With less than 48 hours remaining before tee time Suzann Pettersen, the world’s 2nd ranked woman golfer, has withdrawn from the field of players who will launch the 2014 season at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. Pettersen, who has a shoulder injury and is wisely resting rather than risking further injury, now joins the worlds top ranked golfer, Inbee Park, on the LPGA sidelines. What does this mean for the field? Does Rolex Ranked No. 3, Stacy Lewis, now have an open shot at victory? I wouldn’t bet on that possibility. To be sure, the dynamic at the Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island has reconfigured, but Lewis is not going to be lacking for competition.
Much of the continental United States is locked in what feels like a deep freezer, but the sun’s shining, the temperature’s in the low 70s, and the sea breeze is light in the Bahamas. Those of us who watched the Pure Silk-Bahamas inaugural event last year stared in dismay at the flooded course, sighed with disappointment at the reduced rounds and abbreviated tournament. This year we’ll not be disappointed with the conditions or the playing field. The players are raving about the condition of the Ocean Club Golf Course, and the Pure Silk-Bahamas won’t lack for world class golfers.
In addition to Stacy Lewis, Rolex Ranked No. 4 Lydia Ko, Rolex Ranked No. 7 Na Yeon Choi, and Rolex Ranked No. 9 Lexi Thompson are all playing at the Pure Silk-Bahamas.
Lewis, Ko, and Rolex Ranked No. 19, Beatriz Recari, are paired for the first round on Thursday. This is definitely a group to watch. Lewis, the top-ranked golfer at the event, has a superb all-around game. Ko, now beginning her rookie year on Tour but certainly not an untested rookie, must deliver the cool, steady, controlled game we’ve seen in the past with the added pressures of her new pro status. We’ll get to assess her adjustment to life on the Tour and her new coach as well. Spain’s Recari, an aggressive, quintessential competitor on her way up the ranks this year, is the ideal third member of the group.
Na Yeon Choi is paired with Michelle Wie and Germany’s Sandra Gal, and this is another group to watch. Gal, who’s ranked 45th by Rolex, had a strong finish to the 2013 season with a 4th place finish at the CME Group Titleholders. Wie, who’s ranked 61st, has struggled with her game but also delivered some brilliant moments during the 2013 season. All three of them were winless last year and they’re all hungry for an early victory. A win at the Pure Silk-Bahamas will net somebody 500 points in the Race to the CME Globe.
Lexi Thompson is paired with Americans Morgan Pressel and Gerina Piller and they’re another group who’ll be well worth watching. Thompson ended the 2013 season with a crashing drum roll of victories at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and is very likely to rocket up the rankings this season. Her Solheim Cup teammates Morgan Pressel and Gerina Piller are both capable of delivering fantastic games. Pressel’s ranked 47th and Piller’s ranked 36th. Like Wie and Gal, they were both winless in 2013 and like Wie and Gal, they’re starting the season hungry for a victory.
Then there are the rookies. Counting Ko, there will be 11 Tour rookies in the field at the Pure Silk-Bahamas. Every one of them will be nervous and excited and filled with dreams worth pursuing. Let’s not forget to cheer them on. They’ve worked long and hard to get to the first tee on Thursday.
Golf Channel will provide daily coverage of the Pure Silk-Bahamas: Thursday, January 23 and Friday, January 24, 11:30am-2:30pm; Saturday, January 25 and Sunday, January 26, 3-5pm, all times ET.