Aussie Green defends Women's PGA title against global greats

New York (AFP) –


Australia's Hannah Green will try to defend her first major title against a host of global rivals when the 66th Women's PGA Championship starts Thursday at Aronimink.

The 23-year-old from Perth edged South Korea's Park Sung-hyun by one stroke last year at Hazeltine to capture the crown, and she comes to Newton Square, Pennsylvania, with the extra confidence that victory produced.

"I didn't really think I was capable to go wire-to-wire in an event, let alone a major championship, just hanging in there," Green said.

"Even though I was kind of crashing a little bit on the back nine, I was trying to give myself as much positive thoughts as possible and worked really well with my caddie to make sure that I knew that I was still in it."

That mental toughness will help as eight of the past nine LPGA majors have been taken by first-time major winners and a hungry set of rivals lurks again in suburban Philadelphia.

"Maybe because we haven't had that type of pressure before. It's completely new to us. We don't have any bad memories from possibly having a lead or not having the outcome at the end of the day," Green said.

"We're such an international tour. I think we're pretty lucky that we do get to play these championship golf courses and we have so much variety in the golf that we play, going over to Europe, to Asia, playing in Australia. Our games are all very diverse and that's why anyone can win each week."

World number two Nelly Korda nearly captured her first major crown last month before sharing second at the ANA Inspiration, joining Canada's Brooke Henderson in losing a playoff to South Korean Lee Mi-rim.

Korda and her LPGA-playing sister Jessica watched their brother Sebastian reach the fourth round at the French Open before falling to idol Rafael Nadal and Nelly, the 22-year-old American daughter of former Australian Open winner Petr Korda, took inspiration from his effort.

"Definitely. He's the celebrity of our family now," Nelly Korda said. "I'm just super happy for him. We're each other's biggest fans.

"He was grinding a lot over the past couple months, and it's really cool to see just how much it's paying off."

Korda wouldn't mind seeing her own efforts pay off with a long-sought major win as well.

"I feel like a lot of people put a lot of pressure on themselves during a major week, instead of just going out and just kind of trusting your game and playing some good golf," she said.

- A 'Monstrous' 'Beast' -

Aronimink looked ready to bare its teeth to the best field in women's golf.

"It is a beast," said England's Mel Reid, fresh off her first LPGA title last week at nearby Atlantic City. "I like it like this. It should be a challenge. It's a major championship.

"I think some girls are just going to struggle and it's going to be ridiculously slow out there."

"The rough is very long as well as the distance," said fifth-ranked Nasa Hataoka, trying to be the first Japanese winner of the event since 1977.

World number three Danielle Kang of the United States, the 2017 ANA Inspiration winner, called the 6,577-yard, par-70 layout "monstrous" and added, "It might be one of the longest courses I've competed on the LPGA Tour.

"I might not be able to reach a par-4 if I mis-hit a tee shot... but I think that's the fun of it."