Weather Woes LPGA Shortens Event

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LPGA NW Arkansas ChampionshipROGERS, Ark. -- The LPGA Tour shortened the NW Arkansas Championship to 18 holes Saturday after rain wiped out much of the competition during the first two days.
 
The tournament began 4 1/2 hours late Friday, and play was suspended again around 11 a.m. Saturday. All but 32 players had completed the first round when the second delay began -- and the remaining golfers were expected back Sunday morning to finish.
 
NCAA champion Stacy Lewis was atop the leaderboard after a 7-under 65, which she finished Saturday just a few minutes before a heavy downpour sent people scurrying for cover. Lewis is trying to become the first amateur to win an LPGA Tour event since JoAnne Carner in 1969. Lewis plays college golf at nearby Arkansas.
 
Jin Young Pak appeared to be the only player with a decent chance to catch Lewis. She was at 5 under with four holes remaining.
 
Andy Bush, the tournament's executive director, said earlier Saturday that several options would be considered.
 
'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,' Bush said. 'Obviously, we'd still love to play 54, but as it continues to rain and the hours mount up against us ...'
 
Bush could not immediately be reached for comment later in the day. The LPGA Tour said in a release that the event at Pinnacle Country Club was being shortened because of 'heavy rains resulting in unplayable course conditions.'
 
At one point, the 18th fairway was flooded. Conditions there improved later in the day after players had left, but large puddles were all over the course.
 
Eleven players at this event will also play in the Solheim Cup next weekend in Sweden. Their original plan was to fly out of Arkansas early Sunday evening, but Juli Inkster said shortly after play was suspended Saturday that the Solheim players were 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.'
 
This is the LPGA's first visit to Arkansas since the Arkansas Open at Hot Springs in 1956.
 
Kristy McPherson, Katherine Hull and Teresa Lu shot 66s Friday on the 6,238-yard course and were a stroke behind Lewis. Inkster and Sherri Turner were another stroke back at 67.
 
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 Natalie 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.
 
'We're going to have a couple more long days ahead of us,' Gulbis said after the delay began Saturday.
 
Now her weekend is apparently over.
 
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