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Jun 04

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ShopRite LPGA Classic 2013

It’s nice to get back with the LPGA after all the drama (most of it unnecessary) over on the men’s side. The ShopRite LPGA Classic has rolled around again, and the Bay Course at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club has been an excellent, not to mention challenging host. The world’s best have faced some brisk winds this week, in addition to a slightly more extreme set of natural features to be found on this course. As a testament to its rigors (appropriate for the professional level), only 8 of 143 players struggled in below par, and they were not necessarily the usual suspects.

shoprite 3Stacy Lewis is back, as if she was ever gone for very long. That is not to say that Lewis is the leader, but she’s back. The leaders are Moriya Jutanugarn and Amanda Blumenherst, and only one behind Stacy is Michelle Wie – and who knows what might happen there?

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Lewis, above all others, must be watched (as if anyone could do anything about it once she gets rolling). She has lived in the numbers 1 and 2 spots for over a year, and has won twice over the past eleven events. Of equal import for this weekend is that she also had eight top-tens in those events, so we (and the leaders) know that she’s not a spotty competitor, although the greatest can fall apart. Witness Tiger’s 44 through 9 this past week.

shoprite 1The others must be watched as well, as their talents and recent performances occupy two ends of the success spectrum. Obviously, they all deserve to be there, and can whip up an ungodly round of golf, by amateur standards, on any given Saturday or Sunday. Still, it is clear that Stacy holds the cards in terms of consistency.

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Amanda Blumenherst certainly has credentials coming out of college as a three-time NCAA Player of the Year. That is particularly impressive considering the enormity of the college golf field. She must have something special. However, college is college, and college is over (what a pity-I could have used ten more years of it). In recent pro play, Amanda has missed six of eight cuts. That is not to say she won’t explode on the weekend, and that’s the fun of golf – not knowing.

Moriya Jutanugarn  is a contributing member of the dynamic duo from Thailand, with sister Ariya. As with Blumenherst, there’s no problem with pedigree, and she’s dangerous that close to the top with Sunday coming around. However, she is a rookie, and that is more than a chronological observation. It is a state of being, something to grow out of. Regardless of the talent, she hasn’t been where Lewis has been, and breaking through will require one of those “too inexperienced to be intimidated” moments, where younger players blow away the field.

And Michelle Wie? Well, she’s Michelle Wie. It would be easy for us to say, “oh, this is exactly what will happen to Wie once such and such happens,” as if human history recreates itself without fail. That’s just the thing. History doesn’t repeat itself in a precise manner, and the cosmos is always ready to flip an expected condition and turn us all on our heads. We can only study tendencies to predict, and everybody knows how that ends up most of the time.

shoprite 2I don’t know much about Amanda, but I’m a huge fan of Stacy Lewis – no problem admitting it. I also like Michelle Wie very much, having gotten the opportunity to meet and talk with her for a few minutes at an LPGA event. I think she’s been given a bad rap that has, over time, become inappropriately magnified. I don’t know about what expectations she’s supposed to meet on my account – in fact, I wasn’t aware that she owed me, or you, a single thing.

So, let’s just let her play golf. Let’s see what Amanda’s got this weekend, how Moriya’s rookie nerves serve or dis-serve her, and everybody (including the players) keep a suspicious eye on Stacy, who seems to have discovered the formula over the past year. Of course, it could be someone else, like Shanshan Feng – who knows? That’s the fun part.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.