You don't shoot 75-75 on the weekend of a major championship very often and still hold a trophy at the end of the week. That's exactly what In Gee Chun did at this week's KPMG Women's PGA Championship, though, as she took the third major of her career by a stroke over Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee, who was looking for a second consecutive women's major.
Chun shot 64-69 in the first two rounds to race out to 11 under at the halfway point. The crown jewel of that performance was a Thursday 64 that was nearly 12 strokes better than the field average, which was not only the best round at this tournament over the last decade but one of the great rounds in professional golf this century.
Chun led by six at the halfway point, which seemed like an insurmountable number given recent history, both at women's major championships as well as this specific tournament and its setup.
Then the weekend unfurled, and Chun started slipping. She still led by three, though, as the final round started. She was grouped with Lexi Thompson and H.J. Choi in the final round of the week at a revamped Congressional Country Club, where the last major champion was Rory McIlroy in 2011 at the U.S. Open. For most of the week, this felt like a reboot of that romp.
Chun went out in 40, though, and playing partner Thompson took hold of the tournament. When they walked to the 14th tee box, Thompson led Chun by a pair and at 6 under was clear of the rest of the field as well. That's when Thompson's demons disclosed themselves. She bogeyed three of her last five holes with a handful of strokes that looked like they were manufactured under the duress of an earthquake.
Thompson made two horrific stabs at putts from short distance and made bogey at the par-5 16th. She was greenside in two, but hit a panicked-looking chip over the green and motored a putt 15 feet past the hole coming back the other way to give herself 15 feet for par.
It was, exceedingly on every hole, quite difficult to watch.
It was also reminiscent of last year's Women's U.S. Open at Olympic where Thompson warred against so many of the same opponents. It has been, in some ways, the story of her career. A tee-to-green mega talent that sometimes has trouble getting out of her own way. She doesn't have a win in the last three years, and her lone major remains the 2014 Chevron Championship.
Lexi Thompson has 11 top-5 finishes in majors since her lone major victory in 2014.— The Fried Egg (@the_fried_egg) June 26, 2022
Four of those finishes were runner ups and another she missed a playoff by one shot
Chun was facing her own drought coming into the week. Her last victory on the LPGA was in October 2018, and she hadn't won a major championship since 2016. She managed a steady closing kick, though, and finished with five consecutive 4s -- including a wild two-putt at the 72nd hole -- to finish at 5 under, beating Thompson and Lee by one each.
That two-putt touched off her 75-75 final two rounds, astounding when you also consider that she finished well under par and also won wire to wire. It really is all about timing in golf and at majors. As one follower pointed out on Twitter, shooting 75-75 over the first two days would have meant missing the cut by three strokes.
"It just means a lot because I didn't have any wins the last three and a half years," Chun said on NBC as she wept after her victory. "I really appreciate my sponsors ... they always believed in me, I really appreciate it. My family and my coach ... and my caddie ... they never gave up on me no matter how I did. Thank you."
Only 29 women, including Chun, have ever won three or more major championships, and only six women from outside the United States (including just two Koreans) have won more than Chun has now with three. At just 27, those numbers could change dramatically for Chun in the years to come. But it's almost certain that after lighting the world on fire through the first 18 and 36 holes at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and puttering to the finish line with a pair of 75s, no major victory (or any win at all) in her future will look quite like this one did.