The LPGA Tour’s Meijer Classic presented by Kraft Course Info tees off at the Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan this week, bringing everybody except the players who represented their countries in the International Crown back at work after a two-week break. A full and very eager field has been limbering up their sticks, getting ready to tee off at this new event on the Tour’s schedule. The new venue combined with a 2014 circle of champions that seems to have expanded in size and dynamism week after week has me looking for four days and 72 holes of exciting competition.
US Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie reports that the course is in great shape and ready to challenge the field. And Wie’s rested up and looking forward to testing her skills against a track that’s lined with old oaks and sports some small, tricky greens, certainly a shift from the Pinehurst No. 2 course she so masterfully claimed as her own seven weeks ago.
World ranked sixth, Wie’s coming into the Meijer Classic looking for her third win this season. She’s been playing the best golf of her six-year career, and she’s certainly going to play for the top of the leaderboard, but getting there isn’t going to be easy, not for Michelle Wie and not for a number of other players as well.
Lewis v Ko: The Tourney Within The Tourney
I’m looking for an intense contest between Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko that could play out as the tournament within the tournament. I’ve been following this battle between world ranked number 1 Lewis and number 2 Ko since January.
Lewis has played 17 events, missed no cuts, and recorded 13 top-10 finishes, three of them victories — the North Texas LPGA Shootout and the ShopRite LPGA Classic in May and the WalMart NW Arkansas Classic in June.
Ko has played 16 events, missed no cuts, and recorded 8 top-10s, two of them victories — the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in April and the Marathon Classic in July.
How close can it get? Can the teenaged rookie even the score this week on the Blythefield track? Who’s going to be sitting on the top of the rankings next Monday?
Olé! Olé! Olé!
The Spaniards took control of the field at the International Crown last week and three of the four — Belen Mozo, Azahara Muñoz, and Beatriz Recari — are in the Meijer Classic field. Mozo and Recari have been playing in the middle of the field all season but Muñoz, with 6 top-10 finishes, has been edging closer to the ever-expanding circle of 2014 winners. If she can bring the energy from Team Spain’s game at the International Crown to her game this week I can see her claiming the top of the board on Sunday afternoon.
My Watch List
I’m keeping Mo Martin on my watch list. She’s a solid player and she found her winning game at one of the season’s most challenging venues, the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Now the question becomes: Can Mo Martin repeat that clutch performance that got her the championship at the RICOH Women’s British Open? I’m betting that she can and she will!
It’s about time for Suzann Pettersen to show us her game. The world ranked number 4 Norwegian historically has had a strong second half of the season. The back injury that slowed her down in the spring seems resolved and she’s finished in the top-10 in three of her last four events. While Lewis and Ko are slugging it out I can see Pettersen playing her way past them and claiming the top of the leaderboard.
Early in the season I picked two players who seemed ready to break through and join the winner’s circle: Lizette Salas and Gerina Piller. Salas got there with her victory at the Kingsmill Championship in May. Now it’s Piller’s turn. She’s made 17 starts this season and had four top-10 finishes. Although she hasn’t been strong since her T3 finish at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in May, she’s coming into the Meijer rested. I’m looking for her to turn on the power now.
Line Vedel is one of the most interesting members of the 2014 rookie class. Although she’s probably not ready to finish at the top of the board she plays a solid, steady, consistent, competent game of golf and she does it with a smile! It won’t be long before she starts finishing consistently inside the top-20.
Michigan State’s Lindsey McPherson and University of Michigan’s Grace Choi are both playing the Meijer Classic on sponsor exemptions. They should be rivals, but this is a first pro event for both and that’s forged an alliance that trumps school loyalties.
. . . we both kind of decided that we’re kind of a couple little fish in a big pond, so we were thinking that we should probably stick together this week rather than be against each other . . . -Lindsey McPherson
Let’s see if the two little fish can slug it out with the field of big sharks and stay around for the weekend!
Golf Channel will once again be covering the LPGA this week, Thursday, August 7 through Sunday, August 10, 5-7pm, ET.
My colleagues and I at ProGolfNow will provide ongoing new and updates as well. Follow me on Twitter @bethbethel and I’ll notify you as I post my commentary on the Meijer Classic and other pro golf news and events.