This week the LPGA stops at Locust Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY for the Wegmans LPGA Championship. The major championship has a storied history with winners such as Micky Wright, Sandra Haynie, Kathy Whitworth, Patty Sheehan, Annika Sorenstam and Yani Tseng. There are other multiple winners such as Nancy Lopez, Donna Caponi and Juli Inkster. Many different venues have hosted the event and trio of main sponsors have supported the championship now entering its 58th year.
The issue ahead for the tournament isn’t so much the tradition or even the venue as much as the sponsorship.
Wegmans sponsorship agreement will expire after the last putt falls on Sunday leaving the tournament in limbo once again. After McDonald’s ceased its sponsoring after 2009, Wegmans stepped in as the front line sponsor. While no future plans are certain, there will be negotiations after this week’s tournament. To say LPGA commish Mike Whan has some work ahead of him on this might be an understatement. It may even be the biggest hurdle he will have to clear since taking over for Carolyn Bivens.
Feature group? Not even close.
If you’re curious, the pairings are here. You needn’t look far to find the best group to follow. They have a 1:10 PM tee time and going off the 10th tee tomorrow. The trio will be defending champ Yani Tseng, last week’s winner of the ShopRite LPGA Classic Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer. Tseng won last year by 10 shots and has only one finish outside the top ten this year. That would be last week where Lewis won. Creamer is searching for another major win.
Make that any win. Creamer’s last victory. Her last? 2010 at the U.S. Womens Open.
Speaking of droughts
For the first time in what feels like eons, Cristie Kerr is not the top ranked American according to the Rolex Rankings. After her win last week, that honor now belongs to Stacy Lewis. Like Creamer, Kerr is in a drought of her own. She hasn’t won in two years with her last being right where the ladies are this week, the Wegmans LPGA and Locust Hill. In fact, Kerr and Tseng share the record for strokes in relation to par for the event. Both have posted -19. Tseng did so last year. Kerr performed the task in the year previous.
If Kerr is looking to reclaim that spot as top American, a win this week will definitely put her on the right track.
And what to make of Wie?
I, like many others, thought that Michelle Wie would have a break out year. After taking time to get her degree from Stanford, I figured that Wie would have more time to devote to the game. I believe my senses were playing tricks on me as it has hardly proven to be the case so far in 2012. I’m hopeful the trend reverses.
Wie’s best finish in 2012 is, get this, a T33 at the Sybase Match Play. That seems a little cheesy considering all you have to do is win your first round match and you a awarded that finish. Wie has missed four cuts including last week. For the seven events in which she has entered, Wie has pocketed only $16,401. Her Rolex Ranking has fallen from 17th at the beginning of 2012 to 37th after last week’s MC.
Why? Is it the putter? She’s ranked 144th in putts per round. That’s it. Not so fast. Wie’s ranking for driving accuracy is 147th. GIR, then? 131st. It’s not just one thing. Missing fairways, greens and putts doesn’t lend itself to winning, let alone, finishing tournaments.
Other groups to watch
Here’s a list of five more groups to watch this week.
1st tee @ 9:05 AM – Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie, Azahara Munoz
1st tee @ 9:16 AM – Brittany Lincicome, Suzann Pettersen, Lexi Thompson
10th tee @ 12:26 PM – Kristy McPherson, Jennifer Johnson, Jessica Korda
10th tee @ 12:48 PM – Anna Nordqvist, Natalie Gulbis, Karrie Webb
10th tee @ 12:59 PM – Ai Miyazato, I.K. Kim, Morgan Pressel
All five have at least one player I’m anxious to see play. The first group I list has already been covered somewhat in regards to Kerr and Wie. Munoz (pictured above) won the Sybase Match Play and was T3 last week.
The second group is because I love to watch Lincicome drive the ball. Playing with Rolex #5 ranked player Pettersen isn’t a bad deal either. Add Thompson to the mix and in some tournaments, this may be the feature group.
The next group listed actually intrigues me the most. There is youth with Johnson and Korda. Prior to Thompson, Korda has a win this year (ISPS Handa Australian Open). McPherson, a player on the 2009 US Solheim Cup team, has fallen to 131st in the world. She has missed five consecutive cuts after finishing in the top 30 in her previous four events. A good showing this week, especially in a major, could lead to a big momentum push.
Is there ever a time when a group that has Natalie Gulbis doesn’t draw a following? Didn’t think so. Pairing with Webb and Nordqvist (who’s coming off a pair of T5’s) should produce some nice play. Webb is my sleeper pick this week.
The last group listed? Miyazoto just has a flair that I like watching. Pressel is now more known for that stroke penalty at the Sybase even though her game, while not long, can be pinpoint accurate. If the winds cooperate, look for Pressel to make a run here.
Always hard to go against Yani especially on a track where she has performed so well in the past. But that’s the easy way out, isn’t it? First off, I’m not good with predictions, but I have a feeling this week will be a drought-buster for Paula Creamer. She finished T3 last year, eleven strokes behind Tseng. She’s also coming off a nice showing last week where she was T8. I believe her game is coming back to her, if she ever truly lost it.
Golf Channel will have coverage from all four rounds this week. The schedule is as follows:
Thursday, Jun 7 – 12:00-2:30 PM EST
Friday, Jun 8 – 12:00-2:30 PM EST
Saturday, Jun 9 – 2:00-7:00 PM EST
Sunday, Jun 10 – 2:00-7:00 PM EST