LPGA TOUR AND DOW #TEAMUP AGAIN IN MIDLAND FOR DOW GREAT LAKES BAY INVITATIONAL
After two weeks off the road, the LPGA Tour is back for the third edition of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational at Midland Country Club. The Tour’s first and only official team event on the schedule, the Dow GLBI features 36 two-person teams that include LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam (with Madelene Sagstrom) and Karrie Webb (with Marina Alex), who are in the same LPGA Tour event since the 2008 ADT Championship, along with three from the Rolex Rankings top 10: No. 3 Nelly Korda playing with sister Jessica Korda; No. 6 Lexi Thompson alongside two-time U.S. Solheim Cup player Brittany Altomare; and No. 9 Jennifer Kupcho with Tour winner Lizette Salas.
2021 champions Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn are also back to defend their title in Midland, Mich. The sisters finished at -24 overall that included two 59s to earn the victory. They were the only team to shoot sub-60 in the tournament en route to Moriya’s second LPGA Tour title and Ariya’s 12th. The inaugural champions of Jasmine Suwannapura and Cydney Clanton will also tee it up this week following their runner-up finish last year behind the Jutanugarns.
Other notable teams in the field include 2021 European Solheim Cup duo Mel Reid and Leona Maguire, who became the first player from Ireland to win on Tour earlier this season; 2023 U.S. Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis and Dow ambassador Maria Fassi; and 2022 Tour rookies Hye Jin Choi and Na Rin An.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DOW GREAT LAKES BAY INVITATIONAL
- This is the third edition of the Dow GLBI, after being contested in 2019 and 2021; the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This is the first official team event for the LPGA Tour, though there have been several unofficial team competitions since the Tour was founded in 1950. Notable unofficial team events include the Hot Springs 4-Ball Invitational (1955-58) and the Women’s World Cup of Golf (2000, 2005-08). Also, the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge (1992-2013) and Hyundai Team Matches (1994-97, 1999-2002) included competitors from the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions.
- Each LPGA Tour Member on the winning team receives the standard two-year winner’s exemption, with non-Member win regulations applying to non-Members; CME Points and prize money are official for the purposes of the current-year LPGA Official Money List and Race to the CME Globe Standings, Rolex Player of the Year, Louise Suggs Rolex Rookies of the Year, U.S. Solheim Cup and Rolex Women’s World Rankings Points will not be allocated this week
- There are four sponsor invite teams: Sadena Parks and Anita Uwadia; Savannah Grewal and Annabelle Pancake; Natalie Samdal and Megha Vallabhaneni; and Chaithra Katamneni and Kimberly Dinh
- The field also includes three of the 14 different 2022 Tour winners and 22 of the 32 Tour rookies
JUTANUGARNS WITH FAMILIAR FEEL IN MIDLAND FOR DOW GLBI
If there’s an opportunity to #TeamUp, sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn are there to take it. In 2021’s second edition of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the two earned the team victory thanks in part to 59s on both Thursday and Saturday. It was Moriya’s first win in over 1,180 days and the second of her career, while Ariya earned her second of the 2021 season, following a win in her home country at the Honda LPGA Thailand.
“It was amazing memories. We having fun. We had a lot of like, it's a lot of experience, fun, and got to spend time with my sister for four days,” said Moriya. “It's a lot, pretty much all week. It's just like one of the best memories between us I think.”
Ariya, who said the event win in 2021 may have ranked higher than her two major championship victories, is still working through a hip injury that she felt “get worse” at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles. She’s only recorded two top-20 performances through 13 events this season but playing alongside her elder sister may be the best confidence boost heading into the Tour’s European swing.
“I would say last year when we play together just make me have more confidence, because when you play and you feel free, that's the feeling you want to play every tournament,” said Ariya. “But I have that feeling during when I played this tournament last year with my sister because I feel no worry, no expectation at all. I feel more free, so I just want to keep to have that feeling, keep going.”
Moriya, who reached the Round of 16 at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards for her season-best finish, echoed her sister’s sentiments. “I don't have to play and feel guilty or sorry because she going to do the same thing to me. It was like that kind of thing makes you feel comfortable. You feel fun on the golf courses, and I think that's very important.”
