Hannah Green has big early lead at Women’s PGA at Hazeltine

CHASKA, Minn. — Hannah Green keeps getting out of tough spots, and it’s taken her to a place she has never been.

Green twice escaped trouble with unlikely par saves, including one shot she holed from off the green, and made four birdies for a 3-under 69 to set a daunting target at Hazeltine National in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

The 22-year-old Australian has made one bogey over 36 holes at Hazeltine, one of the strongest tests of the year on the LPGA Tour. She had a four-shot lead among those who played early Friday. If it stands, it would be her first 36-hole lead on the LPGA Tour.

“Even when you play this type of golf at just a regular event, you’re pretty proud of yourself, but this week especially,” Green said. “I’ve never put myself in this position in any event, so to be doing it this week at such a great venue definitely shows things are going the right way. I’ve had some luck going my way. I do hope that continues.”

Green was at 7-under 137 and led by four shots over defending champion Sung Hyun Park, who had a 71. Nelly Korda was another shot behind after a 70. Only four other players who completed 36 holes were under par, a group that included Moriya Jutanugarn.

Green thought luck was on her side when she holed a short-sided bunker shot for birdie on the par-5 seventh near the end of her opening round.

Friday was even better.

She didn’t notice the water right of the 12th green during practice rounds. She took a penalty drop, and with the pin on a shelf in the back left of the green, her biggest concern was getting it close without the risk of a big number.

“If I landed it too far there was a possibility of it going over the back. I didn’t want to leave myself with another chip to then possibly make bogey or double at worse,” Green said. “I had to land it perfectly and I guess I did. I knew it was going to be close but I didn’t think it had the chance of going in. I really wasn’t really watching it going into the hole. I just heard the crowd roar.

“I just laughed because with the hole-out on 7 yesterday and with the hole-out today, it’s really going my way.”

After a missed chance at birdie on the par-5 15th, Green was in trouble again on the 16th hole, the signature hole at Hazeltine. Her shot took a surprising kick to the right, leaving the ball between clumps of grass. She got that up-and-down for par and was on her way.

Green is in her second full year on the LPGA Tour, having won three times on the Symetra Tour in 2017 to earn her card. She had such a successful amateur career in Australia that she was awarded the Karrie Webb Scholarship in 2015, and one of the perks was coming to the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster.

The 44-year-old Webb is Australia’s most prolific champion with seven majors as part of her 41 titles on the LPGA Tour. Webb, the only player to win five different LPGA Tour majors, first came to America under a similar program started by Greg Norman, and now has one in place for female amateurs.

Green swam, played tennis and golf as a teen before devoting her time to golf when she was 15. She wasn’t even playing golf when Webb was winning five out of eight majors, giving her the career Grand Slam at the quickest rate. About the time Green realized she might have a future in golf, Webb already was in the Hall of Fame.

“As soon as I had the chance to come to the U.S. Open, that’s when Karrie was my idol,” Green said. “I feel like all other Australian golfers have her as an idol. She had Greg Norman as her idol and had a similar scholarship. She’s done that for us. I’m really grateful that she’s given so much to so many people.”

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