per Kim, the LPGA’s commissioner reached out to Wie West to explain that the tour was working on a statement. Marcoux Samaan confirmed she had spoken “to the board on this issue.”

Marcoux Samaan then appeared on NBC for an interview about the state of the PGA Championship but didn’t discuss the ruling.

The tour released its statement Saturday evening on social media. It didn’t mention reproductive rights or abortion, but rather highlighted that important women’s rights issues were now being addressed at the state level.

Kim and Marina Alex, who gave the LPGA feedback on the statement and passed it along to players, felt the tour did its best to encompass everyone’s perspectives.

“It becomes very difficult at that point to make any kind of statement that you feel has a lot of — I don’t want to say substance — but it’s hard for it to come from the heart when you’re trying to make sure that you are equally representing everyone that the tour body represents,” Alex said.

As the players began crafting a statement of their own, Wie West took on the bulk of the writing, while Kim and Lee contributed their thoughts.

Kim then scheduled a phone call with Marcoux Samaan and another player for Sunday. The commissioner, less than a year into her role, explained in detail to Kim why the tour’s statement included that particular phrasing.

“She’s very diplomatic,” Kim explained. “She said, ‘You know what? I can’t physically put out a statement just on my views. I have to take into account that there are players on the tour that believe that this is something to be celebrated. And if we have players on tour who believe that, then putting out a statement on behalf of the tour, it can’t be pro-choice in that regard.’”

Marcoux Samaan, she said, also encouraged the players to use their platforms to advocate for what they believed.

“I think we all took that as permission to post,” Kim said.

When asked to comment on her conversations with Kim that weekend, Marcoux Samaan did not confirm or deny that they spoke.

“It’s not appropriate for me to comment on private conversations with players,” Marcoux Samaan wrote via email. “We will always advocate for women’s rights, inclusion and equality as an organization.”

Kim, Lee and Wie West sought more feedback from players to see who might be open to sharing a player-driven statement, and to ensure their words did not come across as pointing the finger at the LPGA or blaming the tour writ large. Rather, they wanted it to express what they felt as female athletes at a crucial moment for women’s rights. Twenty of their peers ended up reaching out with their thoughts.

The day after the major championship concluded Sunday, some players stayed behind for the second Renee Powell Clearview Legacy Benefit.

The LPGA-promoted event raises money for the Clearview Legacy Foundation and the endowment for Clearview course, which Powell’s father founded in 1948 in East Canton, Ohio, after facing racial discrimination at other golf courses. Powell joins Stackhouse as two of eight Black players in the 72-year history of the LPGA, and the only two active Black players on tour.

Mariah Stackhouse speaks at the Renee Powell Clearview Legacy Benefit immediately following the PGA Championship. (Elsa/Getty Images)

“When you look at the juxtaposition of that and the LPGA non-statement that they put out regarding Roe V. Wade, I feel like as a woman’s organization, it’s incredibly important to be bold,” Stackhouse said. “Oftentimes, we as women are the only people that are going to speak for us as women. We talk a lot about equality on the LPGA Tour, raising our purses, the disparity between the opportunities that men and women have in golf, the pay opportunities, financial limits men and women have.

“We’re always talking about the importance of progression. And so when you have a ruling like this, where we’ve regressed to 50-plus years in the past, to read a statement that felt timid, fearful, a statement that held none of the attributes that go with unapologetic boldness and, affirmation towards a woman’s right to complete autonomy over our personal choices, that was very disappointing.”

Wie West reached out to Stackhouse on Monday morning to let her know that a statement was forthcoming and to encourage her to spread the word to other players at the event.

Allisen Corpuz joined in on the conversations with fellow players at the benefit. Abortion rights hit close to home for the rookie, whose mom once had an ectopic pregnancy that required an abortion. After putting her emotions to the side while competing at the PGA Championship, Corpuz started researching and compiling data points Monday night as soon as she landed in Los Angeles.

“I was just really angry, and at first I didn’t know if I was gonna post it or not,” she said. “Then I saw the player statement [and was] really happy with a player statement, but at the same time, I felt that I had a lot more to say, especially with the story about my mom.”

Wie West, Kim, Lee and Alex texted the final draft of the player statement to those they knew had expressed interest. By Monday night, their statement had evolved from a gut reaction to a thoughtful response that expressed their hopes for a future in which all women get the health care they need.

“[Wie West] said her eyeballs were burning after the weekend,” Kim said. “We were just going back and forth, just constantly on the phone.”

Michelle Wie West led the writing of the players' statement. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

As they passed along the statement, the group asked each player to share the post on Tuesday morning and to add their own thoughts to their captions.

“I feel like if I didn’t say more than just [the LPGA’s statement],” Alex said, “I’m not doing my job as someone with a bit of a platform.

“I don’t have a huge platform, but I do have some, so I feel like it’s a bit of a social and moral responsibility to speak on behalf of some of those women out there that probably are not able to say anything.”

Current and former LPGA players Kay Cockerill, Gemma Dryburgh, Lily He, Pat Hurst, Bronte Law, Jeehae Lee, Brittany Lincicome, Meg Mallon, Suzann Pettersen, Mel Reid, Jenny Shin, Charlotte Thomas, Albane Valenzuela, Alison Walshe and Karrie Webb joined Alex, Kim, Lee, Stackhouse and Wie West in sharing the post to their accounts.

