The Women’s PGA Championship Goes Fully International

Leona Maguire, KPMG Women's PGA Championship, Baltusrol,Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Leona Maguire, KPMG Women's PGA Championship, Baltusrol,Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports /

Aside from soccer, you would be hard-pressed to find a more international game being played in the world today than women’s golf. The evidence is fully on display this week at the Women’s PGA Championship being played at Baltusrol.

Through three rounds of the professional championship of women’s golf, the field of contenders is as geographically diverse as you may ever see at the 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Consider the top 25 players entering play Sunday. Only seven are Americans, and 13 different countries are represented. Those 13 countries are on every continent on earth except South America and Antarctica.

And you don’t have to reach very much farther down the leaderboard to include South America; Ecuador’s Daniela Darquea is tied for 26th.

Dating back to the mid-1990s, the best players in women’s golf have often come from outside the U.S.

Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam dominated from the mid-1990s to about 2005, followed by Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa, then Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, then Korea’s Inbee Park.

The difference at present is that no single country or geographical region dominates.

Among the top 25 in the Women’s PGA Championship…

Eight are from North America, but there are seven from Asia, six from Europe, and two each from Africa and Australia.

And for the record, none of the eight Americans ranks higher than Lauren Coughlin, who at three- under is tied for sixth place, four strokes behind Ireland’s Leona Maguire.

Maguire’s lead at the Women’s PGA Championship is threatened by a veritable United Nations of women’s golf. Korea’s Jenny Shin trails by one stroke, Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow is two back, and China’s Ruoning Yin is tied with South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace, three behind.

The South Koreans, who not so long ago dominated the women’s golf tour, remain a force. But only three of them are among the top 25, Jin-Young Ko (T6) and J. Lee (T18) joining Shin.

If the diversity of these results holds, they will mark a turnaround from April’s first women’s golf Major, the Chevron Championship in Houston. That event amounted to a U.S. sweep, with Lilia Vu beating countrywomen Angel Yin and Nelly Korda.

Beyond that, the Chevron results were much more of what devotees of women’s golf have gotten used to in recent years, a tussle between the Americans and Koreans. Of the 27 women who finished among the top 25 and ties that week, 16 were American (9) or Korean (7). Still, 11 nations on four continents were represented.

From the start of the 2011 season to the present moment, there have been 58 women’s Majors played. Pros from Korea (24) or the U.S. (12) have won more than 60 percent of them.

But that mutual dominance seems to be abating. Of the 11 Majors played since the start of the 2021 season, U.S. golfers have won only three and Koreans just one. In fact, aside from Australia (by dint of Minjee Lee with two), no nation can claim more than one Major title in that span. Canada, Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Sweden, and the Philippines are all tied in that regard.

Next. U.S. Open Returns to Riviera Country Club. dark

Leona Maguire, who carries a one-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, has a chance to add to that diversity. No female golfer from the Republic of Ireland has ever won a Women’s PGA Championship or a Major Championship.