Last year, Soo-Yun Kang stood nearly as tall as the trademark evergreens that line the course, becoming a Rolex-First Time Winner at the 54-hole event. This year, Kang is back to defend her title against 143 of the best women golfers in the world.
Joining Kang in the field is three-time tournament winner this year and LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb. The seven-time major champion has rejoined the elite of the LPGA Tour after a winless 2005. Webb, who has a newfound just-get-the-ball-in-the-hole mentality, is having a stellar year. Her three wins'the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill and the Evian Masters'came against arguably the three toughest fields of the year.
Webb has amassed $1,647,433 in earnings this year, which places her second to only Lorena Ochoa on the ADT Official Money List. She has become a serious threat to win her third Rolex Player of the Year award and her fourth Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. The last time Webb won either one of the prestigious awards was after the 2000 season when she won two majors and seven times altogether.
Mi Hyun Kim, who won the Safeway Classic Presented by Pepsi in 2000, should be a contender this week as well. Kim has experience on this course, and she is one of the best putters on Tour, which should help her on Columbia Edgewater's pristine greens. Like Webb, Kim has used this year to propel her back toward the top of the ADT Official Money List. She has won twice this season after going winless the last three years and has surpassed the $1 million mark in earnings for the second time in her career.
Paula Creamer is also competing this week and is still looking for the first LPGA win of her sophomore season. The reigning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year is one of the best birdie makers on Tour having drained 220 of them on the season. She enters this week playing some of her best golf of the year. In her last four tournaments she has only finished worse then seventh one time.
Natalie Gulbis is not only looking for her first win of the year, but the first of her LPGA career. The 23-year-old has been close to breaking through with five top-five finishes, including a playoff loss to Kim at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger. Gulbis has fared well at the Safeway Classic Presented by Pepsi, tying for 10th the previous two years. If Gulbis, who leads the Tour with 259 birdies, can roll in a few more putts this week, she should have a good chance in the three-day event.
Kang was at the top of the leaderboard after every round a year ago and led a parade of South Koreans to top finishes. Kang finished at 201 (-15), while Jeong Jang took second four shots behind. Gloria Park was third and Joo Mi Kim finished fourth.