TEAM TEXMEX RETURNS TO DOW GLBI WITH GOALS BOTH OLD AND NEW
Maria Fassi entered the 2021 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational with a clouded headspace after missing 10 cuts through 11 starts. But everything changed when she teed off at Midland Country Club alongside partner Stacy Lewis. The duo contended for the title, finishing T12 overall, giving Fassi a result and week that turned out to be exactly what she needed to kickstart her game. She earned a T15 result just a week later at The Amundi Evian Championship and a season-best fifth-place finish soon after at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer. Heading into this year’s event, Fassi said much of this 2021 success to her time in Midland, Mich., with Lewis.
“We could be here for a while,” she laughed when asked what advice Lewis gave her in 2021. “I think the most important one is just don't forget why we play the game and to enjoy it. I think we make it be such a big deal at times, let it get in our heads. Golf is hard enough. We don't need to make it harder with making up stories in our own heads.”
Through 10 events in 2022, Fassi has only made three cuts, with a best finish of T35. But the 24-year-old Dow ambassador knows playing on Team TexMex with an inspiring partner like Lewis will help boost her confidence heading into the European Swing. “I'm hoping it happens again,” Fassi said. “I think any time I get to play with Stacy there is so much to learn. We’ve been talking a little bit, and I think I'm in a little better space mentally and golf-wise than I was last year. There has been a lot of work put in, and I'm just very happy that we're back out here again.”
As for Lewis, not only will she be wearing a mentor/partner hat for Fassi, but also her 2023 U.S. Solheim Cup Captain hat. Lewis, who has earned two top-10 finishes already this season, is looking for her first win since the 2020 Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open while also scouting talent for the U.S. team.
“I'm excited for the fact we had a couple teams that came out of last year's Solheim Cup that wanted to play together again,” she said. “I'll be watching to see how they play, but also just to see how – if they're not playing with Americans – just to see how they do in a team format and how they work together. It's a good week to just watch and see how people do.”
HALL OF FAMERS TO COMPETE ONCE MORE AT DOW GLBI
LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Karrie Webb has only played two events on the Tour this season, but she couldn’t miss the opportunity to play alongside her friend and fellow Florida resident Marina Alex at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. The team event, which will take place at Midland Country Club starting Wednesday, offers the perfect environment for Webb to enjoy competitive golf while preparing for next week’s Senior LPGA Championship.
“I was really looking forward to this week and making my debut with the old ladies next week,” said Webb. “That'll be fun. The field has so many people I haven't seen for a really long time, so I'm really looking forward to catching up with a lot of those people.”
Another fellow Hall of Famer making her debut in the senior major next week and competing in this week’s Dow GLBI is Annika Sorenstam, who will tee it up with fellow Swede Madelene Sagstrom. Sorenstam and Webb shared a rivalry on the course, often competing against each other as No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. The two have combined for 113 Tour titles, and will share the course in LPGA Tour competition for the first time since 2008, a fact not lost on fellow players in the field.
“That rivalry was so great for our game. I remember the two of them competing,” said LPGA Tour veteran Stacy Lewis. “Now to see it on this side and really learn the back stories of what was going on, you know, it's interesting. It's tremendous for the game.”
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE UPDATE
The Race to the CME Globe race continues into the 17th event of the 2022 LPGA Tour season at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. Following the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Minjee Lee cemented her top spot in the points standings with 2,253.491 points. Major champion Jennifer Kupcho is in second with 1,551.750 points, just slightly over 17-time LPGA Tour winner Lydia Ko with 1,551.550 total points. Brooke Henderson follows in fourth with 1,539.458 points, with Lexi Thompson rounding out the top-five with 1,525.808.
In Gee Chun, who is not in this week’s event, jumped up to eighth from 23rd following her third career Tour major championship title at Congressional Country Club. For the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, points will be awarded to Members who make the cut, with point values for each player on the team. The winning team Members will receive 410 points.
The Race to the CME Globe is a season-long points competition with LPGA Tour Members accumulating points in every official LPGA tournament to qualify for the season-ending tournament, CME Group Tour Championship. The player who wins the CME Group Tour Championship is named the “Race to the CME Globe Champion.” Beginning in 2019, players started earning points at each official LPGA Tour event throughout the season leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship. The top-60 points earners and ties then earn a spot in the CME Group Tour Championship with the entire field competing for a $7 million purse highlighted by a $2 million winner’s check, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.