Marathon Classic Preview and TV Schedule


World ranked number 2 Lydia Ko is defending her title this week at the Marathon Classic presented by Corning and I-O in Sylvania, Ohio.  Ko’s not been playing at her peak recently and I’m looking forward to seeing if she can step up her game at this title defense.

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Ko delivered a simply amazing performance at the 2014 Marathon Classic, edging out 2008 champion So Yeon Ryu by a single shot in a playoff to pick up her 4th victory of the 2014 season.

With the 2014 Marathon Classic win Lydia Ko set yet another record, becoming the youngest player in LPGA Tour history (17 years, 2 months, 26 days) to cross the $1 million mark with her career earnings.

A year later Ko has acceded the top of the Rolex Rankings to Inbee Park and while with two Tour wins — the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic — and six additional top-10 finishes she’s hardly having a bad season, there are some gaps in her young resume.

Ko finished well down the board at the Tour’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, then missed the cut at the season’s second major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.  Her T12 finish at the US Women’s Open signaled that she may be learning how to manage the added pressure of the Tour’s annual penultimate events.  We’ll know more about that when she tees off at Turnberry.

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For the moment, Ko needs to concentrate of the Marathon Classic.  The Highland Meadows track rolls along through the Ohio countryside and it’s relatively narrow, tree-lined fairways are going to require targeted accuracy off the tee, something Ko’s been lacking in recent events.

The greens will present the biggest challenge for players this week. Like what players saw last week at Lancaster Country Club, putting surfaces will be slower this week, with greens running at 10.5 to 11 on the stimpmeter.

This week could be decided on the putting surface. That would put three of the Tour’s best putters, Hyo Joo Kim, Morgan Pressel and Stacy Lewis at the advantage.  Look for all three of these players to be in the mix on Sunday.

Michelle Wie has withdrawn from the Marathon Classic to tend to the lingering bursitis in her hip and several other upper-tier players are taking the week off, which means we’ll get to watch some promising young players who often get edged out of the field and the spotlight.

Stephanie Meadow, who made such a splash at the 2014 US Women’s Open, has struggled this year.  Perhaps she can get her rhythm at this lower-key event.

Katie Burnett, as I predicted, has been having a fine 3rd year on Tour.  I’m looking for Burnett to play well this week in Ohio.  She didn’t get in the field last week so she’s coming into the Marathon Classic rested and the golf course suits her steady, sturdy game.  Burnett will make the cut and play the weekend.

Alejandra Llaneza, the promising young Mexican golfer who’s transitioning up from the Symetra Tour following her win at the Women’s Health Classic, will also bear watching.

Rookies Alison Lee, Kelly Shon and Demi Runas are all in the Marathon Classic field.  Lee’s having a spectacular year and I’m looking for her to perhaps notch a win by the end of the 2015 season.  She’s good enough that Juli Inkster is scouting her for the 2015 Solheim Cup US team.  Although Shon and Runas haven’t sparked at quite the same level as Alison Lee, they both have top-notch games in their bags and they’re well worth watching.

Golf Channel will provide daily coverage of the Marathon Classic, from Thursday, July 16 – Sunday, July 19, 2-4pm, ET.

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