Monday, March 12, 2012

RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup Preview

After a two-week break, the tour resumes this week with the playing of the RR Donnelley Founders Cup. This will be the fourth official tournament of the year. I don't know what they can possibly do to top the first three. The first tournament of the year saw Jessica Korda win a six-player playoff. The second tournament saw Yani Tseng make a spectacular approach shot on the 72nd hole for a one-shot victory. The third tournament saw Angela Stanford get her first victory since 2009 in a thrilling four-player playoff. What could they possibly have in store for us next?

Here are some details on this week's event:

Course: Wildfire Golf Club - Desert Ridge Resort
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Defending Champion: Karrie Webb
2011 Winning Score: 71-66-67=204 (-12)

Final Field: 132 players
Par: 72
Yardage: 6613 Yards
Purse: 1.5 Million

Here is the television schedule:
March 15: 6:30-8:30 PM ET GC
March 16: 6:30-8:30 PM ET GC
March 17: 4:00-7:00 PM ET GC
March 18: 4:00-7:00 PM ET GC

Many changes have been made since the inaugural tournament last year. In 2011 the tournament was just 54 holes; this year it has expanded to 72. The biggest change is that last year the entire purse of 1 million dollars went to charity, this year the 1.5 million dollar purse will be shared by the players.

A very strong field will be playing this week; 15 of the top 20 players in the world will be teeing it up. The only top named players that are not participating are Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng, Song-Hee Kim, Jessica Korda, and Haru Nomura.

My strength of field is a very solid 60%, up from 44% last year when it ranked last for the entire season.

A closer look at why the field is so much stronger than last year when there was no purse shows us the following:

I.K. Kim will be playing for the first time, although she can certainly be excused for skipping this event last year. Just a few months before, she had given her entire winning paycheck of $250,000 to charity.

Hee Young Park and Meena Lee did not play last year as they chose to play in Japan instead. They are both playing this week.

The Japanese trio of Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, and Momoko Ueda all skipped the tournament last year and are teeing it up this week. Their absence can surely be excused considering the tragedy that struck their country.

Suzann Pettersen, Maria Hjorth, Anna Nordqvist, and Catriona Matthew all chose not to participate in this most charitable tournament last year. It is amazing what a purse of $1.5 million and a winner's check of $225,000 can do; they all chose to play this year.

Other tidbits:

Lexi Thompson has a new caddie. Greg Johnston who has caddied in the past for such stars as Amy Yang, Lorena Ochoa, Brittany Lincicome, Suzanne Pettersen and Michelle Wie, will now be on her bag. Johnston is most famous for carrying Juli Inkster's bag for 12 years, resulting in 7 major championships. Scott Thompson, Lexi's father, had been carrying her bag. Scott will now caddie for Lexi's brother Nicholas.

There have been a couple of name changes on the LPGA field list this week. M.J. Hur is now listed as Mi Jung Hur. Taylor Leon, who got married last month, is now listed as Taylor Coutu.

Rolex Mover of the Week:
Bo-Mee Lee, winner this past weekend in Japan, moves from #53 to #44.

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