Defending champion Nelly Korda and previous KPMG Women’s PGA champions Brooke Henderson and Inbee Park teed off at 7:33 a.m. ET on Thursday.
They were greeted with temperatures in the low-60s, rain and wind – and a beast of a Blue Course at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
Though In Gee Chun was able to shoot 8-under 64 in Round 1 of the women’s third major of the year, no one else among the morning wave did better than 71. Korda and Henderson were among that 1-under group, while Park shot even-par 72.
Korda and Henderson, while amazed at what Chun accomplished, were both pleased to be under par on a trying day, on a course that was …
“Long. It was definitely really, really long. Especially for me," Korda said. "I am one of the longer hitters on tour. It was long."
The scorecard lists the Blue Course at 6,894 yards. As noted on the Golf Channel broadcast, that’s slightly longer than this week’s PGA Tour layout, TPC River Highlands (though the Travelers venue is a par 70). Still, Congressional is, as Korda repeated, long – and played even longer amid the Thursday conditions.
“The front nine was brutal, the weather we played in. [No.] 9 was – oh, my gosh, I had driver, hybrid, 7-wood into the green. That's the longest par 5 I've ever played,” Korda said of the ninth hole, which is listed at 585 yards.
Her sentiments were shared by many.
“Coming up No. 9, that was the longest par 5 I've ever played in my life,” said Henderson, the 2016 KPMG champ. “I hit hybrid in on my third shot, and I just rarely have to do that.”
Added 2019 winner Hannah Green, who also opened in 71: “The ninth hole, I had to hit a 5-wood in for my third shot. I hit a couple of hybrids into par 4s, hybrids into par 3s.”
Green has worked to increase her length and noted that a few years ago she wouldn’t have been able to break par on a day like this. While Park, who won this event three consecutive years (2013-15), wasn’t able to shoot in the red, finishing at even was an accomplishment.
Park ranks 150th on tour in driving distance at just over 242 yards.
“Inbee, I think – gosh, I think it was [No.] 4 she didn't even get there with the 3-wood on her second shot, and that's a par 4,” Korda said.
“It was definitely playing really long in the morning with the wind and with the rain.”