Other players, caddies and LPGA staff members then circulated it on their Instagram stories, a gesture that gave Stackhouse and others a glimmer of hope during a trying time.

“I think especially within the golf community, it’s not always easy to be bold and confident in any progressive ideology because there’s going to be a lot of pushback in the golf space,” Stackhouse said. “And so to see everyone who decided that they were going to stand for what they believed in at that moment, even if it was very uncomfortable, it made me proud. Especially when following the LPGA statement that came out, and there was nothing really that I could be proud of there.”

The commissioner also appreciated the players’ gesture.

“Our players are leaders and role models and I am proud that they used their platforms to advocate on this important issue as we encouraged them to do in our statement on June 25th,” she wrote via email.

Corpuz was motivated to follow through with her own statement after seeing the reception on social media. She had a few friends scan the nearly 1,300 words she drafted, which ranged from the emotions of her mom’s story, to her thoughts about limiting the number of safe abortions, to the trauma of carrying a conception through sexual violence to term, to her love for the tour and her disappointment in the LPGA’s statement.

She posted it on Wednesday, June 29, and then avoided Instagram for the next six hours, only occasionally swiping in and back out in under two seconds.

“I think that I probably was in more of a position to speak about it just because I’m a rookie,” Corpuz said. “I don’t really have too many sponsors to worry about upsetting right now, honestly. I think that’s probably a big reason why other girls aren’t super public about all politics, not just the topic of abortion.”

Reflecting on the process behind the statement, the players were proud of how it came together and that it resonated while not putting the onus on the LPGA.

But they weren’t done.

After the coordinated posts on Tuesday, 12 players met with Marcoux Samaan over Zoom — including one who was anti-abortion — in a prescheduled Diversity Council meeting. The group, which Wie West put together, met for the first time at the DIO Implant LA Open back in late April.

In the call with Marcoux Samaan, many sought to get across that, while they understood the LPGA’s need for neutrality given the current political climate and the fact that its members do not share all of the same views, the tour’s silence during the apex of a crisis created some of the loudest noise in women’s sports.

Lauren Kim has been a leader in these efforts from the beginning. (Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

In the future, those same players hope the LPGA will be quicker to respond as they work together to figure out what role the tour plays in a time of crisis. In reference to the Diversity Council meeting, Marcoux Samaan again declined to comment on private conversations with players.

Since then, the conversation has continued, with multiple sources confirming that there was a players-only meeting Monday night, during which Roe v. Wade was discussed.

“It’s fine if it’s neutral, but I think it needed to come within hours of the decision,” Kim said. “We’ve made the LPGA very aware of that. I think that’s something that is not going to be fixed. It can’t retroactively be fixed, and it won’t be fixed until something like this happens again.

“But I think the timing of things in these situations is really important. And particularly as a women’s sports organization, silence speaks volumes.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

In Gee Chun won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club on Sunday, coming from behind after surrendering a large lead early in the final round to win her third career major title. Here are five takeaways from Chun’s fourth career victory on tour.

1. In Gee Chun’s historic first round delivers title

Chun won the PGA Championship at five-under par, making her opening-round 64 — an eight-under strike at the recently renovated Congressional Blue Course — all the more impressive. No one else in the field even touched eight-under par over the weekend. Chun’s second-round 69 Friday gave her breathing room, and she used all of it from there, posting back-to-back rounds of 75 for a one-shot wire-to-wire victory.

“When I got a slump, I really wanted to quit the golf, but not because of them. I keep trying to play golf. That’s how I made win this week,” Chun said.

After a T-15 finish at the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this month, Chun called her sister and told her she missed home. Winless since 2018, Chun didn’t feel like she had any goals. Her sister kept it blunt and suggested she quit golf.

“When I heard what she said,” Chun said, “I don’t want to — I didn’t want to quit the golf. Then I believe I still have a spirit, and I [said], In Gee, you still want to play golf.”

Chun’s perseverance was rewarded with her third major title. The 27-year-old felt the support of her fans — particularly her dedicated fan club, nicknamed “The Flying Dumbos” — and her sponsors, all of whom stuck with her during her four years away from the winner’s circle.

“I want to keep saying thanks to everyone who believed in me and never gave up on me,” she said.

2. Lexi Thompson’s heartbreaking runner-up finish — again

Lexi Thompson’s final round at Congressional Country Club on Sunday felt all too familiar. Trailing by three strokes at the start of the round, the 27-year-old posted two birdies took the lead on the fourth hole as Chun scuffled early on. Thompson then recorded her first bogey in 20 holes on the seventh and entered the final nine holes with a two-shot lead.

The back nine became her undoing as her short game faltered. She hit a two-foot putt that spun out of the cup. She took four shots to get down from the greenside for a bogey on the par-5 16th. She had a 3-footer that never touched the hole on the 17th, keeping her square with Chun.

All would have been forgiven if Thompson had raised her second major championship trophy. After a towering approach shot on the 18th, she had to make a 12-foot, left-to-right breaking putt to force a playoff with Chun.

The putt fell short and to the right of the cup.

“Because I’m a player too, when I saw someone miss the short putt, my heart is hurt too because I understand everything,” Chun said of Thompson’s miss.

