The 43rd edition of the LPGA Portland Classic tees off in less than 12 hours at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club on a track that Sandra Gal reports as in “amazing condition.” With daytime temperatures forecast to range between 75 and 85 degrees, light winds, sun and low humidity, the conditions are perfect for some low scores. Who’s likely to deliver some great golf during the Thursday and Friday rounds? I’m going to be keeping a close watch on these five groups.
Jenny Shin, Line Vedel, Haru Nomura, 8:35am
This group has the potential to deliver some powerful golf. World ranked 36, Jenn Shin’s recorded four top-10s this year including a T10th at the US Women’s Open and a T13th at the Wegman’s LPGA Championship. Playing her third year on the Tour, Shin’s on the hunt for her first pro win and while it may not come in 2014 her game’s growing in strength and accuracy.
Paired with rookie Line Vedel and Haru Nomura, another 3rd year Tour player, this is a group that’s going to deliver some golf worth watching. i’m looking for all three to play above the cut line and while I’m expecting Shin to lead the group going into the weekend, I think the internal synergy in this pairing is going to drive both Vedel and Nomura to play a bit above their rankings at the Portland Classic.
Gigi Stoll, Marissa Steen, Jaye Marie Green, 9:08am
Rookie Jaye Marie Greene’s paired with Symetra star Marissa Steen and Gigi Stoll, the 16-year old Portland area amateur who qualified for the Portland Classic by winning the Portland Classic Amateur Open last week. I’m looking for Stoll to outplay Greene and Steen.
Green’s struggled with her rookie year, missed the cut in 9 of the 18 events she’s entered. She’s still trying to settle her game into the rhythm of the Tour.
Although Steen’s played two Tour events this season — the US Women’s Open and the Marathon Classic — and had to qualify for both, her focus remains securing her credentials on the Symetra Tour. Stoll’s playing at home and she’ll be playing with enormous crowd support. I’m thinking that combination of a familiar setting and a supportive gallery will keep her out in front of Green and Steen and carry her into the weekend.
Beatriz Recari, Sandra Gal, Belen Mozo, 1:14pm
With half of Spain’s International Crown team — Beatriz Recari and Belen Mozo — playing in this group the possibilities for some dynamic golf are endless. All three players — Sandra Gal, Recari, and Mozo — are candidates for the 2015 European Solheim Cup team although Mozo and Gal need to move up in the world rankings to secure their slots. But they’ve all struggled with their individual stroke play game this year.
I’m looking for all three to benefit from the pairing and deliver games that will take them into the weekend and put them on the first page of the leaderboard, but Belen Mozo, playing alongside Recari, will be able to reach back to the energy that fueled Team Spain to victory at Caves Valley in July and put it to work in Portland.
I’m looking for Mozo to make a charge for the top of the board.
Mo Martin, Carlota Ciganda, Meena Lee, 1:15pm
World ranked 24th Mo Martin followed up her first pro victory at the Ricoh Women’s British Open with a T7th at the Marathon Classic and a T17th at the Wegman’s LPGA Championship, but she’s also been struggling with a hand injury and she may hold back, anticipating the need to play flat out next month at the final Major of the year, Evian Championship.
Whether Martin delivers her best game or not, Carlota Ciganda, another member of Spain’s International Crown team, and Meena Lee can generally be counted on to deliver games that get them to the weekend. Lee’s playing particularly good golf right now, with four top-10s that includes a T11th at the Wegman’s LPGA Championship. But if Martin’s on her game, I’m looking for her to outplay both Ciganda and Lee.
Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, Anna Nordqvist, 1:47pm
All three players in this group are looking at the top of the leaderboard. Defending champion and two-time Portland Classic winner Suzann Pettersen is an aggressive, explosive competitor. So Yoen Ryu, coming into Portland with her victory at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open and 9 additional top-10s this year, has moved up to 5th in the world rankings, just below Pettersen. Tenth ranked Anna Nordqvist, with two wins and five additional top-10s, is a steady, sturdy, systematic competitor.
There’s no doubt in my mind that these three will challenge each other and that all three will play the weekend. With her T4th finish at the Wegman’s and T7th at the Canadian Open, however, I’m thinking Nordqvist will have the mental advantage. Look for Nordqvist to lead going into the weekend.
The Portland Classic tees off Thursday morning at 7:40am local time on split tees. Golf Channel coverage of the round in progress begins at 6:30pm ET (3:30pm local time). My colleagues and I at ProGolfNow will provide ongoing commentary and updates on the Portland Classic throughout the tournament.
Follow me on Twitter @bethbethel and I’ll notify you will I publish Portland Classic updates as well as other commentary on women’s pro golf.