For Inkster, it's been a good season so far-she is currently 10th on the ADT Official Money List with three top-10 finishes-but she has yet to enter the winner's circle. In fact, this is the deepest the 21-year LPGA veteran has gone into a season without a win since October 1998 when she captured her first title of the year at the Samsung World Championship.
But if ever there was a stage set for an Inkster victory, it is when she is defending a title. Inkster has a habit of back-to-back wins, as the 30-time tournament champion has successfully defended five different titles, and has won a total of nine tournaments more than once. This week, at the Evian Masters Golf Club, Inkster will attempt to keep pace with two other 40-somethings who have already won this season-Meg Mallon and Sherri Steinhauer.
The 78-player field consists of 50 LPGA Tour members, 25 players who qualified through the Robe Di Kappa Ladies European Tour (LET) and three sponsor exemptions (Amy Alcott, Paula Marti and amateur Michelle Wie).
Inkster will face former Evian Masters champions Annika Sorenstam (2000,
2002) and Rachel Teske (2001). In addition to Inkster and Sorenstam, fellow LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame members Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Alcott are in the field.
All but one tournament winner from the LPGA Tour's2004 season is competing this week: Cristie Kerr; Lorena Ochoa; Se Ri Pak; Grace Park; Jennifer Rosales; Kim Saiki; Karen Stupples; Karrie Webb; Mallon; Sorenstam; and Steinhauer.
All 2004 LET event winners are also in the field: Stephanie Arricau; Laura Davies; Cecillia Ekelundh; Maria Hjorth; Diana Luna; Ana B. Sanchez; and Sorenstam, who won the LET's first event of the season in Australia.
At last year's event, Inkster posted rounds of 64-65 on the weekend to finish at 267 (-21), the lowest four-day total in the event's history on the LPGA Tour. Her 64 (-8) on Saturday tied the course record, which is shared by four other players.
Inkster entered the final round tied with veteran Rosie Jones, but Jones faltered with a 73 on Sunday and Inkster was never challenged. Korea's Hee-Won Han, fresh off her first career win at the Sybase Classic the week prior, birdied the final two holes to wrap up a second-place finish at 273 (-15), six strokes behind the champion. Ochoa and Jones finished in a tie for third at 275 (-13).