Thompson signed autographs for kids, and then left the course without speaking to the media after the round.

The major championship wounds continue to deepen for the 27-year-old. The runner-up finish Sunday was her fourth since she won her first and only major at the 2014 ANA Inspiration. The others came at the 2015 Evian Championship, the 2017 ANA Inspiration and the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open. The result also was just one year removed from her collapse at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, when she lost a five-shot lead with 10 holes to go.

Thompson last won on tour at the 2019 Shoprite LPGA Classic.

3. The backdrop of Supreme Court controversy

When the Supreme Court’s watershed decision overturning Roe v. Wade was handed down on Friday, the LPGA was playing its major championship just 12 miles from Washington, D.C. As leagues and athletes across women’s sports spoke out over the decision, the tour’s response came a day after the court’s ruling.

On Friday, the LPGA confirmed with Golf.com that it would not make a statement. On Saturday, it provided the following statement:

The tour’s statement did not mention reproductive rights or abortion, central tenets of the decision. Players and caddies shared their frustrations over the LPGA’s response privately to Just Women’s Sports.

One player texted, “Well this is something, but really, it’s nothing. Just dancing around it.”

Marcoux Samaan appeared on NBC for an interview Saturday to discuss the state of the championship. The ruling was never brought up.

Charlotte Thomas and Su Oh shared on their Instagram stories that they participated in the protests at the Supreme Court.

LPGA layer-board member Amy Olson tweeted a Golfweek article in which she shared her perspective on the situation as a pro-life advocate.

“Now states have the opportunity to protect every life, they haven’t had the option to do that in almost 50 years,” Olson told Golfweek.

“For those who say this hurts women, my question to them is — when does a woman’s life begin? If we can’t answer that question, how can we even have a conversation about women’s rights?”

4. Why was the Congressional course so long?

Congressional Country Club played to a total of 6,894 yards this week, 200 yards longer than Pine Needles for the U.S. Women’s Open (6,638) and 53 yards longer than the PGA Tour’s TPC River Highlands this week.

Rain drenched the course on Wednesday, slowing down the roll of the balls on the fairways and greens. Course officials did not move the tees from their original positions as a result.

Golfer Mariah Stackhouse compared the length to around 7,100 on Thursday due to the conditions, highlighting the extra challenge Chun faced when she shot an eight-under 64 in the first round.

Travis Kreiter, the caddie and fiancé of U.S. Women’s Open runner-up Mina Harigae, expressed his concerns with the setup. He noticed that both Harigae and Jeongeun Lee6, who played in their group, could not reach a number of greens in regulation. With the new $9 million purse raising the stakes of the tournament, the importance placed on distance relative to other facets of the game came under question.

“There is no formula that says that the LPGA Tour should have been playing 6,900 yards,” Kreiter said, “There’s no formula. That or I would like to know what the formula was to get to that number, because it doesn’t make sense other than the fact that they just wanted to have the longest golf course in major championship history.”

Eight players finished the PGA Championship under par 72.

5. Life-changing money for the field

LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan joked that once the news of the tournament’s purse increase hit players’ inboxes on Tuesday, they would trickle out of the dining area to work on their games.

The pressure was already high for Jennifer Chang, who was making her LPGA major debut in 2022 at the PGA Championship. With a strong performance, she could earn a spot in the next major of the season, the Amundi Evian Championship. If she faltered and missed that, she would move closer to another trip to Q-Series, the LPGA’s qualifying school.

The 22-year-old found something in her game Thursday that allowed her to pull the trigger more quickly over the ball. The adjustment resulted in a T-10 finish, Chang’s career-best finish at a major and a guaranteed spot in the field of the major in France. Perhaps most impactfully, she earned $156,315, the largest paycheck of her career by over $100,000.

“I mean, it’s a huge check,” Chang said. “Usually, in a regular event, third place might get that. It’s a big deal. I can’t even process what’s just happened yet.”

Twenty players earned more than $100,000 on Sunday. Lauren Coughlin and Stephanie Kyriacou also made the first six-figure checks of their careers.

“It really takes one week, right?” Chang said. “Kind of a huge eye-opening experience. And that was the case for me.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

This year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is the fifth major championship held at the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., and the first for women.

In addition, the LPGA plays the course for the first time since its year-and-a-half renovation in June 2021.

Here are some of the storylines to follow from this year’s tournament, which begins Thursday.

The major purse surge continues

The 2022 season will go down as one of historic purse raises on the LPGA Tour.

From the U.S. Women’s Open breaking tradition with the first presenting sponsor to bring the purse from $5.5 million to $10 million, only two weeks later the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship doubled from $4.5 million to $9 million.

“When this partnership came about and we had the first KPMG Women’s Championship in 2014, we really made a commitment,” PGA of America President Jim Richerson said. “We really wanted to make sure we utilized this event to showcase the best women’s players in the game and do that with one of the biggest purses.”

All five LPGA majors have had purses increase by over $1 million in 2022. The Chevron Championship went from $3.1 million to $5 million, the Amundi Evian Championship went from $4.5 million to $6.5 million and the AIG Women’s Open went from $5.6 million to $6.8 million. The total is an incredible $13.9 million increase in major purse size, just shy of the total purse of the LPGA’s 1990 season, which surpassed $14.8 million.

