A preview of this week's big LPGA event - the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Virginia.
By Matt Cooper
Last Updated: 13/05/14 5:58pm
Last week Golf.com published its annual anonymous poll of professional golfers. One of the questions posed to the LPGA membership was "Who will have the best career? Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson or Charley Hull?"
It's a reminder that not only does ladies golf have a brilliant storyline to mine in the next ten years, but that there is potentially huge British interest there too.
As it happens the LPGA vote went overwhelmingly in Lydia Ko's favour (79%) and granted Charley Hull just 2%. Don't cry shame however. The numbers are not a slight on Hull, merely a sensible reaction to what the three players have so far achieved in their short careers.
The reality is that although 18-year-old Hull is a remarkable talent who is apparently unafraid of the big occasion - her performance at the Solheim Cup hinted as much - the other two are currently a step ahead of her. New Zealander Ko, for example, is a year younger and has six professional wins to Hull's one. America's Thompson, the old lady of the group at 19, also has six professional wins and one of them, this year's Kraft Nabisco Championship, was a major.
None of that remotely lessens Hull's accomplishments. She deserves to be in their company and, if she is as good as we all hope, she won't be awed by the comparisons, she'll be motivated by them instead.
This week's Kingsmill Championship, in Williamsburg, Virginia, would be a good place for Hull to lay down a marker because the course has always produced high quality winners. The names on the trophy? Every single one of them is a major winner; this has traditionally been s a week when quality shines.
The course and conditions
If you don't recall the Kingsmill Resort from previous LPGA visits you might remember the PGA Tour event hosted there from 1968 to 2002. The first winner was the remarkably named Kermit Zarley. David Duval and David Toms triumphed more recently. The River Course is a 6,379 yard par-71 set up and the weather is expected to be fine on Thursday and at the weekend, but Friday's forecast suggests heavy rain and possibly thunderstorms.
The event went missing from the schedule for two years but returned in 2012 and immediately witnessed a mammoth nine hole play-off between Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer. After eight of those holes darkness forced a suspension and the players returned next morning for a predictable anti-climax - Creamer three-putted, game over.
Last year Cristie Kerr and Suzann Pettersen needed just two extra holes to decide the winner after 72 holes hadn't been enough. Pettersen's bogey gave Kerr her third win on the course.
The leading contenders and Sky Bet odds
Stacy Lewis (3/1): The Texan is closing in on Inbee Park at the top of the world rankings thanks to some stunning form in recent weeks. Weeks? Make that months. Her only problem has been a failure to win since last year's Ricoh Women's British Open. She changed that trend in style last time out in Texas with a six shot victory. In between times she completed 15 tournaments on the LPGA and LET, and finished outside the top six just once. Yes, just once. Good course form indicates another top six is on the cards.
Lexi Thompson (9/1): Three wins in her last 13 starts is some way to bounce back from a period in late 2012/early 2013 when she struggled to contend. Drifts in form should be expected with young players, what sorts the wheat from the chaff is whether the player returns stronger and Thompson has.
Suzann Pettersen (11/1): Winner here in 2007 and runner-up last season, the Norwegian isn't lacking for course form, but what about her current form? It's not that she's been in bad form (she's not been outside the top 30 in her last seven starts), she just hasn't won - something she did three times in five starts last autumn. So suggestions of poor form are a very relative concept.
Cristie Kerr (12/1): Although plenty of players boast good form at Kingsmill, none can match Kerr's long term record. She is not just a three-time winner here, she also has another three top six finishes. Her current form is not too shabby either as she arrives in the wake of six consecutive top tens. Perhaps a return to a favourite spot a week after her first Mother's Day as a mum (she gave birth in December) can prompt a fourth title?
Lydia Ko (12/1): The only danger with Ko is that we run out of wonder before her 21st birthday. Youngest winner of a pro event, youngest winner on the LPGA, successfully defended that title, turned pro, won again a few weeks ago. Time Magazine included her in a list of 11 Most Influential People. And she sends handwritten letters to her pro-am partners thanking them for their company and has an endearing giggle. If Roald Dahl had created a golf kid she would have been Lydia Ko.
Karrie Webb (22/1): The course favours major winners? She's won seven. It favours course specialists? She's won here. You want good form? She's a two-time winner in 2014. Only a fool would discount the Australian.
Charley Hull (40/1): Now a winner on the LET can she take a step up? She was seventh in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, having been in contention with 18 holes to play, so she's not far off. Third in Turkey last week when she improved with every round.
Who's going to bring home the bread for us?
Lewis is understandably a very short price, Kerr's form is solid but she hasn't contended that much, Webb hasn't thrived at Kingsmill in recent years and Pettersen has not fired on all cylinders so far in 2014. Of the pretenders Thompson is a short price, whilst Ko and Hull are making their debuts on the course.
The last LPGA preview took us in the direction of Se Ri Pak, it gained us the place money and I'm inclined to go in that direction again.
She's got the class required (five major wins), she's got the course form (a win and another two top tens) and her form is good (three top tens from her last four starts). Price is the clinching factor: you can get 50/1. 12.5/1 the place appeals more than similar prices about a leading pack that is hard to separate.
Second pick goes to Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, who has the requisite major win and by career end she could easily have more.
She's a two-time winner this season, played well in Japan last week after a little blip in form, has finished ninth and 14th at Kingsmill, and the clincher is her reaction to Martin Kaymer's win in the Players' Championship.
"So awesome to see Kaymer win!!" she tweeted. "Hard work always win at the end and you should never question someone trying to get better!!"
Few in professional golf work harder than Nordqvist. It's how she measures herself and she might reap rewards this week at odds of 33/1.
1pt e.w. Se Ri Pak at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Anna Nordqvist at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)