For months now, beginning with the playing of the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic and continuing through the WalMart Northwest Arkansas Classic, I’ve felt as though I’ve been watching the 2013 Solheim Cup Team USA seek and find redemption. Then along came the RICOH Women’s British Open and Mo Martin, and I began to think that perhaps I’ve actually been witness to the 2015 Solheim Cup Team USA in training for their trip to Europe next summer. I know Juli Inkster’s just getting started on selecting the 2015 team, but I also know that the American players who limped away from Parker, Colorado last August seem to have come off the tee six months later with a new fire in their bellies, and, while not taking away from Mo Martin and her spectacular victory at Royal Birkdale, I’m wondering if those 2013 Solheimers aren’t infusing other American players on the Tour with the grit, determination to win, and can-do optimism they seemed to have recovered as they prepared for the 2014 season.
The 2013 Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I was a virtual dress rehearsal for the Colorado Golf Club debacle. With a final round that felt like match play, Spain’s Beatriz Recari edged out American Paula Creamer with a birdie putt on the 18th hole. Recari played last year’s Marathon Classic will a will to win that she seems to lack this year.
A month later Recari, fueled by that same hunger to win, would go 3-1-0 at the Colorado Golf Club and edge out another American, Angela Stanford, in much the same fashion; and Paula Creamer would lose her singles match to Charley Hull, the intrepid, audacious English teenager.
Recari comes now to her defense of her Marathon Classic title facing a field of Americans who seem determined to redeem themselves and have taken Stacy Lewis’ personal mantra as their own: WIN TOURNAMENTS!
Five American Champions
Recari, coming into the Marathon Classic still on the hunt for a 2014 top-10 finish, with seven missed cuts, doesn’t look good to defend her title against a field that includes five of the seven current American Tour champions: Paula Creamer won the HSBC Women’s Champions in February with a 75-foot putt seen ’round the world and she’ll be playing for this win; Lexi Thompson collected her fourth pro victory and her first Major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship; Michelle Wie, who’s been playing the best golf of her career, is coming in with two wins, LPGA LOTTE Championship and US Women’s Open, and looking for a third; world ranked number 1 Stacy Lewis, has finished inside the top-10 in 13 of the 16 events she’s entered, three of those finishes victories (North Texas LPGA Shootout, ShopRite LPGA Classic, and WalMart NW Arkansas Championship); and Mo Martin, who’s just earned her first Tour victory at the RICOH Women’s British Open, clearly likes the taste of championship and would like to take another bite of that sweet apple.
Three American Challengers on the Hunt for a Win
Of the six American 2013 Solheimers who are winless this season, three are in the field and playing very strong golf: world ranked 11th Cristie Kerr has finished in the top-10 eight times this season and consistently challenges the top of the board; 13th ranked Angela Stanford, also with eight top-10s that include runner-up finishes at the LPGA LOTTE and WalMart NW Arkansas Championships and top-5 finishes at the HSBC Women’s Champions and the RICOH Women’s British Open, seems destined to put another victory on her resume before the season’s finished; Gerina Piller, ranked 28th, playing her fourth year on the Tour and on the hunt for her first pro win and looking stronger every week, has four top-10 finishes. Any one of them could come out on top at Highland Meadows.
Two Top Ranked Challengers
Inbee Park may have lost her grip on the top of the world rankings but her stunning -24 scorecard that got her the early season victory at the World Ladies Championship, her June win at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, and her strong 4th place finish at the RICOH Women’s British Open last week make clear that she’s going to consistently charge the top of the board.
The rookie who’s not a rookie, world ranked number 2 Lydia Ko, is coming to the the Marathon with seven top-10s this year that includes her victory at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic and runner-up finishes at the JTBC Founders Cup and the WalMart NW Arkansas. It’s not Recari Ko wants to beat. It’s Stacy Lewis!
Any one among these ten players is likely to eclipse Beatriz Recari and take control of the Marathon Classic. In the past Highland Meadows have given up many birdies and the top of the board has had an abundance of double digit red numbers. With a weather forecast calling for sun, light wind, and temperatures in the low 80s, golf will be pleasant and I’m looking for scores to again run low.
Play begins Thursday, July 17, at 7:15am local time. Golf Channel will provide daily coverage of all four rounds, Thursday, July 17 through Sunday, July 20, 3-5pm ET; and my colleagues and I at ProGolfNow will also provide updates and commentary on the tourney.
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