With a first-place check of $1.35 million, once the announcement reached players’ email inboxes, they quickly got moving to practice.

“Someone else said that the news hit while the players were in dining,” LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan said, “and all of a sudden they all scurried out to the range. That was the joke in dining.”

It’ll be the fourth check exceeding a million dollars handed out this year, with Minjee Lee and Mina Harigae winning $1.8 million and $1.05 million, respectively, at the U.S. Women’s Open and $2 million to the CME Group Tour Championship victor, the first multi-million dollar prize in LPGA history.

U.S. Solheim Cup 2021 roster performing well at majors

American Solheim Cup Captain Stacy Lewis had 20 players out for dinner in Bethesda to chat about the team and keep them in the loop about plans for the 2023 match-play event in Spain. While Lewis didn’t point out any specific name, she gave props to potential rookies Lilia Vu, who finished third at the LPGA’s Bank of Hope Match Play in late May, and Andrea Lee, who posted two top-five finishes in her last five starts.

Lewis went on to acknowledge team veterans Nelly Korda, who lost in a playoff last week in her second start since returning after four months away due to a blood clot complication, and Lexi Thompson, who has four top-five finishes in eight starts this season.

“I think American golf is in a good spot,” Lewis said, “It’s just different faces than everybody is used to, and that’s just the natural progression of it. There’s always going to be changes. There’s always going to be changing kind of rolling over of players. This new guard coming up is really good. Got some new names for people to learn.”

Three Americans have won or finished runner-up at the year’s first two majors. First, Jennifer Kupcho won the Chevron Championship, with Jessica Korda finishing in second. Then Mina Harigae followed up with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Kupcho became one of two multiple-time winners in 2022, along with Minjee Lee, after defeating Korda and Leona Maguire in a playoff last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic.

“I think for sure we’re definitely trending that direction more so than even when I first came out here,” Kupcho said, “I think there’s a lot of great American players right now.”

Minjee Lee takes aim at third major

Last year, Nelly Korda was No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings before winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. This year, Lee — arguably the top-performing golfer on the LPGA this year with two wins, including the U.S. Women’s Open, and eight top-25 finishes in nine starts — sits in the No. 3 spot in the world rankings.

Fueling the Australian’s campaign is the working out she did in the offseason, mainly throwing a medicine ball around to average 270 off the tee. It’s eight yards further than 2021, helping her to lead the tour in birdieing 26.7% of her holes, a 2.5% lead over Atthaya Thitikul and a 5% leap from last season.

It led the eight-time winner to the 72-hole scoring record in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles (271), and she’s leading the LPGA in major scoring with a combined score of 38-under par, leading Nelly Korda by four strokes.

If her current form holds, Lee may end up in the winner’s circle for her third major title in her last five major starts, becoming the first multi-major winner in a season since Jin Young Ko in 2019.

“I like to embrace the challenge [of majors],” Lee said, “and I think the harder the golf courses get, I think the better I play. You do have to focus a little bit more on smaller details, so I think that’s where I kind of excel. When I play under pressure, that is where I excel as well. I think it just really sets up well.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

Minjee Lee ran away with the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, becoming the first Australian to win the major championship since her mentor and LPGA Hall of Famer, Karrie Webb, did so 21 years ago at the same course.

Led by Lee’s historic feat, here are five takeaways from the second major tournament of the LPGA season.

1. Minjee Lee’s major run

Last Monday, Minjee Lee joked with her caddie that there would be plenty of room to practice with the various stations on the Pine Needles’ driving range. On Sunday, she was one of the last players off the range ahead of the final tee time of the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open.

Lee protected her three-shot lead to win by four strokes, shooting an even-par 71 on a course that gave up only two under-par rounds Sunday. Outlasting second-place finisher Mina Harigae, Lee set the 72-hole scoring record while accomplishing a lifelong goal.

“It’s been my dream since I was a little girl,” Lee said. “This is the one I always wanted to win.”

Whatever nerves she was feeling subsided on the first holes, as Lee started birdie-birdie to extend her lead to five strokes. She all but solidified her victory on the 12th hole when she landed her approach shot 6 feet from the hole and made the putt for birdie. She joins Australian legends Jan Stephenson (1986) and Webb (2000, 2001) as U.S. Women’s Open champions from the country.

“I think this will be huge for all the little girls, and even the boys and the children watching,” Lee said. “I know there’s been a really big boom in [Western Australia]. The girls have been a lot more interested in playing, so hopefully they watch me on TV and I can be a good role model to them and they’ll start getting more involved.”

Lee has now won two of the last four LPGA majors (2021 Amundi Evian Championship, 2022 U.S. Women’s Open), a feat last achieved by World No. 1 Jin Young Ko at the ANA Inspiration (now the Chevron Championship) and Evian Championship in 2019.

2. Lydia Ko builds toward third major championship

When a player relinquishes the No. 1 spot in the Rolex World Rankings, they can end up in a battle for survival. Yani Tseng, for example, dropped off in 2012 and never recovered.

The last world No. 1 before Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko, Sung Hyun Park, displayed her talent over the first 36-holes at Pine Needles this week, sitting at four-under par and T-9 after two rounds. The 2016 U.S. Women’s Open champion then faltered down the stretch, ending up at five-over par for the week and T-28, and still in search of her first top-10 finish since the 2019 AIG Women’s Open.

