By Larry Fine
RYE, New York (Reuters) - Park In-bee of South Korea has won the last two LPGA Championship titles and is gunning for a rare triple in the new incarnation of the women's major, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Westchester Country Club.
"The PGA of America and the LPGA collaborating on this tournament together and making a great tournament is something different and something unique," Park told reporters on Tuesday.
"Everything is really new and everything is very fresh and very exciting. So I'm really excited to see what this tournament is going to end up being. I'm sure it's going to be a great one, and hopefully I'll be the one holding the trophy."
Only Sweden's Annika Sorenstam has registered three wins in a row in the 60-year history of the event, achieving the feat with her victory in 2005.
It is the first women's championship staged by the PGA of America, which organizes the PGA Championship men's major, the Senior PGA and the Ryder Cup among its competitions.
For the LPGA, the partnership increased the prize money to $3.5 million at a high-profile venue in the New York metropolitan area, and has infused excitement among the 156 players contesting the second major of the season.
The hilly Westchester layout with its sloping greens was a fixture on the PGA Tour for some 40 years.
"You can't hope to be on a better golf course than this," said two-times major winner Cristie Kerr. "It is such a scenic, beautiful, tough-as-nails golf course."
Kerr said players were excited to be playing the classic, tree-lined, 6,670-yard course playing at a par of 73.
"Even being in the players dining, you look up and Seve's (Ballesteros) picture is on the wall, Hale Irwin, all the greats, and then at the end there will be one female with the trophy up there, so that's really cool," Kerr said.
"That's ground-breaking. It's just a cool week like that."
Starting on Thursday, it also figures to be a stern test.
"This golf course is probably a bit of everything," said Park, who has two wins and seven top-10s in 2015. "You have to be accurate off the tee. You have to be accurate with the irons, and you have to putt really well. It has very slopey greens."
Long-hitting American Lexi Thompson was eager to break out her driver on a layout set up with five par-five holes.
"It's a great golf course and is in amazing shape. Rough is deep and it is a difficult track," said 20-year-old Thompson, who won the Ana Inspiration last year for her first major.
"I'm definitely going to be bombing driver out there."
Added Kerr: "You just can't fall asleep on any shot out there.
"You have to be in control of how you're hitting it, where you're hitting it, how you position it into the greens. You have to use every shot in the bag."
Park can recapture her number one ranking from 18-year-old Lydia Ko of New Zealand with a victory this week.
"That would be a nice gift," said Park.
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)