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Can Korean golfers take a third-straight major?

June 20,2019
Korean players’ dominance on the LPGA Tour is hardly new. But they can take it to a whole new level this week at the third major championship of the 2019 season.

Ko Jin-young lines up her putt during the first round of the Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club, Michigan, on June 13. [AP/YONHAP]
World No. 1 Ko Jin-young and leading Rookie of the Year candidate Lee Jeong-eun will lead the Korean contingent at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club this week in Chaska, Minnesota.

Ko and Lee split the first two major titles of the season, ANA Inspiration in April and the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this month. Korean players have combined for seven wins in 15 tournaments so far in 2019.

If a Korean wins this week, it’ll be just the second time the country has produced three consecutive LPGA major champions.

In 2013, Hall of Famer Park In-bee won three majors in a row by herself. The longest such streak for the Korean contingent is five, when Choi Na-yeon and Shin Ji-yai won the last two majors of 2012 and then Park had her personal streak of three consecutive majors the following year.

Ko and Lee, ranked seventh in the world, are among five Korean players inside the top 10 in the current world rankings. Ko leads the tour in scoring average, at 69.205, and the Player of the Year points, at 129 points, while Lee is first on the money list, at $1,528,267, and the Rookie of the Year points, at 849 points.

Ko is trailing Lee in second place on the money list, while Lee is right behind Ko for the top player honors. Points are double at major championships, and the winner this week will take home $577,500.

Lee will start her first round at 8:35 a.m., local time, on the 10th hole, playing with Maria Fassi of Mexico and Shanshan Feng of China.

This season, Ko is one of the most consistent players on the tour as she recorded six top five finishes in the 11 tournaments she has competed in this season. She didn’t miss the cut in any of the events and her worst finish of the season is tied for 29th.

Such consistency is good enough for her to secure the top spot in the world ranking for 11 consecutive weeks.

Ko will tee off her first round at 2:44 p.m., local time, along with Cristie Kerr and Nelly Korda of the United States.

Former No. 1 Park Sung-hyun, currently in fourth, enters this week’s major as a defending champion. She has won at least one major in each of the past two seasons, but since winning in her second start of the season in February, Park has posted just one top-10 in seven tournaments with one missed cut.

Park will play her first round at 2:33 p.m., local time, along with Danielle Kang of the United States and Anna Nordqvist of Sweden.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, YONHAP [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]


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