Many top women golfers aren't waiting for February to kick off their 2009 season. Whether in Australia, Brazil, or Florida, we got early peeks this past week at who's already ready to handle heat, rain, wind, and the other vicissitudes of competitive golf, well before the LPGA season begins. Among the LPGA regulars this season, it appears that Paula Creamer, Katherine Hull, Kristy McPherson, M.J. Hur, Laura Davies, Mollie Fankhauser, and Sarah Kemp are already pretty sharp, even if none of them could manage to get a win.
20-year-old Sarah Oh was the hometown favorite in New South Wales and she didn't disappoint, coming through for the biggest victory of her fledgling career by holding off Hull in the Women's NSW Open. As Liz Smith reports, another player's caddy asserted that Oh deserved penalties for seeking advice from her dad and improving her stance in a bunker, but the rules officials disagreed, so Oh's 3-stroke victory held. Others getting top 10s included Davies, Fankhauser, and Kemp. For the full results, you can download the spreadsheet off the Women's Golf New Zealand web page--a final-round 78 dropped Nocera out of contention, while her LET cohorts never really got much of anything going and Stephanie Na and Sunny Park settled for T45s.
Meanwhile, in Rio, as the LPGA has announced, Hound Dog has covered, and Jay Busbee has praised, Catriona Matthew will go down in history as the first champion of the inaugural HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup. Not only was Matthew the only one in the 15-player field to break 70, she did it twice in a row--a feat made even more impressive by the fact that she's 5 months pregnant and hadn't touched a club for a month leading up to the exhibition. That $100K winner's check will sure help make her 2009 a lot more pleasant, not least because she plans to play only 1 more tournament before taking a maternity leave from the LPGA. McPherson was the only other player under par for the tournament, so gets her season off on the right foot. Louise Friberg and Leta Lindley can take solace in the fact they bounced back from terrible opening rounds on Sunday. Everyone else got a good sense of just how much rust they have to scrape off in the next several weeks, ranging from a little (Angela Park, Laura Diaz, Allison Fouch) to a lot (Eun-Hee Ji, Christina Kim, Karen Stupples).
Last but not least, Creamer competed with several other LPGAers on the SunCoast Ladies Series at Forest Lake GC this past weekend. Of them, only Hur was really sharp, but still not sharp enough on Sunday to hold off the LET's Johanna Mundy (formerly Head), who got her 2nd win of 2009 on that tour by chasing her down. Creamer had to settle for a tie for 5th, after a pair of closing 71s weren't enough to make up for an opening 75 in terrible weather.
Starting tomorrow, Stacy Lewis is the big name in the SunCoast Series field, joining Mundy, Hur, and Moira Dunn--who played college golf in Florida--along with Hannah Yun, Jeehae Lee, and a number of other players you can expect to see on the LPGA, the Futures Tour, or both in '09. We'll see if more fans turn out after Dave Andrews criticized the lack of publicity for the 1st 2 events.
Later this week, the ALPG's New Zealand Women's Zealand Open kicks off. I haven't found a field list on their site, but the tournament organizers have announced that Hull, Davies, and the LET's 2008 money list leader Gwladys Nocera will be in it. Peter Thorley profiles one of the top amateur New Zealanders in the field, if you're looking for local talent to root for. For more on the event and the course, check out Liz Smith's post. Assuming Anna Rawson isn't in the field, maybe she can find a nice hat to wear on the LPGA this season by checking out the photos from 1908 that the local library has made available!