What to Watch for in 2005

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With Japan's dramatic win at the inaugural Women's World Cup of Golf, the2005 LPGA Tour season is off to a smashing start. The season, sure to be one filled with record-breaking putts, Rolex First-Time Winners, tears of joy and the agony of defeat, begins in earnest this week with the SBS Open at Turtle Bay.
 
Before the first full-field event of the season, one record has already been set. This year there will be a record 33 rookies on Tour, all battling for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award. The group is headlined by Paula Creamer, who in 2004 grabbed the title at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament Presented by American Airlines and finished a shot back of Cristie Kerr at the ShopRite LPGA Classic as an amateur.
 
But the youth movement on the Tour is just one of the many stories that will
develop as the season unfolds. If you're looking for drama, the LPGA will
have its share in 2005.
 
The Annika Watch
The name most linked to women's golf the past few years has been Annika
Sorenstam. She's done almost everything that is possible in women's golf.
Almost.
 
What's left for her to accomplish? Last year, she stated publicly that her
goal was to achieve the Grand Slam by winning all four majors in a single
season. Her attempt never really got off the ground after a second-round 76
felled her into an eventual tie for 13th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
She would win the McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola and take second at the U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA before another tie for 13th at the Weetabix Women's British Open.
 
In 2003, Sorenstam came even closer. She won the McDonald's LPGA
Championship Presented by AIG and the Weetabix Women's British Open, and
finished second by one shot at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and one shot
out of a playoff at the U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA.
 
Her attempt for the Sorenslam in 2005 begins with the first round of the
Kraft Nabisco Championship on March 24.
 
Sorenstam has seven major championships to her credit and has said she would
like to win at least 10 in her career. With three more majors, she would
become just the fifth player to win 10 major titles and the first since
Mickey Wright in 1961.
 
If those aren't enough accolades, Sorenstam also could make a run at Kathy
Whitworth's record of 88 career victories. Entering the season, Sorenstam
has 56 wins and is just two behind LPGA Founder Louise Suggs for fourth on
the all-time list.
 
The Teen Beat
This year there are five teenagers on the LPGA Tour and all of them are
expected to make some noise this season.
 
The group is led by 18-year-old twins Aree and Naree Song. Aree, who joined
the Tour one year ahead of her sister, burst onto the scene last year and
finished second in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race. Aree
finished second at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and recorded four other
top-10 finishes. This year Naree, who has played in 14 career LPGA events,
joins her sister after tying for 42nd at the 2004 LPGA Final Qualifying
Tournament Presented by American Airlines to gain non-exempt status.
 
Perhaps one of the most heralded players-rookie or not-on Tour this year will be Paula Creamer. The 18-year-old won the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament Presented by American Airlines by five shots and already has a wealth of LPGA experience in her bag. Creamer has said she wants to make the 2005 U.S. Solheim Cup Team, and if her previous performances can carry into 2005, she has a chance.
 
She made the cut in all seven LPGA events she played in 2004 and flirted
with becoming the first amateur to win an event since 1969 when took second
at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Creamer also tied for 13th at the U.S.
Women's Open conducted by the USGA to share low amateur honors with Michelle Wie.
 
Creamer and Wie received the accolades at the end of the U.S. Women's Open
conducted by the USGA, but it was Brittany Lincicome who stole the show with
a dazzling first-round 5-under-par 66 to not only grab the opening-round
lead, but also match the lowest round by an amateur in tournament history.
She tied for 20th at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament Presented by
American Airlines for exempt status and is sure to be a fixture at many Tour
events this year.
 
South Korea's 19-year-old sensation Sae-Hee Son joins the Tour after working
her way through the junior golf program in South Korea and finished in a tie
for seventh at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament Presented by American
Airlines to also gain exempt status. After an opening-round 75, Son played
the final four rounds at 6-under par.
 
