SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – I'm writing this column from the host city of this week’s LPGA State Farm Classic, so I think it's appropriate to concentrate on the women’s game this week.
There is much to talk about as the LPGA begins a long stretch of golf, the likes of which it hasn’t seen since last summer, with seven of the next eight weeks the ladies are in action. In this stretch, the tour will play three majors, and visit three different countries. They willl visit both Oakmont and Royal Birkdale in the next two months and make the annual pilgrimage to Evian, a tournament which no one wants to miss.
From a European perspective, Suzann Pettersen, according to the world rankings, offers the best hope for dominance this summer. The Norwegian, ranked third in the world, has finished second three times this season. However, Pettersen has elected not to play this week in Springfield, instead she has wisely chosen to rest an injured hip and spend time with her family in Oslo. She will hope to be fully fit for the LPGA Championship in two weeks, which is being played for the first time in Rochester, N.Y. Pettersen is a former champion, but won her title at Bulle Rock in 2007.
I am also keeping my eye on Karen Stupples, who has been showing some good form of late, and Laura Davies. Davies is back in Springfield, a multiple runner-up at the State Farm Classic. She lost to Nancy Lopez 18 years ago and was cruely denied again in 2003 when rained washed out the final day and handed a win to Candie Kung. Davies has played well of late in Europe.
There are a couple of returning Europeans this week. The colorful Helen Alfredsson returns to action on U.S. soil for the first time since her dismissal from the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, having missed her pro-am tee time. The incident was far from straightforward but at the end of the day the rules were followed and Alfredsson was on the wrong end of a bad set of circumstances. Alfredsson decided to spend some time in Europe notching two top-20 finishes in May.
Minea Blomqvist is also back having given birth to her first child nine weeks ago. The only Finnish player on tour, Minea is the girlfriend of Challenge Tour player Roope Kakko, and thankfully the new mum has some help with baby duties from Roope’s sister this week in Springfield.
We also have the biggest event in the women’s amateur game, with the Curtis Cup taking place just outside Boston this week.
The Curtis Cup showcases the very best in the new breed of British players. The exploits of Irish twins Lisa and Leona McGuire have been catching my attention for quite some time now. The pair from the Slieve Russell club have cleaned up the amateur scene in Ireland. Remarkably they are only 15 years of age, meaning this week’s battle with America’s Alexis Thompson could be the first of many.
Sally Watson is another with incredible potential. I first met Sally a few years ago at the IMG Academy in Bradenton when she was studying and playing there under the tutelage of the Leadbetter Academy. Now Watson is a rising sophomore at Stanford, and is making her second Curtis Cup appearance this week. The Scotswoman has bucket loads of high-level experience having already played a major championship, the Ricoh Women’s British Open, making the cut at St. Andrews in 2008. Recently she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open which will be played at Oakmont in July. Traditionally the GB&I team have had a tough time in the Curtis Cup – they are without a win since 1996 at Killarney – but this year could be a year to surprise on foreign soil.
Golf Channel will have coverage of both the LPGA State Farm Classic and the Curtis Cup this week.