The clock is winding down on the LPGA’s 12-week summer stretch, and this week the LPGA Tour makes its annual stop in Sylvania, Ohio, for the Marathon Classic presented by Dana. The 144-player field features Rolex Rankings No. 3 Minjee Lee, top-ranked American No. 4 Lexi Thompson, top-ranked Canadian No. 8 Brooke Henderson and 2019 U.S. Women’s Open Champion Jeongeun Lee6. This week marks the 19th tournament of what has been an exciting 2019 LPGA season, which has seen four Rolex First-Time Winners along with 15 different tournament winners.
At the 2018 Marathon Classic, in her 121st start on the LPGA Tour, Thailand’s Jasmine Suwannapura finally found the winner’s circle. After Brittany Lincicome couldn’t convert a birdie putt on the 72nd hole, the 2018 event headed to a playoff with Suwannapura perfectly playing the par-5 18th to birdie and take home her first career LPGA trophy.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MARATHON CLASSIC
- This is the 34th playing of the Marathon LPGA Classic, dating back to 1984 and the inaugural Jamie Farr Toledo Classic
- Famed actor and Toledo native Jamie Farr, well-known as “Klinger” on the TV show “M*A*S*H,” hosted the tournament through 2012
- Se Ri Pak has the most Marathon LPGA Classic victories with five (1998, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2007) and still holds the 72-hole scoring record of -23
- Players from the U.S. have won the tournament 13 times, the most of any country; however, the last American winner was Paula Creamer in 2008
- Last year, Jasmine Suwannapura defeated Brittany Lincicome with birdie on the first playoff hole to win her first LPGA Tour victory; 2018 was the 11th year the event went to extra holes
- The Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana is the final opportunity for LPGA players to earn a full exemption into the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open; after 72 holes, the top five LPGA Members that are not already exempt will earn a spot into the season’s fifth major
LEWIS TRENDING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME
After the 2018 Marathon LPGA Classic, 12-time LPGA winner Stacy Lewis hung up her clubs for a few months as she took time off to start her family. Lewis, who was born in Toledo and has family in the area, returns this week as a new mom with daughter Chesnee in tow. Lewis grew up attending this event as a young aspiring golfer, and this week she is making her 13th start of the event.
“I was that little girl that was running around getting autographs,” Lewis reflected on Tuesday in Sylvania. “Just to think that I get to do now the same thing with my daughter and I get to bring her here and she gets to do that one day. I was thinking about that today. It's really special. To think that we've had this tournament long enough for that too is pretty amazing.”
It's been a season of adjustments for the new mom, in 12 starts she has made eight cuts with four top-15 finishes and she said she’s trending in the right direction.
“It's been a little bit of a struggle golf-wise just getting the body to come back and figuring out a routine with Chesnee. But I really feel like in Arkansas I made some strides ball striking-wise and just cleaning up little stuff, and I'm actually really excited with the way things are trending. The stretch of tournaments coming up is important for Solheim and going over to the British, one of my favorite tournaments of the year. I also have two weeks by myself where I actually get some sleep, so I'm kind of excited. While I'll miss Chesnee, I'm excited to have a couple weeks to really get to focus on me and my golf and hopefully get a couple good weeks overseas.”
HENDERSON BRINGS BEST STRATEGY BACK TO HIGHLAND MEADOWS
Nine-time LPGA Tour winner Brooke Henderson returns to the Marathon Classic presented by Dana for her 16th start of the 2019 season. After spending a week off after a six-week stretch of competition, Henderson is gearing up for a four-week stretch that includes back-to-back majors.
“I think it's going to require a lot of energy the next four weeks. It's exciting to be back here where I finished so well last year,” said Henderson who finished in solo third in 2018. “It was really fun to be in contention and leading the tournament most of the weekend. Hopefully I can build off that momentum this year and get right back into that position.”
Henderson’s 2019 wins at the LOTTE Championship and the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give nudged her to a total of nine career wins, becoming Canada’s most decorated golfer on both the men’s and women’s Tours. This week, Henderson brings her experience and confidence to Sylvania.
“I think ball-striking is really key around here. Hitting the ball in the correct spots off the tee,” said Henderson, returning to Highland Meadows Golf Club for the fourth time in her career. “Then you got to hit it close on these greens and roll in a few putts. I think I learned my best strategy for the course here last year. Hopefully I can just build on that.”
ROOKIE KUPCHO FINDS COMFORT IN FAMILIARITY
It’s not often a player comes to a familiar place during their rookie season, but at this week’s Marathon Classic 2019 rookie Jennifer Kupcho is right at home.
After winning the 2018 NCAA Individual Championship at Wake Forest, Kupcho earned an exemption into the 2018 Marathon Classic. Kupcho took advantage of her opportunity last year at Highland Meadows as she fired a career-best 66 in the third round and finished a career-best T16 all with her dad, Mike, on the bag.
This week, the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion, is making just her sixth start of the year after she deferred her LPGA status to complete her degree. She’s searching for her first top-20 finish of 2019 at a place she has a history.
“I mean, obviously my dad caddied so it was a lot of fun,” Kupcho said of her experience in 2018. “I mean, I was playing really well and just out there. I love this course. I mean, just pulling in yesterday I was like, Wow, this feels so natural, versus going up to every other LPGA event and you're like, ‘where am I going, where is this, what do I do?’
“So, it definitely feels more natural and I've been here before, so that's nice.”
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE UPDATE
Heading into the 19th week of the 2019 Race to the CME Globe, two-time 2019 winner Jin Young Ko holds a narrow lead over Rolex Rankings No. 1 Sung Hyun Park with 2,412 points and 2,055 points, respectively. Fellow two-time 2019 winner Brooke Henderson is in third with 1,975 points followed by 2019 HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open winner Minjee Lee with 1,877 points.
The 2019 season brings a fresh face to the Race to the CME Globe. LPGA Members will accumulate points at each official LPGA Tour event leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship. The top 60 points earners and ties will then earn a spot in the CME Group Tour Championship, with the entire field competing for the $5 million purse and the $1.5 million winner’s check, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.