The 144-player field at the Meijer LPGA Classic presented by Kraft is in the final countdown. Stacy Lewis’s nephew, Cole Wysocki, will be there, probably wearing his “My aunt’s a better golfer than yours” t-shirt as will 15 other members of the Lew Crew, who’ve hopped over from Ohio to follow their family’s golf star. Lydia Ko will be sporting a new Minion head cover she picked up at Universal Studios during her two-week break. Morgan Pressel’s family be following her, and Michelle Wie’s feeling rested and ready to get back to the first tee. Paula Creamer’s been rubbing elbows with local Grand Rapids fans. The LPGA Commish may or may not be sporting red argyles. The weather’s going to cooperate, with temperatures in the low 80s and no rain in sight, and everybody’s reporting the Blythefield Country Club in superb condition. With the scene set and the cast ready, let’s take a look at six first/second round pairings that are likely to establish the pace for the Meijer Classic.
Haru Nomura, Sandra Gal, Shanshan Feng, 7:59am
I’m predicting that this group will set the first and second round pace at the Meijer Classic. World ranked 84th, Haru Nomura has been playing some interesting golf this season. She’s playing her 3rd year of the Tour and has recorded 2 career top-10 finish, at the LPGA LOTTE Championship (T7) in April and ShopRite LPGA Classic (T13) in May. At first look, it might seem as though Nomura’s going to be overpowered by world ranked 7th Shanshan Feng and world ranked 50th Sandra Gal.
But that’s not the whole story for Nomura. She’s entered 15 events this year and she’s missed only one cut. She’s a scrappy, high-energy player and I’m looking for her to play steady with Feng, who’s recorded 5 top-10s and Gal, who’s recorded 2 top-10s this year. I’ll also be curious about her hair color — Nomura seems to change hair color like other golfers change shirt colors.
Belen Mozo, Gerina Piller, Brittany Lincicome, 8:10am
World ranked 113th Belen Mozo is coming into the Meijer Classic on the high of Team Spain’s International Crown win. The self-proclaimed captain of the Spaniards, Mozo played well above her world ranking at Caves Valley and I’m looking for a repeat performance this week. I think she found her game last week. I also think she’s going to have to play hard and make no mistakes because world ranked 30th Gerina Piller’s right on the edge of a breakthrough and unlike Mozo, she’s coming in rested and ready to fire!
Brittany Lincicome, ranked at 62nd, is probably along for the ride in this group. The contest will be between Mozo and Piller and while Piller will lead off the tee and to the green, Mozo’s putter was pure magic last week. If her flat stick’s still hot, Mozo will dominate.
Paula Creamer, Lydia Ko, Suzann Pettersen, 8:21am
This is a golf fan’s dream pairing, 12th ranked Paula Creamer, 2nd ranked Lydia Ko and 4th ranked Suzann Pettersen playing together for 32 holes of golf. I’m looking for the scores inside this pairing to go back and forth, up and down, as these three push each other to maximum performance.
In the end, Pettersen will probably have a slight edge over Creamer and Ko, but if the competition inside the pairing gets as intense as I think it could be, this group’s very likely to get to double digit red numbers by the weekend.
Stacy Lewis, Karrie Webb, Jessica Korda, 8:32am
These three 2014 champions are also going to deliver some terrific golf. We know that before they tee off. But within the pairing, how will the dynamics play out? World ranked number 1 Stacy Lewis and 8th ranked Karrie Webb both tend to play a waiting game. Neither of them seems to want the early lead. I’m looking for 16th ranked Jessica Korda to come off the tee hot — she’s dreaming about adding a 3rd 2014 win to her resume — and lead the group through the first and second rounds, with Lewis and Webb keeping a steady pace behind her, feeling out the golf course and putting their game plan for the weekend in place.
Golf’s as much a game of strategy and mental agility as it is a game of well-placed shots. We’ll have a chance to watch the interplay between the three components as the drama unfolds in this group
Lee-Ann Pace, Sarah Kemp, Yueer Cindy Feng, 12:10pm
Ladies European Tour star Lee-Ann Pace has entered nine LPGA events this year and recorded one top-10 finish, a T4 at the Marathon Classic last month. Sarah Kemp, world ranked 189th, has entered 11 events this year, missed four cuts and recorded no top-10 finishes. They’re both experienced pros and they’re both winless on the LPGA Tour.
I’m looking for rookie Yueer Cindy Feng, who’s ranked 207th, to outplay both Pace and Kemp. Feng had a fine amateur career — 10 AJGA victories — and has recorded 8 top-10 finishes, including a win at Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in March on the Symetra Tour. She finished T13 at the US Women’s Open in June, her first Tour event.
Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park, Mo Martin, 1:16pm
This pairing will let us take Mo Martin’s measure against two of the consistently finest golfers on the Tour, world ranked number 3 Inbee Park and 10th ranked Cristie Kerr. Was Martin’s amazing final hole fairway shot that yielded the winning eagle at the RICOH Women’s British Open a lucky shot or a stunning display of athletic skill under pressure?
With her British Open win Martin rocketed up the rankings from 99th to 26th and she followed up that win at Royal Birkdale with a T7 finish at the Marathon Classic.
Now Martin will play two consecutive rounds with Park, whose putter is very hard to beat, and Kerr, who simply never stop competing. I’m looking for Martin to deliver another quality performance against these two formidable opponents and claim a place in the upper tier of the world rankings.
First Round Schedule
Tee times at the Meijer LPGA Classic begin Thursday morning, August 7 at 7:15am local time. Golf Channel will provide daily coverage of the tournament from 5-7pm ET, and ProGolfNow will provide ongoing updates and commentary as well.
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