Lydia Ko last held the World No. 1 ranking in 2017 and has recorded only one victory from 2017-20, at the 2018 Mediheal Championship in San Francisco.

The 17-time LPGA winner fell as far as 55th in the world rankings in 2020. Now, the World No. 4 as of Monday, Ko has displayed remarkable consistency in her last 13 events, finishing inside the top 25 of every tournament since last September. Ko won twice at the 2021 LOTTE Championship and 2022 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio. Her caddie, Derek Kistler, credits her recent success to her ability around the greens.

“She’s got the best short game in golf, pretty much when you talk about chipping and putting,” Kistler said. “She still can get loose with her driver a little bit, but it’s improving. I don’t think it’s anything crazy. She’s just consistent.”

Even when Kistler felt Ko didn’t have her best driver game at the Founder’s Cup in May, she still posted 24 birdies for a T-12 finish. This week, Ko posted her third top-10 finish in her last seven major starts. The Kiwi finished runner-up at the 2021 ANA Inspiration, T-6 at the 2021 Amundi Evian Championship and in fifth place at the U.S. Open on Sunday.

Firmly back in the hunt, the 25-year-old is aiming for her third major title and first one in six years.

“I think we all try and peak at the majors,” Ko said. “You’re just trying to play the best golf you can and, at the same time, not think of it any more differently than any other event. But to play solid, I think it just shows what point my game is at, and I know there are things to improve, but there’s still a lot of good from there.”

3. LPGA’s parity era continues

From 2002-16, a player won multiple times on the LPGA Tour by the 10th tournament of the year. In four of the last six seasons, it’s taken more than 10 tournaments for the first multi-time champion to emerge, showcasing the increasing depth of the field.

Minjee Lee’s wins in 2022 came in the 11th and 13th events on the tournament calendar. In 2017, it took until the 17th event for So Yeon Ryu to become the first player to win multiple tournaments. In 2018, Ariya Jutaugarn did it in the 14th event, and in 2021, Nelly Korda got there by the 14th event, too.

This weekend at the U.S. Open, runner-up Mina Harigae finished four strokes off the mark in her first top-10 in 46 career major starts over her 11-year career.

“I’m not going to lie, my stomach hurt the last couple holes coming down,” Harigae said. “I was really stressed out, but I was really just focusing on one shot at a time, making solid contact and just hitting good putts.”

4. Michelle Wie West and Annika Sorenstam exit the stage

There are few sports where a 51-year-old could return to the major stage for the first time in 14 years and still be expected to perform. Annika Sorenstam, 72-time LPGA winner and three-time U.S. Women’s Open Champion, faced just that in her return to Pine Needles, where she won the championship in 1996.

“The curiosity for me isn’t how she’s going to make the cut this week, because she is going to make the cut,” former Golf Channel commentator Jerry Foltz said leading up to the tournament. “She doesn’t know how not to. Unlike my playing career, Annika doesn’t make plane reservations on Saturday morning in advance.”

Paired with 2011 U.S. Women’s Open winner So Yeon Ryu and amateur Ingrid Lindblad (who won low Am honors this week), Sorenstam felt she had to score under par Friday after an opening-round 74 to advance to the weekend. Instead, Sorenstam posted a 10-over par 81, including a seven-over 43 on the back nine, to finish outside the cut — her 12th missed cut in 310 career starts.

“It was a disappointing final round, actually final nine,” she said. “But it’s been great to be here. You know what Pine Needles means to me and my family and everybody. We made a lot of different memories in different ways.”

Michelle Wie West, meanwhile, exited Pine Needles with a smile after almost making a long bomb from the front fringe on her 36th hole to get to three-over par and a possible spot in the weekend’s competition.

The 32-year-old ended up finishing at five-over par through two rounds, missing the cut and officially moving on to her next adventures around golf. The 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion didn’t disclose those plans specifically, but she did share earlier in the week that LA Golf — a golf equipment company for which she leads the women’s partnership initiative — is providing full healthcare for sponsored athletes, featuring mental health days and paid maternity leave.

“This is just the beginning,” Wie West wrote in an Instagram post. “We are excited to create a dialogue.”

Michelle Wie West played in her second-to-last tournament at the U.S. Open this weekend. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The Stanford graduate plans to let her clubs gather some dust before preparing for her final start on the LPGA Tour, the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.

5. The gold standard

Harigae’s agent, Alex Guerrero, may have put it best Saturday afternoon on how much this week has done for his client, a 13-year LPGA veteran.

The $10 million purse and first-place check of $1.8 million, introduced this year at the U.S. Open, are new records in the women’s game. Harigae earned the first runner-up check worth over a million dollars in women’s golf history (her biggest payday previously was $268,657 for a T-3 finish at the 2021 CME Group Tour Championship). NBC also featured seven hours of live coverage of the tournaments on its national network, a marked increase from past years.

“My player is in the final group back-to-back days,” Guerrero said of Harigae. “That’s more national TV exposure than she’s gotten over her whole career.”

The USGA aims to expand the purse to $12 million over the next five years and continue to hold the major championship at some of the sport’s most iconic venues. Pebble Beach, one of the most historic courses in the country, will host the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open.

