Apr 5, 2015; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; Brittany Lincicome (left) and Stacy Lewis hug after Lincicome won the ANA Inspiration in a three hole playoff at Mission Hills CC – Dinah Shore Tournament Course. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
The WalMart NW Arkansas Championship tees off for the first round Friday, June 26 at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. Arkansas has had its share of bad weather recently, but the forecast for the Championship looks good. There’s a chance of scattered thundershowers in the late afternoon on Friday, so the afternoon groups could experience delays, but with temperatures in the mid-80s for all 3 days and partial clouds on Saturday and Sunday, it’s going to be fine golfing weather.
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Group 1. 7:59am, 1st tee Morgan Pressel, So Yeon Ruy and Yani Tseng
Yani Tseng has been showing sparks of the game that took her to the top of the world rankings in 2009 & 2010. The youngest-ever player male or female to accomplish the Grand Slam, Tseng lost her way in 2013 and has struggled for more than two years to recover that game.
My hope is that paired with Morgan Pressel and So Yeon Ryu, who are both playing well and very evenly matched, Yani will draw on and be drawn into her playing partners’ rhythms, that we’ll see the old Yani emerge from this pairing. I’ll be surprised if Pressel doesn’t outplay Ryu, but not by much.
Group 2. 8:10am, 1st tee, Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, Minjee Lee
This group will give me a chance to watch two different dynamics. First, Paula Creamer and Suzann Pettersen are likely to find themselves on opposing US and European teams this fall at the Solheim Cup. Last week I looked at a virtual singles match between Pettersen and Lexi Thompson. This pairing will give me a chance to pit Pettersen against Creamer, another likely Solheim Cup singles match pairing.
I’ll also be interested in watching 17th ranked Minjee Lee, one of the most promising members of the Tour’s 2015 rookie class, go up against these two veterans. Creamer and Pettersen are both relentless competitors. How will Minjee Lee measure up against the kind of pressure they’re going to bring to the round?
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Group 3. 8:32am, 1st tee, Inbee Park, Anna Nordqvist, Lexi Thompson
Lexi Thompson was my Ladies Dream Golf Group 1 fantasy pick and I’ll be watching closely to see how she fares against these two golfers who’ve been delivering consistent, high-level games this year.
This will be Inbee Park’s first appearance since she retook the top of the Rolex Rankings and there’s no doubt in my mind she’ll be working hard to prove that wasn’t a lucky fluke. At the same time, I continue to think Park’s going to economize her competitive energy and focus on achieving her Grand Slam goal later in the summer.
Anna Nordqvist never lets up. She followed her ShopRite LPGA Classic win with a top-10 finish at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and I’m thinking she’ll be playing for a shot at another victory this week.
Thompson’s going to be challenged from the first shot to put her best game out there. I think she’ll do it.
Group 4. 12:59pm, 10th tee, Stacy Lewis, Sandra Gal, Mariajo Uribe
Although I’m not looking for defending champion Stacy Lewis to manage back-to-back wins, I am expecting championship-level play from her and if she outplays Sandra Gal and Mariajo Uribe in the first round, I’ll know she has her rhythm.
I don’t expect either Gal or Uribe to lie down and let Lewis roll over them, so this pairing, coming at the beginning of the afternoon wave, should deliver some interesting and very good golf, even though the group will probably finish up the back nine after Golf Channel concludes Friday coverage.
Golf Channel will begin live coverage of the WalMart NW Arkansas Championship at 11:30am and conclude at 2:30pm, ET.