Nordqvist ready to defend LPGA Championship


LPGA Tour _new

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist will begin the defence of her LPGA Championship title on Thursday.

The top 15 players in the Rolex Rankings – including new No. 1 Ai Miyazato of Japan – will be among the 150 vying for the top prize in the tour’s second major of the season when play begins in the $2.25 million event at Locust Hill Country Club in suburban Rochester, New York.

The championship was moved from Bulle Rock in Maryland for 2010 after longtime sponsor McDonald’s did not renew its contract with the LPGA.

Wegmans Food Markets agreed to place its own tournament on hiatus and be title sponsor in a one-year deal. The supermarket chain has been an LPGA partner for more than three decades.

Record-setting galleries are expected at Locust Hill, which has never hosted a major.

“Once you come here, it’s all about the golf,” said Nordqvist, who finished tied for 36th at the 2009 Wegmans LPGA the week after her triumph at Bulle Rock. “A lot of fans are coming out, in parking lots, backyards. That’s what I love about this (tournament).”

Paula Creamer identifies with that sentiment probably better than any of the players. The demise last year of the LPGA Corning Classic deprived her of one of her favorite events. Her grandfather always made the half-hour trip from his home in Ithaca, New York. At least now he’ll get to see her compete in a major, because it’s still just a 90-minute drive.

“He’ll come down with my aunt and uncle,” Creamer said. “It’s nice to be able to play in front of them, and now that it’s a major it would be great to win in front of them.

“This is a great golf course. It always has been one of my favorites,” said Creamer, who has expressed concern about not knowing where the LPGA Championship will be next year. “Coming here is one of the highlights of my year. Everybody here is so supportive of my golf and golf in general. That’s neat when you have a tournament that is recognizable – and now it’s a major. I would hope (it would remain a major). We can keep our fingers crossed.”

New LPGA commissioner Mike Whan is expected to make an announcement about the future of the LPGA Championship in July. He hinted at a pre-tournament news conference here in May that rotating it was a possibility because he believes future success lies in taking the LPGA global.