Weather Woes Continue for LPGA

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LPGA NW Arkansas ChampionshipROGERS, Ark. -- At one point, the 18th fairway was flooded -- and large puddles were all over the course at Pinnacle Country Club.
 
Rain again stopped play at the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship on Saturday -- with several golfers still trying to finish the first round of the 54-hole event. Tournament officials are reviewing contingency plans while players await word of what lies ahead.
 
'We're going to have a couple more long days ahead of us,' Natalie Gulbis said. 'This is just part of our job and what we do, and you just kind of take it as it is and see what happens next.'
 
NCAA champion Stacy Lewis was atop the leaderboard, trying to become the first amateur to win an LPGA Tour event since JoAnne Carner in 1969. Lewis plays college golf at nearby Arkansas, so she can at least head home while waiting out the weather.
 
Long after the players were sent home, the course appeared slightly improved during the afternoon Saturday -- the small stream that covered the fairway just below the 18th green was gone. But more rain is expected Sunday.
 
'There are a lot of options,' said Andy Bush, the tournament's executive director. 'First and foremost, we need to wait out this weather, evaluate the golf course -- figure out how to get in, at a minimum, 36 holes. Obviously, we'd still love to play 54, but as it continues to rain and the hours mount up against us ...'
 
Lewis finished her first round Saturday morning at 7-under 65 -- just minutes before a downpour sent everyone scurrying for cover. It was the second major delay at this tournament, which started 4 1/2 hours late Friday because of rain.
 
A few players actually started their second rounds before others finished the first. Players are expected back early Sunday to resume play -- weather permitting, of course.
 
Juli Inkster said she planned to watch a college football game Saturday during the down time.
 
'Then do a little workout, and go to bed early, because I'll be up early tomorrow,' Inkster said. 'I think the plan is to try to get 36 in here -- whether we have to stay to Monday or whatever.'
 
Inkster is one of 11 players at this event who will also play in the Solheim Cup next weekend in Sweden. Their original plan was to fly out of Arkansas early Sunday evening, but Inkster said the Solheim players are prepared to stay until Monday to finish this tournament.
 
'You can't just back out on a golf tournament,' Inkster said. 'You're here to support the golf tournament.'
 
Bush said organizers would try to decide by early Sunday whether to shorten the tournament to 36 holes. He also said the event would not continue to Tuesday. If players can't complete 36 holes by the end of the day Monday, Bush isn't sure what would happen. It's possible organizers would look into suspending play and continuing it at some later date.
 
'That's when you start looking at those other options: Can we come back? Is that even a possibility?' he said. 'Two weeks later or whatever. And that is a possibility. There's a long list to get through to make that happen.'
 
Kristy McPherson, Katherine Hull and Teresa Lu all shot 66 Friday on the 6,238-yard course and are a stroke behind Lewis. Inkster and Sherri Turner are another stroke back at 67, and Jin Young Pak is also at 5 under with four holes remaining in her first round.
 
The top three money earners this year on the LPGA Tour -- Lorena Ochoa, Suzann Pettersen and Paula Creamer -- are absent from this event, and No. 4 Mi Hyun Kim withdrew before it started.
 
U.S. Women's Open champion Cristie Kerr and Gulbis were among several who finished the first round at 69. Maria Hjorth and Beth Bader both shot 68, and Linda Wessberg was with them at 4 under with one hole remaining in her first round.
 
This is the LPGA's first visit to Arkansas since the Arkansas Open at Hot Springs in 1956.
 

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