Behind Heather Daly-Donofrio, the LPGA’s former Chief Operations Officer (and former LPGA player) hired in April as the USGA’s Managing Director of the Athlete Development Program, will lead a $50 million initiative to grow the talent pool and lower barriers to access in women’s golf.

“USGA can assist families who have children with the talent to continue,” Whan told The Pilot. “Mexico does it, Canada does it, other countries do it. We are going to do it.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Nelly Korda walked onto the driving range at Pine Needles Golf Club at 1:20 p.m. on Thursday, an hour ahead of her tee time for her first competitive round in almost four months. A volunteer at the U.S. Women’s Open turned to her before she started her warmup and asked her how she felt after being sidelined since March with a blood clot in her left arm.

“Happy it’s over,” Korda responded.

Three rounds later, Korda is playing like she never left the LPGA Tour. The No. 2 player in the world, despite finishing the third round Saturday with three bogeys in a row, has shot under par in every round of the U.S. Women’s Open. She enters the final round Sunday at four-under and nine shots back of leader Minjee Lee, with much more on her mind than winning.

“I’m just happy to be out here, even though that was a tough pill to swallow,” she said Saturday after her bogey-filled back nine. “I still have one more day, and I’m doing what I love and I’m out here in the heat competing at the U.S. Women’s Open. A couple months back, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be doing that.”

One of the first people Korda told about her uncertain status back in March was close friend Megan Khang. Before Korda announced publicly that she had been diagnosed with a blood clot, and later that she had undergone surgery for it, Khang learned that Korda would be stepping away from the tour. She reminded her friend and the top American golfer on tour that the sport should come second to her health.

During the four-month break, the 23-year-old told Khang she wanted to get back to the course. Khang — who had been spending more time off the course with Korda’s older sister, Jessica, in her absence — encouraged her to return only when she was 100 percent.

“You know Nelly,” Khang said. “She’s a super great competitor. She’s just a different kind of breed in the best way.”

Sophia Popov, a longtime friend of Jessica Korda, could relate to her sister’s situation. The 2020 AIG Women’s Open Champion battled an unknown condition on tour for years, and was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2017. Popov, knowing how hard it is for any golfer at the top of their game to be away from the game for an extended period of time, watched as Korda dedicated herself to her rehab, working out and dieting to return to full strength.

Before the start of Korda’s warmup on the range Thursday, Popov hugged her.

“I just think she’s a staple out here right now,” Popov said of the seven-time LPGA Tour champion. “I think that’s important to keep her around because it’s more exciting to watch.”

The fans at Pine Needles have felt the same way, standing three to four rows deep along the ropes during Korda’s three rounds. She said the crowds following her were some of the biggest she’d seen on tour, and that the youngest supporters have brought her some of her greatest joys this weekend.

“I really, really love when the little kids and little girls kind of scream my name,” she said. “Some of them even ask me for an autograph during the round, and I just can’t say no. I’m just so happy to be out here.”

Korda’s fans range from teens gleefully taking selfies with her in the background, to young kids getting their first autographs from one of their favorite athletes. They will surely be watching as the 23-year-old aims to climb the leaderboard Sunday and punctuate her return to the tour.

“Nelly’s competing like she never left. It’s always great to see,” Khang said. “And as a friend, I’m super happy she’s feeling healthy and back up for the challenge week in and week out.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Ingrid Lindblad made history Thursday, shooting the lowest round by an amateur in U.S. Women’s Open history with a six-under par 65 at Pine Needles Golf Club. But could she back it up on Friday, when the expectations were higher and more people were watching?

The spotlight shone even brighter with 72-time LPGA Tour winner Annika Sorenstam making her first major start in 14 years and playing in Lindblad’s group. There were also World No. 1 Jin Young Ko and American stalwart Lexi Thompson playing in the group in front of her.

None of it phased the Swede as she followed through Friday with a steady-handed even-par round to sit three shots off the lead, held by Minjee Lee and Mina Harigae at nine-under par. Her 136 strokes through two rounds set the 36-hole amateur scoring record.

“Yesterday I don’t think I ever realized what happened,” Lindblad said. “It was just when I got back to the hotel, I’m like, well, this is pretty good. I don’t think I realize how big it is. It’s like whenever you come to a big amateur tournament, like when I played Augusta for the first time last year, I was like, I didn’t realize how big this is until you get there and all the attention you get.”

When Lindblad returned to the hotel from her opening round Thursday, her phone lit up with messages. The LSU junior appreciated the recognition, but she didn’t want to let it distract her so she turned off her notifications. One text, however, stood out from the rest. Her assistant coach, Alexis Rather, a motherlike figure for the No. 2 amateur in the world, reminded her of her ability.

“You’ve put a lot of work into this,” Lindblad explained while tearing up, “a lot of hours. She’s, like, ‘I’m not surprised you’re there.’”

Feeling confident off the tee Friday, Lindblad birdied the par 5 at Pine Needles just as she did on Thursday. From there, the 22-year-old made par after par, not matching the seven-birdie effort she put together in the first round but remaining in the hunt. She posted 31 putts in her second round, five more than Thursday.

