September 3, 2009
Wild West shootout?With a star-studded field, expect fireworks this week at Priddis Greens
By TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA
Who's on track to win the 2009 CN Canadian Women's Open?
With a field of 156 players, taking a swing at predicting the 72-hole champion can run you right off the rails.
Perhaps it will finally be the week Michelle Wie puts it all together to record her first LPGA Tour triumph.
Maybe it'll be the usual suspects engineering success -- money-list leader Cristie Kerr, world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa or one of a host of Asian sensations dominating the upper echelon of the women's professional golf circuit.
Or will one of 12 Canadians come out of the woodwork to win on home soil and end a drought dating back to Jocelyne Bourassa's victory at the inaugural event in 1973?
The answers lie somewhere between this morning's tee-off and Sunday afternoon's final walk-up at Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club.
"I think the clue is if you stay on the fairways and greens," said Karrie Webb, the Priddis Greens' queen 10 years ago, when the du Maurier Classic rolled through these parts.
"But you've got to get the ball on the right part of the green to give yourself a decent putt at birdie and give yourself less chance of three-putting, because the greens are so large here and quite tricky if you're not on the right level."
The 1999 champ gets no argument from fellow LPGAers.
But with generous fairways and a 6,427-yard track at a high elevation, the key to success could be in the long-ball. It's believed the big hitters -- such as Wie, fellow American Brittany Lincicome and Taiwan's Yani Tseng -- are going to enjoy an advantage off the tee-boxes.
"The ball carries further out here," said Canadian Lorie Kane. "But it's also going to come down to some putting. These greens are quite tricky, and knowing where you are on the golf course with regards to the mountain and that river is ... you know, it's kind of a funky place.
"So I would say someone who can drive the ball (is going to be a favourite), but you're going to have to have some really good touch with your short game."
Cue Wie on both counts, and throw in a few fellow top putters, the consistent Kerr and South Korean star Jiyai Shin, who's second to Kerr on the cash list this season.
"Cristie would be somebody that I would keep an eye on," Kane said. "But Michelle Wie has the length and is coming into her own after her Solheim Cup experience. And Lorena and Suzann (Pettersen) ... There's a number of players. Paula (Creamer), myself, Morgan (Pressel) ... you can go down the line."
Apparently, right down to Kane herself, No. 130 on the money ladder with just $19,074 in 12 events in 2009.
"Yeah, of course, me," said the affable Canadian with a grin. "If I don't believe in myself, nobody else will."
Truth is, it's anybody's whistle stop at Priddis Greens.
Wie is optimistic it could her turn.
"I feel like I'm very close, you know," said Wie, fresh off a stellar performance in the 2009 Solheim Cup victory.
"I think it just gave me a lot of confidence because there was a lot of pressure that week (in Illinois). Being able to compete that well and play that well under that much pressure just showed me what I can do, and it gave me a lot of confidence."
Speaking of which, there are certainly women in the mix who play well week-in and week-out.
"I do consider myself a favourite, especially the way I've been playing," Kerr said.
Added Ochoa, "My goal every tournament I play is to win, and I know that there are many players out there trying to win. So the competition is not easy, but I like my chances."
2000 DU MAURIER CLASSIC
Call it a changing of the guard, both with the golfers and the event.
As American Meg Mallon bags her first of three LPGA titles on Canadian soil, the du Maurier Classic comes to a close in 2000 after 17 years.
Anti-tobacco legislation kicks in to end du Maurier's inclusion as the title sponsor, and it effectively kills the event's status as a major after 22 years holding such prominence.
On the course at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club in Alymer, Que., Mallon edges Rosie Jones by one stroke, as her 6-under 282 nets her US$180,000. Canadian Lorie Kane finishes tied for fifth with veteran Juli Inkster at 2-under 286.
AT PRIDDIS GREENS
NOTABLE TEE TIMES
* FIRST TEE
9 a.m.: A.J. Eathorne, Anna Rawson, Dorothy Delasin
1:10 p.m.: Suzann Pettersen, Helen Alfredsson, Sophie Gustafson
1:20 p.m.: Lorie Kane, Morgan Pressel, Katherine Hull
1:30 p.m.: Michelle Wie, Ai Miyazato, Eun-Hee Ji
1:40 p.m.: Cristie Kerr, Juli Inkster, Christina Kim
1:50 p.m.: Natalie Gulbis, Meg Mallon, Jiyai Shin
* TENTH TEE
8:20 a.m.: Alena Sharp, Beth Bader, Kris Tschetter
9:40 a.m,: In-Kyung Kim, Yani Tseng, Laura Davies
10 a.m.: Paula Creamer, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome
10:10 a.m.: Catriona Matthew, Lorena Ochoa, Meena Lee
10:20 a.m.: Karrie Webb, Rachel Hetherington, Se Ri Pak
The US$2.75-million purse, which is a $500,000 more than each of the previous two years the event has been sponsored by CN, includes $412,500 to the winner, $252,744 for the runner-up and $183,348 for third place.
Everyone just seems really nice here ... like they gave us a nice cowboy hat at the tournament. I was pretty stoked."