The LPGA is back in the Bay Area, long a favorite site for Tour events, to play the inaugural edition of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at the Lake Merced Golf Club this week. First, let’s give a huge shout-out for Lake Merced, one of the leaders in opening golf club membership to women! Then let’s give another huge shout-out for Swinging Skirts, aTaiwanese group whose goal is to grow women’s golf and the golf industry in Taiwan. The Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic is co-sponsored by the LPGA and the Taiwan LPGA, the first such event to be held on American soil.
The Bay Area has hosted 27 LPGA tournaments dating back to the 1953 San Francisco Weathervane which was won by LPGA Hall of Famer Louise Suggs. More recently Juli Inkster, Karrie Webb, Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, IK Kim, and Beatriz Recari have won Tour events held in the Bay Area. They’re all in the field this week!
Hall of Famer Inkster is turning increasingly toward her new role as the 2015 Team USA Solheim Cup captain and her more immediate shift from player to a Golf Channel on-course commentator, and Recari and Kim simply have had a rough start this season season. None of them seem likely to charge the top of the leaderboard.
Webb, coming in with two 2014 wins and Creamer with one, will both play solid games and Webb, Creamer and Pettersen always step up to the first tee intending to win the event.
Among the Rolex Ranked top-10, only Lexi Thompson will not be playing. However, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Anna Nordqvist will be there.
Nordqvist has a 2014 win and she’s recovered her enthusiasm for competition. Park seems to have found her putter, judging by her final round at the LPGA LOTTE Championship last Saturday. Lewis has six top-10 finishes out of the seven events she’s entered this year. They all look good for a high finish on Sunday.
Feng and Ryu will make the cut and play the weekend but are probably not serious challengers for a victory. Ko is struggling to find her balance in this year of huge and dramatic change for her.
Paula Creamer will get to claim home-town status the advantage that brings, and Michelle Wie, fresh from her win at the LOTTE Championship, will be coming in hot and hungry for a quick second win. However, I’m expecting Korea LPGA star and LOTTE Championship surprise top-finisher Hyo Joo Kim, who has every intention of playing her way onto the LPGA Tour and has the game to do it, to also make another run at the top of the board.
Lydia Ko will have some company at the soda fountain. Charley Hull and Ariya Jutanugarn, LET Teen superstars, are in the field. Like Ko, they both have pro wins on their resumes, and they’d both like to finish the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in a top position. I look for them to stay in the mix.
The winner in the field of 144 (120 professionals, 7 amateurs) will take home $255K from a $1.8 million purse.
The first round beings at 7:05am local time on Thursday, April 24. Danielle Kang, Natalie Gulbis and Line Videl will lead from the first tee and Thidapa Suwannapura, Paola Moreno and Cydney Clanton from the tenth tee. Thee final groups will tee off at 2:06pm local time.
TV Times – Golf Channel
April 24 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
April 25 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
April 26 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
April 27 7:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
All times listed are Eastern