SHOWTIME IN PRIMETIME
The LPGA Tour returns to Phoenix this week for the eighth edition of the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, which celebrates the 13 founding members of the LPGA Tour. After opening the 2018 season with four tournaments overseas, the Bank of Hope Founders Cup kicks off a stretch of 16 consecutive tournaments in the United States.
The 2017 tournament at Wildfire Golf Club was one to remember, as champion Anna Nordqvist put on a record-setting, 25-under par performance, holding off runners-up In Gee Chun, Ariya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis.
Thirteen of the top 20 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings are competing this week: Sung Hyun Park, Anna Nordqvist, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, Cristie Kerr, Jessica Korda, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Michelle Wie, Sei Young Kim, Jin Young Ko, Amy Yang and Inbee Park.
With the addition of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in Los Angeles and the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in San Francisco, the LPGA Tour now boasts a true West-Coast swing, starting in Phoenix and making six stops before heading east to Texas for the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic in May. Golf Channel will air the next six LPGA tournaments LIVE in primetime, dubbing the LPGA’s West-Coast swing the #ShowtimeInPrimetime.
NORDQVIST AT HOME IN PHOENIX
There were two groups of champions on the course on Tuesday in Phoenix – 2017 Bank of Hope Founders Cup champion Anna Nordqvist and members of the defending NCAA women’s golf champion Arizona State Sun Devils.
Nordqvist called the Phoenix area home while playing for ASU in 2007 and 2008, where she was the NGCA Freshman of the Year and a two-time All-American. ASU Head Coach Missy Farr-Kaye and a few of her players watched Nordqvist’s practice round on Tuesday and sat in the crowd as she met with the media to reflect on her journey to the LPGA and her 2017 victory.
“ASU is always going to be family to me,” Nordqvist said. “I came here when I was 18 years old. I was very shy. I wouldn’t speak up. I was not very mature. It was all about golf, and I had a goal of playing on tour. That’s what I wanted to do and that’s what was driving me every day.
“But just to have a lot people caring about you and still do, that means a lot.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DEFENDING CHAMPION ANNA NORDQVIST
- Holds the Bank of Hope Founders Cup 18-hole scoring record at 61 (-11) and the 54-hole scoring record at 195 (-21)
- In 2017, she recorded the third multiple-win season of her career and won her second major championship at The Evian Championship, beating Brittany Altomare in a one-hole playoff and crossing $8 million in career earningsIn 2016 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Nordqvist successfully defended her 2015 ShopRite LPGA Classic title for her first and only successful title defense
KORDA BOND SHINES
Off the golf course, the Korda sisters are the best of friends. In fact, Jessica, 25, and Nelly, 19, giggled their way through their joint press conference on Tuesday, much to the delight of the gathered media who soaked up their refreshing spirit.
On the golf course, it’s all business. “It’s the same as if I were to go play with Alison (Lee) or Michelle (Wie),” said Jessica. “It’s like Nelly. I don’t think of it like I’m playing with my sister. I just think if it as I’m playing with Nelly.”
So far in 2018, the Korda sisters have set the LPGA Tour on fire. Jessica returned from a much-publicized jaw surgery to capture the Honda LPGA Thailand, her first win since 2015, and tied for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore. On the other hand, Nelly, who is still searching for her first LPGA win, flirted with victory in both Thailand and Singapore, missing a short putt on the 72nd hole in Singapore that would have put her into a playoff.
“I think my emotions were flowing on 18,” said Nelly of those final moments in Singapore. “I saw Jess behind the green when I was walking up to 18 and I had to hold back some tears. I think like when I just missed that putt and I saw her and she gave me the hug I just completely lost it. I had a couple tears going down my face.”
In that moment, the sisterly bond came through.
“I told her that she shot under par, she definitely didn’t lose it and that her time will come,” said Jessica. “This is all a learning experience. When she is in that position next time, she’ll know better. She’ll know how she’s feeling; she can prepare better for it; she can kind of feed off that experience.”
Since Jessica’s surgery, the resemblance between the two tall blondes has become even more striking. The joke in Asia was that they weren’t allowed to play together, otherwise no one would know who was hitting. But Big Sister doesn’t want to get in the way of an emerging Little Sister.
“I’m always there for her if she needs me in any possible way. I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and come help her,” said Jessica. “But she needs to be Nelly.”
PHOENIX IS LAP FIVE IN RACE TO THE CME GLOBE
This week’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup marks the fifth lap of the 2018 Race to the CME Globe. With her win at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and two additional top-seven finishes, 2018 LPGA rookie Jin Young Ko has the early lead in the Race to CME Globe with 690 points. HSBC Women’s World Championship winner Michelle Wie is close behind Ko with 640 points.
Throughout the season’s 33 official events, LPGA Members will battle for position, with the top 12 players after the Blue Bay LPGA heading into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship with the opportunity to take home a $1 million bonus, the biggest prize in women’s golf.
All tournaments have the same point values except for the five major championships, which carry 25 percent
more value. For all events with a cut, points are awarded to members who make the cut, while for events without a cut, points are awarded to members who finish in the top 40 and ties.
Points will be reset for the CME Group Tour Championship following the Blue Bay LPGA, with the top 72 LPGA Members, as well as any non-Member winners and alternates, seeded into the championship field. For the top five players, it’s easy – win the CME Group Tour Championship and take home $1 million. However, the top 12 in the points race all have a mathematical chance to take the title of Race to the CME Globe Champion and win the coveted check.
In 2017, Lexi Thompson became the first American winner of the Race to the CME Globe and the accompanying $1 million prize. She joined Lydia Ko (2014, 2015) and Ariya Jutanugarn (2016) as the only players to hoist the crystal trophy.
NOTABLE FIRST-ROUND GROUPINGS
At 7:44 a.m. off the 10th tee defending champion Anna Nordqvist will tee off alongside Jessica Korda and Ariya Jutanugarn.
Playing right behind them off the 10th tee at 7:55 a.m., is the top-ranked player in the field No. 4 Sung Hyun Parkplaying with LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and Nelly Korda.
Three of the four 2018 LPGA tournament winners will highlight the afternoon groupings with Michelle Wie, Jin Young Ko and Brittany Lincicome teeing off the first tee at12:34 p.m.