Defending champion Brooke Henderson will begin her defence of the KMPG Women’s Championship as one of the favourites, following her first win of the season at last week’s LPGA Maijer Classic.
The Canadian teenager claimed her first major title following an epic battle against another of the LPGA Tour's youngest stars, Lydia Ko, in 2016, and will be looking to replicate that form next week at Olympia Fields Country Club, in Illinois.
The LPGA will be hoping that the tournament passes without a glitch following the controversial rules decision that shrouded the final round of the season’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. A four-shot penalty handed down to Lexi Thompson after a TV viewer spotted a minor rules infraction on the day previous, robbed the American of her second major title. Since then Thompson has produced a remarkable run of form, with a win, and two second place finishes, and following the admirable way she handled herself, few would bet against her going all the way next week.
Meanwhile the eventual winner, So Yeon Ryu, will be hoping that she can claim a major victory that earns the plaudits its deserves, after her leap into Poppie’s Pond was largely overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Lexi’s penalty.
Another fan favourite, Michelle Wie, will be among the front-runners, despite failing to add to her major tally since her breakthrough victory at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. The American, who started the season No. 174 in the world, has made a dramatic rise back up the rankings, notching up five top-ten finishes this year, included a T-2 in Michigan last week, to climb back up to World No. 33.
Lydia Ko, having been dethroned by Ariya Jutanugarn after 85 weeks at the top of the rankings, will be hoping that a three-week lay-off will be enough to change her fortunes around. The New Zealander is currently winless this season and has struggled for form following a series of changes made at the end of last year, including the sacking of her coach and long-term caddie. Jutanugarn meanwhile will be looking to add to her Ricoh British Women’s Open title, but may need to keep an eye out for older sister Moriya, who recorded her second career top-five finish in Michigan last week.
The fight for the top stop is not the only mini battle that will be taking place in Illinois, with all-important Solheim Cup points also up for grabs. Swede Madelene Sagstrom has shot up the rankings following an impressive start to her rookie season on the LPGA and will be looking to catch the attention of European captain Annika Sorenstam as she pursues one of four wildcard spots.
Fellow rookie and former recipient of the Annika Award, Bronte Law, may remain an outsider for a place on the plane to Iowa, but a strong finish from the English youngster would certainly put her on the Swede’s radar. Other Brits looking to play their way onto the squad are Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Charley Hull, Mel Reid, and Catriona Matthew.
Georgia Hall, who is now almost guaranteed a spot in the European team courtesy of her position at the top of the European rankings list, will be making her debut at the tournament.
Meanwhile Olympic champion Inbee Park, one of two players who have won the tournament in three consecutive years, will be hoping to earn her first major title since victory in Rio.
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