Coming into the 4th LPGA Major, the LPGA Championship, 2014 is looking like the Year of the Americans. Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie’s Sunday Shootout at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April foreshadowed the emergence of US player dominance in the Tour’s 2014 Majors. Wie may have limped away from Poppy’s Pond while Thompson and her entourage took their victory leap, but she came back strong in June at Pinehurst No 2 and the US Women’s Open. Emerging victorious from her battle with world ranked number 1 Stacy Lewis, Wie joined Thompson in the Major Champions circle, and there was talk of an American sweep at this year’s majors. Mo Martin’s spectacular second shot on the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale and her winning eagle putt that followed put the Ricoh Women’s British Open victory on her resume and added a third American to that circle of Major Champions. Can the magical US winning streak be sustained and carry over to the LPGA Championship? Lexi Thompson and Mo Martin are certainly hoping that’s the storyline that will unfold over the next four days.
Five Americans to Watch
In addition to Lexi Thompson and Mo Martin, who are now proven commodities in the field, I see five US players who are coming into the LPGA Championship with a better than even chance of claiming the win on Sunday.
Stacy Lewis is having a spectacular year. She’s coming into the LPGA Championship ranked number 1 in the world. She’s notched three wins and recorded 10 additional top-10 finishes. Lewis finished 3rd at the Kraft Nabisco, runner-up at the US Women’s Open, and T12 at the Women’s British Open, where she was the defending champion. She’s clearly the player to beat this week.
World ranked 10th Cristie Kerr is also a likely contender for the top of the board. Kerr’s a tough and determined competitor who is consistently in the mix on Sunday. With 16 career victories that includes the 2010 LPGA Championship, Kerr knows how to play for the win in the pressure-cooker environment of a Major.
Paula Creamer will also be a contender. Creamer, like Kerr, knows how to pace herself and manage the pressure of a major event. With 10 career victories that includes the 2010 US Women’s Open, 12th ranked Creamer is bringing the added boost of her 2014 win at the HSBC Women’s Champions in February with that breathtaking 75-foot putt that’s become a favorite YouTube replay.
Below these three who consistently play at or near the top of the leaderboard, the ranks of likely US winners for the LPGA Championship get a bit thin, but Angela Stanford has certainly played with moments of strength and Gerina Piller, one of the longest hitters and best ball strikers on the Tour, could deliver a winning game this coming Sunday that would match Mo Martin’s Royal Birkdale performance.
If there’s to be another American win in Rochester, someone is going to have to play past world ranked number 2 Lydia Ko, who’s due a Major win, and 3rd ranked Inbee Park, who’s playing again like a major champion.
First round tee times at the LPGA Championship begin at 7:15am Thursday, August 14 and Golf Channel coverage of the round in progress begins at 12:30pm, all times ET.