The field list for the LPGA's 1st U.S.-based event of 2014, the JTBC Founders Cup, has been released, and since I'm snowed in and needing a break from grading, I thought I'd look ahead to next Thursday before turning to this week's JLPGA and LET events.
The most exciting thing about the field in Phoenix for me is the return to competitive golf of In-Kyung Kim, who's hanging on to the last spot on Team Korea for the LPGA's new team event, the International Crown, by the edge of her fingernails. With Ha Na Jang of the KLPGA, Ji-Yai Shin of the JLPGA (playing this week, btw), and Amy Yang, Hee Young Park, and Chella Choi right on her tail, Inky will need to start the season strong to stay on the team.
As a fan of Japanese golfers in general and Ai Miyazato and Mika Miyazato in particular, I'll be paying close attention to see if they can start playing like they're capable of. I'm also rooting for Chie Arimura and Ayako Uehara to continue making progress in their adjustment to the level of competition on the LPGA. Harukyo Nomura, #137 on the LPGA priority status list, is the 1st alternate, so I'm hopeful she'll make it into this very strong field.
How strong? Well, consider that in addition to Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen renewing their rivalry, and in addition to #5 So Yeon Ryu and #7 Shanshan Feng, who competed with them last week in China, #3 Stacy Lewis, #4 Lydia Ko (who's making her U.S. debut as an LPGA member), #6 Karrie Webb, #8 Paula Creamer, #9 Na Yeon Choi, and #10 Lexi Thompson will get to join in the fun. That's right, the entire top 10 in the world of women's golf will be facing off 2 Thursdays from today! And everyone in the top 20 but Jang and Shin. And everyone in the next 10 except the KLPGA's Hyo-Joo Kim. In fact, every 2014 winner of a major women's tour event will be playing in Phoenix, including sponsor exemption Cheyenne Woods, except for the JLPGA's Onnarin Sattayabanphot--and the woman she displaced from the #4 position on Team Thailand for the International Crown, Thidapa Suwannapura, will be teeing it up.
And of course there are plenty of players I'm following who haven't yet proven they belong (again) among the best on the planet: Moira Dunn, Seon Hwa Lee, Mina Harigae, Jennifer Song, Jeong Jang, and Ya Ni Tseng. I'm sure others will have their own lists of favorite players! Who are you excited to follow (in person or virtually) next week on the LPGA?