The LPGA Tour returns to U.S. soil for the next three weeks as they tee it up at the Safeway Classic Presented by Pepsi. Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Oregon is again the site of this tournament which first appeared on the schedule back in 1972. Pat Hurst won last year by one shot over Jeong Jang and Kim Saiki.
The 54-hole event begins Friday and will be televised all three days by ESPN2. Columbia Edgewater is a par-72 6397-yard layout. Last year the average score was 73.178, just slightly above the seasonal average. The forecast calls for sunny skies with winds in the 10-15mph range, which if memory serves is similar to the conditions last year. So I’ll go out on a thin limb carrying an idling chainsaw and predict the cut will match last year’s +2.
The field is missing a few top players, namely Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Prammanasudh, Brittany Lincicome and Annika Sorenstam. At least all of the top Korean players are there – our good friend Happyfan, the webmaster of Seoulsisters.com, will have many faves to follow around. A few other SS.com stalwarts will be on-site as well, so I should have some on-course reports to link to this weekend. Also, Waggle Room regular and UCLA amateur Tiffany Joh is in the field on a sponsor's exemption so I'll be rooting for her to play well.
At the conclusion of the event, Betsy King will announce her two captain's picks for the U.S. Solheim Cup team. At this point I am predicting (and hoping) that her choices will be Laura Diaz and Christina Kim. The complete European team was announced yesterday.
Every week before I make my predictions, I map out my “Hot List” to give me a group of players who are likely to contend. This week, my list of 25 players included ten who finished in the Top 20 here last year. That’s an unusually high number – six is about the norm. Even though she is not one of those ten (she skipped the Safeway last year), it is impossible for me not to pick Lorena Ochoa to win again this week. Jeong Jang would have been a great choice and so would Paula Creamer, but they will have to settle for CYA status for the time being. Stats: Winners 5-20 (7-20 with CYAs), Top Tens 31-58.