*After a few weeks off 64 of the top players on the LPGA are convening in Gladstone, N.J. for the Sybase Match Play Championship. For the third consecutive year the tournament will take place at Hamilton Farm Golf Club which sits approximately one hour outside of New York City.
Defending champion is Suzann Pettersen who defeated Cristie Kerr in the final round last year. The course is playing 6,553 yards and due to some rain this week will surely favor the longer hitters. The purse is 1.5 million dollars.
A look at some of the day one match up’s:
-World No. 1 Yani Tseng will take on Jeong Jang. Tseng has had a several weeks off which can be a blessing or a curse for a golfer. Most likely it will be to Tseng’s advantage, look for her to make quick work of Jang.
–Brittany Lincicome vs Ryann O’Toole is a match that both players would rather not play on their first day. Both are long hitters and Solheim Cup teammates as well as buddies off the course. Though Lincicome is the more accomplished player, O’Toole showed us at the Solheim Cup that she is a gritty competitor. Slight edge to Lincicome.
–Michelle Wie will play Mina Harigae in what on paper should easily be a match that goes to Wie. However Wie has been anything but a textbook golfer the past few months as she has missed three cuts in her last five tournaments. Hopefully a cleared head and a few weeks away from the game will bring out the best in the long hitting Hawaiian.
-Defending champion Suzann Pettersen will be paired against a fellow European in the first round. British player Jodi Ewart is in her second year on tour and has played steady so far this season with her best finish being a T-7 at the Kia Classic. Pettersen however can be a pretty intimidating opponent. Expect to see the match end early enough so that Pettersen can have plenty of time to hit the gym afterwards.
–Stacy Lewis is coming off her win in Mobile, AL just a few weeks ago and also has five top ten finishes on the season. Ranked 7th in the world she will be going up against a veteran in Pat Hurst. Though Hurst has not played well this season she has five Solheim Cup appearances to lean on. Still think it will be tough to slow down Lewis, she is having too great a year.
–Na Yeon Choi is ranked No. 2 in the world and will be taking on fellow South Korean Grace Park. Park has yet to make a cut this season but is a veteran player, while Choi often has trouble closing out matches.
–Ai Miyazato has had a fantastic season so far which includes a win in Hawaii and five top ten finishes. She will play a solid player in Mariajo Uribe, though Miyazato should be able to advance. Miyazato will need to be her consistent self this week and hit a lot of fairways otherwise the length of this course will hurt her.
-After losing to Pettersen last year on the final day expect Cristie Kerr to have a laser focus as she starts out the week against Belen Mozo. Mozo has had a lot of experience with match play as a European player, but the win drought of two years that Kerr has endured makes her the more motivated player.
Though the easy pick this weekend would be for Tseng to lift another trophy on Sunday afternoon, my money is leaning towards Kerr. She is too good of a player to continue to go this long without a win.
*A notable absence this weekend in N.J. is Lexi Thompson. With good reason as she will be attending her senior prom. Thompson had a contest over the past several weeks in which she asked for any eligible servicemen between the ages of 18-20 to apply for the opportunity to escort her to the dance. Looks like Thompson made a great choice in US Marine Lance Corporal Mark Scott, a wounded warrior injured in Afghanistan. The 20 year old reservist will be flown to Fort Lauderdale, FL for the May 18th event.
*In continued efforts to live up to their expression “see why its different out here”, the LPGA will display the Twitter handles of each player on their caddies bibs. This will start at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
*The Golf Channel also is doing its best to put the LPGA in the spotlight. This Wednesday which is normally a slow golf day, they showed an hour of the Sybase Match Play Pro-am with select players interviewed and showcased. The Golf Channel also has made the commitment this year to show all weekend rounds live (for tournaments played in the USA). Viewership for the LPGA in 2011 was up 30% on the Golf Channel, a number that the channel is hoping will increase even more this year. Furthermore a record 3.2 million people watched coverage of the Solheim Cup last year. Considering the LPGA was on life support only a few seasons ago, these numbers are a huge step in the right direction.
Coverage of the Sybase Match Play Championship:
May 17th 6:30-8:30pm EST
May 18th 6:30-8:30pm EST
May 19th 3:00-6:00pm EST
May 20th 1:00-2:00pm, 4:00-6:00pm EST