The JTBC Founders Cup gets underway on Thursday as The LPGA Tour moves back to the continental US to begin its domestic schedule. Formerly called The RR Donnelly Cup, which honors the past, present, and future of Ladies Golf, The JTBC Founders Cup will feature 144 of golfs top stars on the LPGA Tour. Eighteen of the top twenty players in Rolex Rankings will tee it up in the Arizona desert for a whopping $1.5 Million Dollar purse.
The number three Rolex ranked player, Stacy Lewis will be defending her 2013 title in the fourth playing of this event. Lewis ran away from the field last year at The Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa, beating Japanese star, Ai Miyazato by three strokes.
Lewis overcame a four-shot deficit at the start of Sunday’s final round in 2013 and battled Japan’s Ai Miyazato down the stretch for a three-shot victory. The Texas native topped the week off by donating $50,000 to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program on the 18th green. The victory pushed Stacy into the Rolex number one ranking where she would stay until after the Kraft Nabisco Championship later in the spring.
All of the winners of the first four LPGA events will be in the field this week along with twelve LPGA Tour rookies, including the 4th Rolex ranked player, Lydia Ko. The 16 year-old phenom from New Zealand has two top ten finishes, and leads Miriam Lee by 164 points for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award.
Suzann Pettersen has an opportunity to become No. 1 in the world this week at JTBC Founders Cup but she must win the event to do so.
If Pettersen wins the JTBC Founders Cup and Inbee Park finishes third or worse (without any ties), Pettersen would take over the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Pettersen could also take over the top spot if she wins and Park finishes tied for second with at least three other players.
Stacy Lewis is currently fifth in Race To CME Globe points, the LPGA’s new playoff system. Paula Creamer jumped into the number one position after her remarkable putt to win the HSBC Women’s Championship in Singapore earlier this month. Karrie Webb, Jessica Korda, and Anna Nordqvist round out the top five. Webb won earlier at the ISPS HANDA in Australia, Korda won The Pure Silk Bahamas, and Nordqvist won the Honda LPGA Thailand.
It has been an exciting start to a new season that follows on the heels of a great 2013 season on the LPGA Tour. Some new events, a historical run by Inbee Park, and an exciting finish at the Solheim Cup brought much-needed attention to the LPGA last year, and I don’t see any decline in 2014. The LPGA has become must-see-TV and has become every bit as exciting as the men.
You can watch the JTBC Founders Cup on The Golf Channel from 6:30 to 9:00 PM for the Thursday and Friday rounds, and 7:00 to 9:00 PM for weekend coverage. All time are Eastern Daylight Time.
You can follow Les on Twitter @Spin_47 and in the Golf Community at Google+