Anna Nordqvist of Sweden has owned the ShopRite LPGA Classic for the past two years and will seek her third straight win in the event beginning Friday as she competes against 143 of her fellow LPGA pros on the Donald Ross-designed Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club's Bay Course in Galloway, N.J., across Reed's Bay from Atlantic City.
Nordqvist, who already has a win this season (Founders Cup in Phoenix in March), will try to join fellow Swede Annika Sorenstam as the only three-time winner of this event. To do so she will have to beat a field that includes 13 of the top 21 in the Rolex Rankings, eight winners of tournaments from this year and 75 of the top 100 on the 2017 LPGA Tour money list.
This is only a three-day (54-hole) event (one on just three such events on the LPGA tour), but still carries a $1.5 million purse, with $225,000 and 500 Race to the Globe points going to the winner.
Last year, Nordqvist shot a final-round 64 to tie the tournament scoring record set by Sorenstam (17 under par in both 1998 and 2005) and held off Haru Nomura by one shot to defend her title.
Nordqvist, who has won seven times on the LPGA tour, is 12th on the money list with nearly $372,000 in eight events. After leading the tour in greens hit in regulation (78.6 percent) last year, she is sixth this year (77.1 percent). She has trimmed her usually busy schedule some this season to enjoy some things away from the golf course and the grind of the tour.
"Maybe there is a maturity in that strategy that allows me to enjoy the game in a different way, being out on tour and embracing opportunities instead of putting so much pressure on myself to succeed," Nordqvist said. "I don't want to be looking back in five years and asking why didn't I enjoy this more. I'm trying to enjoy the moment a little more than just trying to chase the future."
With Shanshan Feng's win at the LPGA Volvik Championship last week in Michigan, the LPGA has now gone 12 events without having a repeat winner, the second-longest such stretch to begin a season in LPGA history. In 1991, there was not a multiple tournament winner until the 16th event of the year.
Six of this year's 12 events have been won by players from South Korea, with three being captured by Americans and one winner each from Japan, China and Sweden.
The ShopRite Classic is the third in a stretch of 11 consecutive weeks of competition on the tour. The field here is well represented by the event's past winners, including Stacey Lewis (2012, 2014), Cristie Kerr (2004), Karrie Webb of Australia (2013), Angela Stanford (2003), Juli Inkster (1986, 1988) and Brittany Lincicome (2011).
The next great player from South Korea might be Sung Hyun Park, the LPGA's top rookie, who is also in the field after finishing second last week. She led after the second round and made a spirited run at Feng with a final-round 66.
"I hadn't played well in events prior to this tournament and I felt I'd lost a bit of confidence," Park said after her runner-up finish. "But I played well this time and got some confidence back. I think that was the biggest take away from this event."
Through the first 12 events, So Yeon Ryu of South Korea leads with 1,695 points. Ryu's streak of 11 consecutive top-10 finishes was snapped last week when she tied for 56th. Ryu is in the field this week and will have a fourth straight chance to replace Lydia Ko of New Zealand at No. 1 in the world.