In Gee Chun Ready to Enjoy the Week as Defending Champion at Baltusrol
In Gee Chun is enjoying everything that comes with being the defending champion of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – being honored at the champions dinner, seeing her name on the prestigious trophy and all the other vivid memories that come flooding back.
There’s only been one small issue. Chun forgot her Championship credential Wednesday morning and was not allowed into the players’ locker room. She showed the security official a clip that she had that is presented only to players in the Championship, but that did not work. Another attendant nearby stepped in once she noticed Chun.
“I put (credential) in the bag last night and my caddie has the bag,” Chun said Wednesday at famed Baltusrol. “The other locker room person, they come out, ‘oh, she’s the defending champion, so she can get in. Come in.’”
Chun, 28, delivered a dazzling display of golf last year at Congressional in capturing her third major championship. She opened with an 8-under 64 in wet and windy conditions that included nine birdies. After a second-round 69, Chun was looking strong but a third-round 75 brought the field back closer to her. She got off to a rocky start in the final round and even fell behind for portions of the day, but a steady back nine, propelled by a birdie on the par-5 16th hole, coupled with a few late bogeys from Lexi Thompson delivered Chun the hardware. She topped Thompson and U.S. Women’s Open Champion Minjee Lee by just a single shot.
That past year hasn’t gone as expected for Chun, the 16th ranked player in the world. The immediate aftermath went well as Chun found herself in a playoff at the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield a couple of months later, although she lost to Ashleigh Buhai. Since then, however, Chun has only recorded one top-20 finish on the LPGA.
Sure, the defending champion doesn’t enter Baltusrol this week in the type of form that she wished but she does feel better than she did early last month at the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown out in San Francisco. After that event at TPC Harding Park, she flew back to Korea to see doctors because of inflammation in her back. The flight home was quite painful.
Chun could’ve pushed through the difficulties but knew there was still much to play for this year and, frankly, in years to come. She didn’t think playing more was worth the risk.
Last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic, Chun returned to competition for the first time in five weeks and shot 75-70 to miss the cut. The first round was not what she wanted, but she was pleased with how she played in Round 2.
“I didn’t have good result last week, but for sure I feel much stronger right now,” she said, admitting that some inflammation in her back still exists.
Chun is excited about the test ahead. Baltusrol, like Congressional last year, will undoubtedly provide another tough test for the best players in the world. Like most major championships, there will be a premium on finding the fairways off the tee, the rough is luscious and the greens will be speedy. A unique trait of Baltusrol is its two lengthy par-5s on the last two holes.
“I think it’s really fun to finish,” Chun said.
Just as it’s been fun to return this year as the defending champion and a three-time major winner.
“I’m so excited to be back here as the defending champion,” Chun said. “I know it’s a little bit more pressure than other tournaments, but at the same time, it is more fun. I think I’m ready to enjoy this week.”