“She didn’t have, obviously, the game that she had yesterday,” said Lindblad’s caddie, five-time LPGA winner Sophie Gustafson. “I mean, it was a little wayward and we had to get it up and down quite a few times. She never said, ‘Oh s–t, I missed it.’ She just said, ‘Oh well,’ and moved on.”

With electronic leaderboards on display around Pine Needles, Lindlblad tried not to check them during her round. And with stars playing in and around her group Friday, she didn’t get many cheers. The first one for her came after she walked out of the restroom on the 12th hole.

“I feel like I played good, but no one said that to me,” Lindblad said. “You just have to focus on yourself and your own game and not get too distracted by other things.”

She also had to balance other responsibilities off the course following her second round. Lindblad had to take a quiz and submit questions for her summer sports law class on Title IX and ADA. She requested an extension from her professor, but if she can’t update it, she’ll end up with a 37 out of 38. The grade is similar to Sorenstam’s evaluation of the amateur’s performance so far this week.

“It was a terrific round yesterday and today,” Sorenstam said. “What she did today I thought was maybe not equally as impressive, but it’s impressive to be able to hold it the way she did. She has a great attitude, and I told her, ‘I hope you are just enjoying this.’ I’m sure she will be in this spot a few times.

“Enjoy it. Trust yourself for the weekend. You have it.”

On Saturday, Lindlblad will play alongside Ko, the world No. 1, two tee times ahead of the final pairing. The four-time amateur tournament winner in 2022 enters the third round with an opportunity to make history. If Lindblad hoists the Harton S. Semple trophy on Sunday, she will become the first amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open since Catherine Lacoste at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., in 1967.

But even if Lindblad comes up short in the end, her historic opening 36-hole performance showed what her future holds on the LPGA Tour.

“For Ingrid to have that experience and perform well in that opportunity,” said Golf Channel commentator Kay Cockerill, who followed Lindblad on Friday, “is a memory for her to call upon for years and years.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — After Mina Harigae’s press conference Thursday evening, not long after she shot a seven-under par 64 to take a one-shot lead in the opening round of the U.S. Women’s Open, she divulged the magic behind her career-best round at the major.

“It’s gotta be the Dior shoes, for sure,” Harigae said, laughing.

The Jordan Brand aficionado received a pair of custom Jordan Diors from her agent, Alex Guerrero, during a practice round on Tuesday afternoon at Pine Needles Golf Club. The gesture was the result of the 32-year-old’s year-long journey with the brand.

Guerrero primarily works with professional male athletes and is used to his clients receiving free products. So, he sent a note to Jordan Brand explaining that Harigae had felt comfortable playing in Jordan ADG golf shoes during U.S. Women’s Open qualifying last year. From there, Jordan started a relationship with Harigae, while she and her fiancé and caddie, Travis Kreiter, became full-blown Jordan sneakerheads.

“I got about 10 new pairs in the last like two months,” Harigae said Thursday. “But Travis has way more.”

Kreiter said he has about 50-60 pairs of shoes, but the new Diors are his favorite because of their exclusivity. Guerrero ordered a pair of Jordan 1 lows and sent them to shoe artist Tyler Liber so he could customize them for the couple. The gift acknowledges how far they’ve come in the last year, over a decade since Harigae made her U.S. Women’s Open debut at Pine Needles Golf Club in 2007 at just 17 years old.

“Feeling wanted and loved is half the battle in this game,” Guerrero said.

The couple received the shoes Tuesday after a delayed redeye flight out of Phoenix pushed their arrival time back a day. Instead of worrying, they focused on what they needed to do to prepare for Day 1.

Krieter walked the opening eight holes to scout the renovated Pine Needles track, and Harigae practiced.

“In my eyes, a lot of times it’s easy to get stressed at majors,” Kreiter said. “The longer you’re here, the worse it is sometimes.”

On the range, they recognized the gap in distance between Harigae’s driver and three-wood might be too much for the week. So they worked with Harigae’s club sponsor, PXG’s club representative Scotty Kim, to tweak her three-wood setup. They tried out four separate shafts before deciding to increase her shaft length from 43 to 43.5 inches, and switch out her Ventus Blue shaft to a Ventus Red shaft to maximize height and carry.

“Because Mina has great tempo, I thought that she would be able to manage the slightly longer club length,” Kim wrote in a text.

With the changes, Harigae increased her ball speed, peak height and total distance without relinquishing any control. On Wednesday, Harigae got her first taste of the course after its 2021 renovation, playing the final 10 holes for the first time in 15 years when she finished T-66 at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open.

The three-wood adjustments gave Harigae a boost right away on Thursday afternoon. Her second shot on the first hole, a 507-yard par-5, sat 224 yards away from the front. Instead of leaving an awkward 20-yard pitch shot, Harigae hit her three wood and ended up 4 yards from the front of the green. The Monterey, Calif. native chipped it to within 8 feet of the cup with a bump-and-run sand wedge, setting her up to make her first of nine birdies during the round.

“I do that a ton,” Harigae said when asked about not playing all 18 holes before the first round. “I think it’s just more keeping the ball in front of me, picking conservative-ish targets and not going at pins.

“Honestly, any golf course, any tournament, as long you hit it where Travis tells me to go, I feel like I’m good to go.”

