U.S. players embrace golf and go global ahead of Women’s PGA Championship

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When it comes to historical supremacy at the highest level of women’s professional golf, no country is more prosperous than the United States. For example, of the 13 players with at least six Grand Slam titles, 10 are Americans.

The top three in history are all American-born, including Patty Berg, 15, and Mitch Wright, 13. Louise Suggs has 11, one more than Annika Sorenstam, the first non-American on the list.

However, at the two most recent women’s majors — this month’s U.S. Open and the Chevron Championship that ends in April — players from outside the U.S. dominated the leaderboard.

The World Golf Rankings also reflect the sport’s international reach, with 10 countries in the top 25 in addition to the United States, although three Americans made the top 10, with No. 2 Nelly Korda and No. Lexi Thompson in 6th led.

It all got Stacey Lewis’ undivided attention on the eve of the Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club. The state of the U.S. women’s game is more important to her than it is now, as the two-time Grand Slam champion also happens to be captain of the U.S. team at next year’s Solheim Cup.

“Way [LPGA] The tour is, I don’t see any country dominating,” said Lewis, 37, one of only two Americans to win a second major in the past decade. See this in our leaderboards and world rankings. Americans themselves, we are heading in a great direction. “

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Much of Lewis’ optimism stems from young reinforcements. Korda, 23, has won seven titles on the LPGA Tour, including her first major at the Women’s PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club last year.

She and world No. 1 South Korea’s Jin Young Ko are also favorites to win this week’s Women’s PGA Championship, which will be contested for the first time on the legendary Capitol’s renovated blue course.

Thompson, 27, won 11 LPGA Tour victories at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship, which has since been renamed the Chevron Championship, her only major title. She has competed in several other tournaments, including a tie for second at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open and a 2015 Women’s PGA individual third.

World No. 9 Jennifer Kupcho, 25, has two wins this season, first at Chevron and most recently at last weekend’s Major LPGA Classic in a three-player playoff Beat Korda and Leona Maguire of Ireland.

“US Golf is in a good position,” Lewis said. “It’s just a different face that everyone is used to, it’s just a natural progression of it. There’s always going to be changes. The new guards are really good. There are some new names for people to learn from.”

However, the only American to break into the top 68 in the world and win a major is 29-year-old No. 13 Danielle Kang, who won the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Stadium outside Chicago. The second-ranked U.S. Grand Slam player is Lewis (69th).

Lewis is the youngest Captain America in Solheim Cup history and the last American to win Player of the Year in 2014. The closest American player since then is Korda, who finished runner-up last year and in 2019. Kang is third in 2020 and Thompson is the same in 2018.

Virginia’s Lauren Coughlin at the Women’s PGA Championship

From 1966 to ’73, American Kathy Whitworth (six majors) won Player of the Year seven times. California-born Nancy Lopez (three majors) has won the award four times in 11 years.

“I wouldn’t say it’s something I really think about playing personally,” Kupcho said of restoring America’s preeminence. “It’s more of a team, but obviously it’s always an honor to play for America. There are a lot of great players from all over the world.”

The sentiment of some of the more high-profile Americans on the LPGA Tour echoes that of Kupcho, who is second in the 2022 Player of the Year race and trails first in the Solheim Cup standings Thompson 5 points.

On the one hand, Korda has been one of the most outspoken advocates of international players, having been influenced from an early age, growing up with the parents of former tennis pros alongside sister Jessica (No. 14 in the world).

“I don’t think you’re really looking at countries and flags here,” Nelly Korda said. “We’re like a family here. There are 144, 156 girls a week and we’re all fighting for something. We’re all fighting for titles. Every year the girls get better. It’s harder to win.

“With all the technology, people are getting better. It’s great to see the diversity on the leaderboard. That’s been the theme of our trips all the time. But I do see US golf hopefully heading in the right direction. … you also want to inspire the next generation. It doesn’t matter where you come from.”

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