Who’s coming in hot to the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC Info and who’s game will be fueled by that most powerful advantage, the raw, unadulterated desire to seize the top of the leaderboard? The winner will cash a hefty check from the $1.3 million purse and put 500 Race to the CME Globe points in her virtual bank as well. For some, there are also less tangible factors at work, equally powerful to these immediate financial incentives. Who’s likely to bring the winning game to Kingsmill?
The Past Champions
In addition to Cristie Kerr, who’s won the Kingsmill Championship three times (2013, 2009, & 2005), there are three other former Kingsmill champs in the field: Suzann Pettersen (2007), Karrie Webb (2006), and Se Ri Pak (2004). They all have a winning game in their bag. Who’s bringing the biggest hunger for victory to Kingsmill?
Kerr relishes competition and she’s fun to watch (and listen to, because she’s a very verbal golfer). She’s put eight top-10 finishes on her resume this year and a Kingsmill win is certainly on her mind. But she faces some serious competition from former champs as well as contenders outside the Kingsmill winner’s circle.
Pettersen, who won the Kingsmill in a playoff against Jee Young Lee, finished runner-up to Kerr last year in a top-hole playoff. This is a competition she’d like to win again, and a victory on the Kingsmill River Course would push her back up the world rankings. Six months ago Pettersen was actively challenging Inbee Park for the top spot in the rankings. She’s been edged out by Lydia Ko’s win at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic earlier this year and then Stacy Lewis’s win at the North Texas LPGA Shootout two weeks ago.
Rolex Ranked number 5, Karrie Webb has already claimed two victories this year. Webb, like Kerr, always plays to win. The size of the purse, the power of the field, the prestige of the event are inconsequential. The Hall of Famer plays a controlled, targeted game that will keep her in contention, and if the putts drop she’ll put a third 2014 win on her resume.
The tournament Se Ri Pak wanted badly and the only major she hasn’t won, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, has come and gone and slipped through her fingers. I will be surprised if Pak mounts an aggressive run for the top of the board.
Pettersen’s the hungriest for the win and if her back is fully healed and she feels comfortable unleashing her power there’s no doubt in my mind that, among the former champs, she’ll play the hardest for the victory. However, I think Karrie Webb can outplay Pettersen and among the former champs I look for Webb to be at or near the top of the Kingsmill leaderboard.
Who’s Going to Get to #1?
Inbee Park’s been sitting on the top of the world rankings for 57 consecutive weeks, but she hasn’t put a win on her resume since the 2013 US Women’s Open last June. Park’s not in the field at the Kingsmill and if Stacy Lewis can nail the victory she’ll unseat Park and reclaim the top of the Rolex Rankings.
Stacy Lewis is currently playing lights-out golf right. She has 8 top-10 finishes and a victory in nine events. She’s leading in the Race to the CME Globe points and right now only Michelle Wie can edge her out with a win at the Kingsmill, and Wie’s not in the field. Lewis’s determination is written all over her face. Every shot she takes has her full attention.
Stacy Lewis will play from her first drive to her final putt to win the Kingsmill, but can she outplay the inscrutable and unreadable Lydia Ko? That will depend more on Ko than Lewis. If Ko brings her A Game to the Kingsmill, Lewis will face a serious challenge. But Lewis is the more experienced competitor and if she can sustain her mental edge, I look for her to outplay the entire field, including Lydia Ko.
The Kingsmill has a history of intensely contested, playoff victories (2007, 2012, 2013) and winners who record double digit red numbers. This year the weather may figure more heavily into the calculus. Thursday promises to be warm and humid in Williamsburg and Friday will bring heavy rain and thunderstorms to the area, creating disruptions in play and altering conditions. The weekend forecast, light winds and temperatures in the 70s, will make for pleasant golfing but isn’t going to dry out the course. Experience in managing changing conditions and the ability to change game plans and adapt may prove to be big advantages at Kingsmill this year.
1st Round Pairings to Watch
Play begins at 7:30am ET Thursday, May 15, with Brittany Lincicome, Katy Harris & Louise Friberg on the #1 tee and Lee-Anne Pace, Katie Burnett & Alejandra Llaneza on the #10 tee.
Lydia Ko, paired with Paula Creamer and Christina Kim, will tee off on #10 at 8:25am. Will Ko set the pace in this group and establish an early lead over Creamer? Not likely. I look for Creamer to stay out front.
Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen and Yani Tseng are paired for Thursday and tee off at 1:14pm from the #1 tee. I look for a battle between Lewis and Pettersen from the first drive.
Karrie Webb, Cristie Kerr and Jessica Korda follow immediately behind Lewis, Pettersen & Tseng from the #1 tee at 1:25pm. Webb believes it’s more difficult to sustain a lead than to come from slightly behind and claim the lead. I look for her to play a steady, even game and for Kerr to jump out in front and lead this group through the first round.