P&G NW Arkansas Championship preview

Brian Heard, Women's Golf Reporter

Fast facts

Tournament names: P&G NW Arkansas Championship Presented by Walmart (2010), P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons (2008-09), LPGA NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons (2007)
Founded: 2007
Location: Rogers, Arkansas
Course: Pinnacle Country Club – 6,284 yards, par 71
2010 purse: $2 million
Winner’s share: $300,000
Champions: Jiyai Shin (2009), Seon Hwa Lee (2008), Stacy Lewis (2007)
Tournament low round: 10-under 62 – Angela Park (2008), Jane Park (2008)
Tournament low score: 15-under – Seon Hwa Lee (2008)

Not a whole lot of history to talk about when it comes to the P&G NW Arkansas Championship held in Rogers, Arkansas, just 10-12 miles north of Fayetteville in, you guessed, the northwest corner of the state. P&G stands for Proctor & Gamble in case you didn’t know.

The NW Arkansas Championship is in its fourth year as an annual LPGA Tour stop and is only a 54-hole event, which had an impact at the inaugural tournament in 2007 when terrible weather conditions (heavy rain and flooding) limited play to one round.

American Stacy Lewis, then an amateur, was the leader after the one round and was declared the winner, though the LPGA decided to not recognize the event as official and cut the purse in half since only one round had been completed. As an amateur, Lewis didn’t get paid, of course, but the other pros got checks which were not included as official tour earnings for that season. By hey, a buck’s a buck, unofficial or otherwise.

And speaking of money, the NW Arkansas is one of two full-field tournaments (the LPGA Championship is the other) on tour that has raised its purse this season as opposed to cutting its purse or staying pat. Now up to $2 million it is in the top quartile of the richest events on the LPGA. Winner will earn a cool $300 grand.

The field and other notes

-Last year, Jiyai Shin, the world’s No. 3-ranked player, won in Arkansas in a three-way playoff with Angela Stanford and Sun Young Yoo. Shin lived up to her nickname as the “Sunday Queen” when she fired a final-round 7-under 64, including a 5-under 30 on the back nine to jump from a tie for 24th after the second round into first place.

Shin will be back to defend her title against another star-studded field as we’ve seen all season on tour with the dearth of events available.

-Coming off her second career win on the LPGA at the Canadian Open two weeks ago is Michelle Wie, who is in the field in Arkansas. Whether she can maintain the momentum of her sterling performance – she played head-to-head with Shin (the two began tied for the lead) on Sunday and took her apart – at the Canadian is one of the weekend’s most interesting storylines.

The last time Wie won was last November in the second-to-last tournament of the year at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. She had to withdraw with an injury the next week at the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship, then had to wait three months to play in another LPGA event.

Her win at the Canadian pushes her to 10th on the money ($667,160) and up to seventh in the world rankings.

-The race for No. 1 in the world has been on ongoing story since Lorena Ochoa retired in April. Almost every week has brought a change at the top. Right now it’s Ai Miyazato No. 1, Cristie Kerr No. 2, Shin at No. 3, Suzann Pettersen No. 4 and Yani Tseng at No. 5. Either of the top four could easily be No. 1 after this weekend. Tseng would probably have to win to get there.

-The race that hasn’t received a whole lot of notoriety (and maybe with good reason) is for LPGA Rookie of the Year. No rookie has won this season and in fact, few have even netted top-10s. Spain’s Azahara Munoz leads the chase by a wide margin, followed by Amanda Blumenherst, France’s Gwladys Nocera, Spain’s Maria Hernandez and Spain’s Beatriz Recari. The last time a Rookie of the Year did not win an event on the LPGA was in 2007 (Angela Park).

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