Womens World Cup Kicks Off LPGA Season

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WomenSUN CITY, South Africa -- The 2007 Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour season begins this week with the Women's World Cup of Golf returning to the Gary Player Country Club at the Sun City Resort in Sun City, South Africa, from Jan. 19-21. The unique tournament offers a $1.2 million purse (unofficial money) and features 22 two-player teams representing their respective countries.

The event, in its third year, is co-sanctioned by the LPGA and the Ladies European Tour (LET), with countries qualifying from both Tours to compete. The tournament consists of a three-day, 54-hole competition with a different format each day. Friday will commence with singles competition followed by foursomes on Saturday and best ball on Sunday. The winners will be determined by combining each team's scores from all three days.

Last year, the experienced duo of Annika Sorenstam and Liselotte Neumann finished with a final score of 65-69-147=281 to give Sweden the victory. They were three shots better than runner-up Scotland, which was represented by Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie. Scotland used an impressive final round of play to finish second; they ranked as the only team to shoot sub-par for the final day in the stroke play competition.

Moodie will compete again this year for Scotland, and will partner with Mhairi McKay for this week's event. Moodie will make her first appearance on the links since she gave birth last year to son, Craig McLean. Moodie has not competed in an event since the ShopRite LPGA Classic in early June 2006.

Every country participating is capable of winning, but heading into the event England, Sweden, Paraguay and the United States have to be among the favorites.

Sweden returns as the defending champion, but will have two new competitors vying for their country, as Carin Koch and Helen Alfredsson will compete for Sweden. Koch and Alfredsson have combined for seven LPGA Tour victories and both finished in the top 60 on the 2006 Final ADT Official Money List. Alfredsson looks for a strong start to the season that will feature her serving as captain for the 2007 European Solheim Cup Team in Halmstad, Sweden, later this year.

The team from the United States is expected to be tough competition for the Swedes as LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Juli Inkster will tee it up with partner Pat Hurst. Experience should be key for the U.S. team as Inkster and Hurst, who are both coming off victories during the 2006 LPGA Tour season, combine for 36 career wins and more than $16 million in career earnings. Both had exceptional seasons in 2006, as Inkster recorded 12 top-10 finishes, while Hurst posted eight. Inkster, who has won 31 career LPGA titles, has played on six U.S. Solheim Cup Teams and has amassed more than $11 million in career earnings, which ranks third in LPGA history. Hurst has won five career LPGA tournaments, almost making it six in 2006, but lost in an 18-hole playoff to world number one Sorenstam at the U.S. Women's Open. She has played on four U.S. Solheim Cup Teams and has accumulated more than $5 million in career earnings.

The flag bearers for England are Laura Davies and Trish Johnson. Davies, who has 20 LPGA victories and 47 international victories during her career, capped off an exceptional year on the LET Tour as she won the LET Order of Merit by winning the SAS Masters along with five runner-up finishes. Davies is experienced in team events, ranking as the only player in Solheim Cup history to compete in all nine events. Johnson, who has made seven appearances on the European Solheim Cup Team, posted five top-10 finishes on the LET in 2006.

Twenty-year-old Julieta Granada also looks to lead the team from Paraguay to a World Cup title this week. Granada won the 2006 season-ending ADT Championship and the accompanying $1 million first-place check, the highest ever in women's professional golf. Granada, who was a rookie in 2006, recorded seven top-10 finishes and earned more than $1.6 million, a Tour record for most official single-season earnings by a rookie. She is paired with 25-year-old Celeste Troche, who starts her fourth year on Tour this week.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Women's World Cup of Golf
  • Golf Channel Airtimes