Annika Sorenstam is looking to secure yet another entry into the annals of history. Her challenge this week is to defend last year's McDonald's LPGA Championship trophy and become the only golfer to stand in the winner's circle three years in a row.
Annika is again the dominating factor at the second major championship of 2005. After an eight-stroke victory margin at the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this season the Swede is now looking forward to a grand slam a.k.a. the fabled "Soren-slam".
But it's not all about Annika this week. One-hundred and forty-nine additional LPGA players including LPGA Teaching Professionals and amateur Michelle Wie will compete against Sorenstam at the par-72, 6,486 yard Bulle Rock Golf Course in Maryland for a $270,000 piece of the $1.8 million purse.
McDonald's LPGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola is the second longest running tournament in LPGA history. Begun in 1955, the field is second only in size to the Women's Open. Nineteen of the past forty-one champions are members of the LPGA Hall of Fame. Proceeds benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities as well as other children's charities.
The final field reads like a "who's who" list of players from the LPGA tour with a smattering of exemptions including fifteen-year old Michelle Wie.
Wie, the young phenom from Hawaii, has given the final nod to tournament hosts that she will compete. Herb Lotman, co-founder of the event, commented on the exemption he and Frank Quinn extended to "the Big Wiesy". "We could not be happier having Michelle Wie in our field. This is what ladies golf is all about…the best of the best competing in one field and showcased at one outstanding golf course."
The rules of this competition have been changed to allow Wie the exemption primarily for the publicity received by the LPGA. Publicity equals dollars and more exposure for a sport that has only relied on Annika Sorenstam for it's excitement.
Some tour pros have shown their disdain for the change in the rules. Veteran Juli Inkster recently remarked to the Baltimore Sun about Wie's exemption. "…it's just the principle. You just can't be changing rules for one person, regardless of who it is."
Come on Juli, it's what the people want to see. It sure would be fascinating to watch a fifteen-year old amateur defeat the number-one professional female golfer in the world.
The Big Break III's oldest contender at forty-eight, Cindy Miller, has gained an exemption by winning the 2004 Golf For Women Magazine LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Championship on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. An LPGA professional from 1979-81 Cindy fondly remembered her days as a tour pro. "I was one of the best at the time, but I was the worst of the best." Currently Cindy Miller is exempt on the Futures Tour.
Connecticut Club Pro Suzy Whaley who secured a spot in the 2003 PGA Greater Hartford Open by winning the Connecticut section PGA Championship has also received an exemption.
Rookie Paula Creamer has an opportunity to win her first major as well as Jennifer Rosales whose wrist injury placed her on the sidelines last week. Wendy Ward and previous McDonalds LPGA Championship winner Karrie Webb have agreed to compete this weekend. Lorena Ochoa, Laura Davies, Laura Diaz, Natalie Gulbis, Juli Inkster, Rosie Jones, Jimin Kang, Cristie Kerr, Christina Kim and Carin Koch have all given their acceptance nods.
Watch Sorenstam, Wie and the terrific tour pros battle it out this week! First and second round action begins on The Golf Channel, June 9th and 10th, 4:00-6:00 p.m.(ET). The excitement then switches to CBS on June 11th 3:30-6:00 p.m. and 12th 3:00-6:00 p.m.(ET)