With less than two weeks remaining before the next Big Kahuna — the US Women’s Open — the Tour travels to Canada to play the third installment of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at the Grey Silo Golf Course in Waterloo, Ontario. Defending champion Hee Young Park will attempt to achieve back-to-back victories against a talented field led by the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings new No. 1 Stacy Lewis. The 72-hole, $1.5 million tournament tees off Thursday morning, June 5. With conditions ideal for golfing — sunny skies, pleasant daytime temperatures and light winds — I’m looking for low scores at the links-style Grey Silo Golf Course once again.
The 2012 and 2013 editions of the Manulife LPGA Classic went to playoffs and with a field that includes many 2014 champions we could see another closely contested tourney this year. In 2013 Park won in a three-hole playoff against Angela Stanford with a 26-under-par total that included a 10-under 61 at the par-71, 6,330-yard course. Brittany Lang emerged victorious in 2012 after a four-player, three-hole playoff. Stanford and Lang are both in the field. Stanford, with three top-10s in 2014 and Lang with one, are both in the hunt for a win. Could another tight ending be in the cards? Why not?
The field includes two-time 2014 champion Anna Nordqvist and tournament winners Lydia Ko and Michelle Wie, both hunting a second 2014 victory. Wie’s playing extraordinary golf right now and I look for her to stay in contention and press hard for another win at both the Manulife Financial and at the upcoming US Women’s Open.
Inbee Park, who was supplanted by Lewis for the world’s No. 1 spot after Lewis won in New Jersey on Sunday, will also be there, along with Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr and Ai Miyazato. All are strong competitors and will challenge the field to pull out their A games and put them to work.
If you’re a Golf Channel Big Break fan you’ll want to keep Jackie Stoelting, the Big Break Florida winner, on your radar. Stoelting has been playing well on the Symetra Tour and is currently ranked seventh on the Tour’s money list. With a win at the Manulife, Stoelting would follow Kim Kaufman (who’s not in the field this week) onto the LPGA Tour.
I have both Gerina Piller and Christina Kim on my list of probable 2014 winners. Both delivered breathtaking performances at last week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic. Piller’s made 12 starts this year and she’s recorded four top-10 finishes and Kim’s finished inside the top-10 in two of her eight starts. Piller’s hunting her first pro victory and Kim’s reclaiming a career that went off the rails a couple of years ago. I see them both as strong contenders for the top of the board at the Manulife.
I’m also watching a pair of rookies who’ve migrated to the LPGA from the LET, Joanna Klatten and Line Vedel. Klatten’s entered five Tour events and made two cuts. Her best finish, a T13, came last week at the ShopRite. But the College of Charleston grad who took some time off from golf is a long hitter who’s come back to a game she loves and is sharpening her game with a smile on her face. Vedel’s entered nine Tour events and claimed her first top-10 at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. Her strength is her short game. We’re going to see more of them on the first page of the board.
Stacy Lewis will lead the field this week. Her ShopRite win was the 10th of Lewis’ stellar career, and the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year has won two of the last four events, so she should be the player to beat this week. Lewis has 10 top-10 finishes in 12 events this season and is on pace to have a monster year.
Golf fans who love watching birdies fall should be fully entertained this week, and Golf Channel will carry nine hours of coverage of the tournament for those who are not lucky enough to take in the event firsthand: Thursday, June 5, 12 noon-2:30pm; Friday, June 6, 12:30-2:30pm; Saturday, June 7 & Sunday, June 8, 3-5pm, all times ET.