SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In-Kyung Kim is back at rain-logged Panther Creek Country Club to defender her title in the LPGA State Farm Classic, where she’ll have to go against one of the deepest and most talented fields on the LPGA Tour.
When the official entry list was released Monday, it included every player in the top 10 of the world rankings and 98 of the top 100. Top-ranked Jiyai Shin and No. 3 Suzanne Pettersen have since withdrawn, and Paula Creamer has an injured thumb, but there is still plenty of star power.
Money leader Ai Miyazato, young star Michelle Wie, and veterans Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak headline the field along with Kim, who has struggled much of the season. She missed the cut at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic in May, then lost in the first round of the Sybase Match Play Championship the following week.
“I played pretty well but I’m still working on my game,” Kim said. “It’s sometimes hard to see the progress from the results. It goes the direction you don’t want it to.
“I feel much better about the harmony of my game. You can’t just hit fairways and greens and expect to do well. There has to be a harmony to your game.”
With the retirement of Ochoa, who had a stranglehold on the top spot for years, there are a number of women now vying for the title, though Shin has held onto it the past six weeks.
She had to withdraw from the tournament because of appendicitis, and issued a statement to fans, volunteers and sponsors regretting the fact that she needed emergency surgery.
“I was very much looking forward to playing this event, and will be looking forward to being back here next season,” said Shin, who took over the No. 1 ranking when Lorena Ochoa retired earlier this year. “I wish the best to everyone playing and watching this weekend.”
Miyazato, Pettersen and Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Yani Tseng are close behind.
Stormy weather has become an annual problem for the State Farm Classic.
After moving to Panther Creek Country Club from The Rail Golf Club four years ago, the tournament also jumped to early June from its traditional Labor Day date. The new weekend means that weather is more unpredictable, but it also starts a five-week run on the tour following a two-week layoff. That is one of the reasons there are so many stars competing.