The 2014 LPGA Championship will be held at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, New York, for the first time ever. This is just the fourth different venue for the major tournament in the past 20 years, so it will be interesting to see how the top stars in women's golf adjust to the new course.
Inbee Park is the defending champion, and last season, she won three of the four traditional LPGA major titles. But Park is winless at the majors this year, while the likes of young stars Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie have broken through in the first two majors of the current campaign.
Park was more competitive at the Women's British Open but settled for fourth behind unlikely winner Mo Martin.
Unfortunately, Wie won't be able to compete this week, due to a finger injury. ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel reported what Wie said in a statement: "I was looking forward to playing the next three weeks. It's honestly one of my favorite stretches on tour. It's extremely disappointing to miss these events, but I am relieved to have a proper diagnosis."
Golf Channel provided updates on Wie's condition and her status for the future:
As for the marquee names teeing it up, Thompson doesn't have the best form entering the fourth major of the year, either. That leaves world No. 1 Stacy Lewis to challenge Park and a slew of other impressive, accomplished golfers.
Here is a look at some of the vital information on where to catch the action in this major showcase along with an extended preview of the 2014 LPGA Championship.
When: Thursday, August 14, through Sunday, August 17
Where: Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, New York
Tee Times: For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit LPGA.com.
Purse: $2,250,000; Winner's Share: $337,500
|2014 LPGA Championship TV Schedule|
|Thursday, August 14||12:30-3 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Friday, August 15||12:30-3 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Saturday, August 16||3-7 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Sunday, August 17||3-7 p.m.||Golf Channel|
2014 LPGA Championship Preview
The best hopes for an American sweep at the first four majors are Thompson and Lewis, both of whom could use an additional major title to boost their respective resumes.
Since the legendary Juli Inkster won this event in 1999 and 2000, Cristie Kerr is the only other U.S. player to have won, seizing glory in 2010 with a record 12-stroke triumph.
Even if the USA cannot boast another major winner by week's end, Lewis spoke about the impact her compatriots have had on the sport this season, per USA Today's Steve DiMeglio:
The whole year has been great for Americans [in] golf, not just in the majors. It shows where we're going and we're going in the right direction. We have young talent and some girls who needed to get some wins in majors, and that helps.
[...] More than anything it's great for the tour. It's great for sponsors and selling our brand. And it's great for the fans. I think we're getting more people following us again because we're playing well.
Thompson is only 19, emerging as arguably the brightest young star in the game. Following a missed cut and then a tie for 54th at the British Open, the teenage prodigy bounced back with a joint-15th finish at the Marathon Classic.
However, Thompson finished 41st at the Meijer LPGA Classic in her last start. That doesn't bode well for her chances in Pittsford this weekend. Even at such a young age, the Kraft Nabisco winner is tops on the LPGA in driving distance, giving her a huge advantage over the rest of the field.
The problem for Thompson has often been putting, which is where Lewis and Park have the edge.
Iron play is the key for Lewis, as she is the best at putts per greens in regulation. If she avoids compromising positions and isn't scrambling for pars, Lewis has as good a chance as anyone to claim victory at the LPGA Championship for the first time.
It is worth noting that Lewis hasn't had a top-10 finish in any of her last three starts. That leaves Park, fresh off a runner-up finish at the Marathon Classic, as the likely favorite.
Park would become the first back-to-back winner since Annika Sorenstam won three straight—and Park has the game to do just that, including the best putting, which is often where majors are won and lost.
Mike Johnson of Golf World alluded to the key equipment change Park recently made for the most important club in her bag:
Losing in a playoff last week ought to drive Park to contend again at Monroe Golf Club. But roaring rookie Lydia Ko, the world's No. 2-ranked player, should not be discounted.
Still yet to break through at a major, the 17-year-old has burst onto the scene and is brimming with potential.
To really move the meter, the LPGA's stars need to shine, especially with arguably the biggest draw in women's golf in Wie being out of the field. Similar circumstances unfolded at last week's PGA Championship in the men's game, which saw Rory McIlroy fend off Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson down the stretch.
It's a tall ask, but the LPGA must hope for something reminiscent of McIlroy's thrilling win. As Lewis alluded to in her remarks, some considerable momentum is being generated on the LPGA Tour in the form of top-tier talents achieving great success.
Getting all the elements of one's golf game to click at the perfect time is far easier said than done, much less under the immense pressure of a major. Thankfully for the LPGA, enough stars have put it all together well enough to create some tremendous entertainment in the first three majors. Keeping that going is vital to the continual, promising growth of the LPGA's brand.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of LPGA.com unless otherwise indicated.
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