Harigae slotted in PXG’s “Hercules” model during the Bank of Hope LPGA match play last week, which Kreiter received the Friday before the Las Vegas tournament. Kreiter recalled the last time Harigae used his putter, she finished in second place at the 2021 Marathon Classic.

“You can steal my putter as long as you keep making birdies,” Kreiter joked.

Harigae's PXG's "Hercules" putter, as shown by fiancé Travis Keiter (Kent Paisley/Just Women's Sports)

They polished off their preparations by having her hold her putter more level, which led to more consistency on the greens. On Thursday, she recorded 24 putts, her lowest total since hitting 23 in the opening round of the Honda LPGA Thailand in March.

“She’s been closer than results have shown,” Kreiter said. “Even the 12th-place finish, we didn’t make hardly anything outside of 10 feet.”

After recording her first round in the 60s at the U.S. Women’s Open in 37 rounds, the 13-year veteran heads into Friday’s round with the first 18-hole lead of her LPGA career. Harigae, however, isn’t letting herself look too far ahead. With her Jordans on, she plans to stay present on one of the grandest stages in golf.

“Just being appreciative of where I am, really taking in the moment, but at the same time, not trying to put so much precedent on how big the moment is,” Harigae said. “It’s another day on the golf course, another hole.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

PINE NEEDLES, N.C. — A lasting memory from the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open is that of Lexi Thompson losing a five-shot lead down the back nine at Olympic Club, causing her to miss out on a second major title and her first U.S. Women’s Open championship in 15 starts.

“I always say there’s really no feeling,” Thompson said. “You’re always learning. Every time I tee it up, there’s something to be processed, to learn. Yeah, it didn’t go my way. It was frustrating, but it happens. I’m here.”

Thompson wasn’t the only past major champion to let a five-shot lead slip in nine holes on the Sunday of a major championship last year.

Heading into the final round of the Amundi Evian Championship in July, Jeongeun Lee6 led the pack by five shots despite experimenting with changes to her backswing in the two months leading up to the tournament. Lee6 unraveled early that Sunday, shooting a four-over par 39 on the front nine and making room for Minjee Lee to catch her with a three-under 32.

Lee6 fought back into contention with three birdies in a row to close her final 18 and force a playoff with Lee. That’s when Lee6 took a swing she still wishes she could have back.

Setting up for her second shot on the playoff hole from 181 yards out in the center of the fairway, Lee6’s five iron found the water in front of the par-5 18th green, sinking any hope of a second major title. After Lee6 missed a par putt, her final opportunity to put pressure on Lee, the Australian completed the seven-stroke comeback to win her first major championship.

“I didn’t want to remember that shot, that second shot. It’s not easy,” Lee6 said. “I can’t do nothing, so I just practice.”

Morgan Pressel, a major champion herself and witness to two five-shot collapses last summer, put Lee6’s performance at Evian into perspective that day.

“It’s just not easy to play under major championship pressure with a five-shot lead,” Pressel said. “Everyone expects you to win, you expect yourself to win, and when things start going sideways, you get tight and tense, and we saw that from Lee6 today.

“The way she battled back, even to get into this playoff, she has to be proud of herself because she showed a lot of heart today.”

From there, Lee6 took about a month to reset and spend time with friends, family and coaches. Her mental coach reinforced the positives from the runner-up result, notably how well she’d played while working on her swing.

“I won U.S. Open, so you have a lot of talent,” Lee6, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open champion, said her mental coach reminded her. “You have talent, trust myself, just keep going.”

The South Korean continued to focus on getting her hands higher in her backswing during the time she spent away from the tour. And her team reminded her that, with her talent at age 26, she’d have more opportunities to win as long as she kept working on her game.

Once Lee6 let the playoff shot go, the consistency she showed during her 2019 Rookie of the Year campaign returned. She rattled off three straight top-10 finishes from September through early October, and concluded the year with a T-15 at the CME Group Tour Championship.

After getting in more swing training in Palm Springs during the offseason, Lee6 started the 2022 season again with three top-10 finishes in a row from February through March. Even after missing the cut at the Chevron Championship and failing to advance out of pool play at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play last week, Lee6 said her backswing feels much better now than it did a year ago.

Lee6 brings her improved swing to what’s arguably been her best tournament on the LPGA circuit. In five career starts at the U.S. Women’s Open dating back to 2017, she’s hoisted the Harton S. Semple Trophy in 2019, finished in the top-6 in 2017 (T-5) and 2020 (T-6), and posted a T-17 finish in 2018 and a T-12 at Olympic Club last year. The challenge the USGA presents with its tournament every year brings out the best out in Lee6.

“I like tricky golf courses because easy golf courses, we have to make a lot of birdies. Difficult course, we just play for par. If we have chance to make birdie, I like that. I like that playing,” she said.

“That’s why U.S. Open, a lot of majors, that’s why I like it.”

Lee6 has a chance this week to become the first player to win two U.S. Women’s Opens in a four-year span since Karrie Webb won back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. With much attention being paid to Thompson and whether she can rebound from last year’s collapse, Lee6 will look to apply the patience she learned across the Atlantic Ocean to another winning campaign at the U.S. Open.

“I need to just wait for my second win,” Lee6 said. “I think this year, if I try my best, I am going to have a chance.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.