NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship looks a little different this year.
Traditionally held in mid-summer, the 2020 edition has an early October date, with reds and yellows serving as a backdrop at Aronimink Golf Club instead of the normal summer green. Besides the foliage, the weather is another differing variable. Skirts have been shelved for pants and hats replaced by beanies as players deal with the cool Pennsylvania air each morning.
But that chill won’t bother Sophia Popov, who won her first major in even brisker conditions at the Women’s Open in August. She’s used to the chill — battle-tested by it — although it does make the course play a bit longer than she’d like, as she discovered playing a bundled-up practice round on Tuesday.
“I was like, ‘I’m right back at Troon,'” she joked. “(It) felt pretty good to me, except for the fact that I was hitting like 3-hybrids into every green, and I was like, ‘This is a little bit exhausting.’ So I hope they might put up some tee boxes.”
It’s unlikely the PGA of America will move up the tees to coddle the competitors, so whoever comes out on top come Sunday will have to tame the 6,577-yard layout. The victor also will have to contend with another oddity — teeing off during the middle of the Sunday wave, as opposed to the traditional leaders-off-last tee times.
Because of the pandemic-induced delay to October, the Women’s PGA is fighting for eyeballs with more sports than normal. Football, baseball and basketball could conceivably have games Sunday, meaning golf got bumped earlier in the day, with coverage airing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Golf Channel and NBC. So, the PGA of America pivoted to make sure the leaders will have their entire final rounds broadcast.
“We feel it’s important that everyone watching the telecast will see the leaders play all 18 holes,” said Kerry Haigh, the chief championships officer of the PGA of America. “Although it’s a little different and out of the box, we as partners with the LPGA and KPMG are prepared to make those changes for what we think will be a greater and a better championship for everyone to observe.”
Even with all this 2020 strangeness changing the look and feel, some things will remain unchanged. Laura Davies will still be in the field. Though she hasn’t made a cut in the championship since 2015, the 57-year-old will be making her 33rd consecutive start. Being a two-time Women’s PGA champion has its perks.
Other past champions will be in the field, too. Hannah Green is back to defend her title that she claimed at Hazeltine last summer. Although if she repeats as the champion, her final putt will be met with muted applause instead of thunderous roars. Like so many other events in sports, fans are not permitted on the grounds this week.
And while a win at this edition of the Women’s PGA might look different, the prestige is all the same. The winner still gets to add a major championship to her resume, and she’ll still cash a big check at week’s end (this year winner’s share is a tournament-record $645,000). Plus, there’s the hardware, a gleaming memento any champion can enjoy.
“I walked in and I saw the trophy and I looked for my name engraved on the side,” said Brooke Henderson, who won the event in 2016. “That was just a really cool moment for me.”
Different Women’s PGA, same career-changing title up for grabs. That’s enough to get any player excited.