It’s safe to say Maria Fassi feels comfortable in Arkansas. After spending four years at the University of Arkansas and earning her degree in Sport Management, the second-year Tour player left the school as one of the most decorated Razorback golfers of all-time with a lengthy list of accolades including as the 2019 NCAA Individual National Champion. While the Razorback fans won’t be at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G this week, Fassi is still happy to return to the state where she holds so many memories.
“I love it here,” Fassi said on Wednesday after an early morning practice round. “It's a great town. It's a great golf course. The community is amazing. Of course this year is a little bit different. It's weird not seeing the grandstands on 17 and all that stuff, but always super excited to be here. I love Arkansas and just really excited for this week.”
In three starts at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, two of those as an amateur, Fassi has yet to make the cut. On Wednesday while speaking with the media, Fassi admitted she has had her struggles at Pinnacle Country Club. The long-hitting Fassi is contemplating taking her driver out of the bag this week, a rarity for the player who ranks second on Tour in average driving distance (287.625 avg. yards) but she hopes a fresh strategy and outlook will yield different results.
“Yeah, this is a tough course for me. I never really played good here, so I'm excited for the challenge. I might do something different this week with my bag. I have like 16, 17 clubs usually and just kind of decide what stays and what goes. We're thinking about leaving driver out of the bag this week, which is of course very rare for me. But I don't think this is a course that I can overpower or really take much advantage with my driver. So we're kind of still looking into that. But it might be something new for me. But I think I just have to approach the course differently and see how it works for me. But I would say it's in great shape, like it always is, and I'm obviously excited for the challenge.”
Fassi is set to tee off her first round on Friday off the first tee at 1:43 p.m. CDT alongside Gerina Piller and Andrea Lee.
LPGA TOUR CONTINUES TRADITION IN ARKANSAS
The LPGA Tour returns to Pinnacle Country Club this week for the 14th playing of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G. Following a 166-day hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this week’s event marks the fifth-straight week LPGA Tour players have teed it up and the second 54-hole tournament of the 2020 season. The Walmart NW Arkansas Championship boasts an impressive list of past champions, including eight players who have held the World No. 1 spot in Jiyai Shin (2009), Yani Tseng (2010, 2011), Ai Miyazato (2012), Inbee Park (2013), Stacy Lewis (2014), Lydia Ko (2016), So Yeon Ryu (2017) and Sung Hyun Park (2019). Seven of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings lead the field this week including two-time 2020 winner Rolex Rankings No. 2 Danielle Kang.
In 2019, Sung Hyun Park captured her seventh career victory after firing a 5-under 66 to win by one stroke over a trio of players—Danielle Kang, Hyo Joo Kim and Inbee Park. Defending champion Sung Hyun Park decided not to travel from her home in the Republic of Korea and will not defend her title.
DEFENDING CHAMPION SUNG HYUN PARK SENDS HER BEST WISHES FROM HOME
Amid recent rises in the number of COVID-19 cases in South Korea, defending champion Sung Hyun Park continues to self-quarantine while supporting fellow LPGA Tour players from afar.
“As the unexpected COVID-19 turned into a prolonged pandemic, it is certainly regrettable that I cannot attend games and show my support by participating. I feel this way especially in regards to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship that I won last year,” said Park via email. “As an athlete though, I was grateful to have heard the news of peoples’ plans to continue the event despite the many hurdles that might arise.”
Currently nestled in at Rolex Ranking No. 3, Park hopes to return to LPGA Tour events soon and especially to Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G next year.
“Although I cannot attend this year’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, I hope the event is as successful as ever and I look forward to returning in 2021.”