The LPGA shifts from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the fifth annual Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. The 16th event of the LPGA season is the second in the busy summer stretch of 11 straight weeks of LPGA golf. The field is loaded with talent as 16 of the top 25 in the world will descend on Blythefield Country Club. Brooke Henderson is a major headliner as she is the defending champion, while Ariya Jutanugarn returns to the course for the first time since winning the U.S. Women’s Open two weeks ago. Annie Park will also be in the spotlight after her first career win last week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. The No. 1 player in the world Inbee Park is not in the field this week, but No. 2 Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson will tee it up. All four past champions are also in the field: Henderson (2017), Sei Young Kim (2016), Lexi Thompson (2015) and Mirim Lee (2014).
Brooke Henderson Defends
The 2017 Meijer LPGA Classic was amazing. Brooke Henderson had to hold off Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson in a birdie-barrage. Henderson carded a first-round 63 and finished at 17-under to edge Wie by two strokes. She peppered the fairways all week, hitting 42 of 48 en route to jumping Sunday leader Lexi Thompson with a final round, 66. It was an important win for Henderson because people were wondering if she was having a “Sophomore Slump” as she had just two top 10s in her first 14 starts before the win in Grand Rapids. Henderson also played well in Grand Rapids in 2016, finishing T21 with two rounds in the 60s. Henderson has had a pretty difficult last few weeks. She withdrew from the U.S. Women’s Open to return home to be with her family as her grandfather passed away and then returned to competition last week and finished T28.
Ariya Back in Pursuit of #1
After hoisting the U.S. Women’s Open trophy, Ariya Jutanugarn took a much-deserved week off last week. Jutanugarn played 14 weeks in a row to start the year. She’ll return this week for the Meijer LPGA Classic with a legitimate chance at the No. 1 spot in the world, especially considering Inbee Park is not in the field. Jutanugarn has finished inside the top 10 in five straight starts and has won two of her last three events to pull within half an average point of Park. Of her last 17 rounds, her only over-par round came at the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday.
Spartans Burnham and Geer in Field
You’ll likely hear a lot of “Go Green” and “Go White” coming from the galleries this weekend in support of recent Michigan State University graduate Sarah Burnham and rising junior Allyson Geer, who both received sponsor exemptions this week. Burnham was a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, while Geer has been an All-Big Ten honoree in her first two seasons. Burnham led the Spartans this past season with a 70.68 scoring average while Geer was second at 71.61. Burnham tallied six top 10s as a senior while Geer had four. Burnham tied for second at the Big Ten Championship. Geer played in the Meijer LPGA Classic last year and missed the cut with rounds of 75-74.
Lexi Thompson Loves Grand Rapids
Lexi Thompson always seems to bring her “A” game to Blythefield. She won in 2015, finished T4 in 2016 and T2 in 2017. She finished 41st in 2014, but since then she has finished inside the top 5 each year. Thompson is 47-under in the last three years at the Meijer LPGA Classic.
UL International Crown Storylines All Over
There are now just three events remaining in the chase for a spot in the UL International Crown. Michelle Wie moved up three spots in the Rolex Rankings to No. 15 and is now five spots clear of Danielle Kang for the fourth spot on Team USA. Su Oh moved up seven spots and is now in the fourth spot on Team Australia. Hannah Green is now nine spots behind her after Oh finished T5 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Annie Park is a perfect example of why nothing is in stone with three events left before the players are solidified. She jumped 154 spots in the world rankings after her win in Atlantic City.