By Chris Stevenson, @CJ_Stevenson
SAMMAMISH, Wash. — The tee shot on the opening hole at Sahalee Country Club – a 384-yard par-4 – is a visually intimidating challenge for the competitors at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
It looks as narrow as bowling alley with towering Douglas fir, red cedars and hemlock trees looming down both sides.
It sets the tone for a bunch of demanding shots off the tee this week. The hottest player on Tour, Ariya Jutanugarn, won’t hit driver this week. It won’t even be in her bag.
“The golf course so hard for me. I played (Monday) and I feel like the course too narrow,” said Jutanugarn, who is bidding for her fourth win a row. “A great golf course, great shape, the greens are so good. But a lot of trees and big trees. Pretty hard for me because I have to shave my shot a lot.”
But Brooke Henderson, fearless as ever, will be attacking Sahalee with her driver and hoping to gain an advantage with shorter approaches.
“I’ve been hitting my driver pretty straight and when I do, I hit it pretty long. I think I can definitely take advantage,” said the world’s No. 4.
“It’s definitely a strategy course. If you’re hitting it straight off the tee, you can hit it as long as you want, but it does get pretty tight. For me, if I’m going to take advantage over the field, I’m going to hit driver and just see how that goes. I don’t like to layup to over 200 yards and these holes are really long, so that’s kind of what other players will be doing.”
Henderson drove the ball beautifully in the pro-am on Tuesday, getting close to the trees just a couple of times.
It’s a bold strategy, but if she’s on the with the driver, she’s right: she will gain a pretty good advantage.