The Solheim Cup
The ninth staging of The Solheim Cup, one of the most prestigious events in
professional sports, will take place Sept. 9-11 at the famed Crooked Stick
Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., just outside of Indianapolis. The United States,
captained by LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Nancy Lopez, will attempt to regain the Cup after Europe's decisive 17-1/2 to 10-1/2 win in
Sweden in 2003.
 
The 12-member teams are decided in different ways. The United States
Solheim Cup Team is drawn from the top-10 players in The Solheim Cup points
standings, which are awarded for wins and top-20 finishes over a two-year
period. Lopez will have two captain's picks to round out the team, which
will be announced Aug. 28 after the completion of the Wendy's Championship
for Children.
 
The European Solheim Cup Team, captained by Catrin Nilsmark, qualifies the
top-seven players from the Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour points
standings. Nilsmark then has five captain's selections to fill the
remaining slots. The European Solheim Cup Team will be announced after the
Ladies Norwegian Masters, which ends Aug. 21.
 
The United States has never lost a Solheim Cup on home soil; they are a
perfect 4-0 and have won those four Cups by an average of five points. The
Europeans, who lag behind in the overall competition 5-3, will be looking to
end that streak in September.
 
The Challengers
Who's going to step up in 2005 and challenge Annika as the best player on
the LPGA Tour?
 
Sorenstam ran away from the pack last year by winning eight tournaments,
including a major for the fourth straight year. But several players
finished with multiple wins, led by Meg Mallon's three wins. Mallon went on
a tear during the summer, winning the U.S. Women's Open conducted by the
USGA and following it up with a win at the BMO Financial Group Canadian
Women's Open and completed the trio with a win at the Jamie Farr Owens
Corning Classic Presented by Kroger. With the three wins, Mallon placed
fourth on the ADT Official Money List.
 
Joining Mallon as multiple winners in 2004 were Grace Park, Cristie Kerr,
Lorena Ochoa and Karen Stupples. Park won the Kraft Nabisco Championship
for her first career major and followed it by winning the CJ Nine Bridges
Classic in South Korea. On the strength of an additional 10 top-10
finishes, including seven runner-ups, she finished second on the ADT
Official Money List with more than $1.5 million.
 
Stupples opened the 2004 season by winning the Welch's/Fry's Championship.
She followed up her first career win with a spectacular homecoming win at
the Weetabix Women's British Open. Stupples didn't just win the Weetabix
Women's British Open, she ran away with it, carding an 8-under-par 64 in the
final round to secure her first major title.
 
Ochoa had a breakthrough season in 2004, winning her first tournament on the
LPGA Tour in Nashville, Tenn., winning the Franklin American Mortgage
Championship benefiting Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. She then followed
that up with a win at the Wachovia LPGA Classic Hosted by Betsy King in
August to top off a banner year. Ochoa set LPGA records for birdies, rounds
under par and round in the 60s, and she finished third on the ADT Official
Money List.
 
Kerr, who was fifth on the season-ending ADT Official Money List, won three
times in 2004 and just missed a fourth title, falling to Sorenstam in a
sudden-death playoff at the season-ending ADT Championship.
 
The 15-year-old
The golf world's most popular 15-year-old looks to build off of a strong
2004 performance in LPGA Tour events, including a fourth-place finish at the
Kraft Nabisco Championship and a tie for 13th at the U.S. Women's Open
conducted by the USGA.
 
Wie has already accepted her six sponsor's exemptions this season, as she
will play in next week's SBS Open at Turtle Bay, Safeway International
Presented by Coca-Cola, Kraft Nabisco Championship, McDonald's LPGA
Championship Presented by Coca-Cola, Evian Masters and the Samsung World
Championship. Wie, by virtue of her finish at the 2004 U.S. Women's Open
conducted by the USGA has already qualified for the 2005 event. She has
also accepted a special invitation to compete in the Weetabix Women's
British Open.
 
The talented teen brings a strong game and mindset to the table and joins
the crop of up and comers who will make an impact on not only women's golf,
but all of professional sports.
 
Related links:
  • 2005 LPGA Tour Schedule