The $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic is being held on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. The began Classic began in 1986 and has been held every year since except for a three-year gap from 2007-09.
Here are five storylines to following during the 54-hole event, which is one of the major highlights of the southern New Jersey sports scene.
Creamer and Wie
Both Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie have long relationships with the Classic. Wie played in the 2003 event as a 13-year-old. Creamer finished second in 2004 as a 17-year-old amateur. Both are back this year and both are seeking their first wins of 2017.
Creamer is contention after shooting a 5-under 66. She is two shots back of leader Nordqvist. Creamer is looking for her first victory she won the HSBC Women’s Champions in March of 2014. Wie shot an even-par 71 and is tied for 44th.
A Nordqvist three-peat?
Anna Nordqvist has won the Classic the past two years. She got her quest for a three-peat off to good start Friday. Nordqvist shot a 7-under-par to take the first round lead by one shot over four players. Nordqvist also shot a 64 in last year’s final round. Her opening round last year was also a 64. She slumped to a 68 in last year’s second round. She tees off at 1:21 p.m. on the first hole for Saturday’s second round.
She shot an 8-under par 205 to win by a stroke in 2015. Nordqvist tied the tournament record with a 17-under 196 to win by a shot last year.
The Swedish native is trying to become the first player to win three-straight Classics. Nordqvist is also trying to join Annika Sorenstam and Betsy King as the only golfers to win three Classics.
In pursuit of No. 1
So Yeon Ryu is No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. Lydia Ko, the No. 1 player, is skipping the Classic. Ryu could take over the No. 1 spot if she finished a solo third or better at the Classic.
But she shot 3-over 74 and is tied for 99th after Friday’s first round.
Ryu, a native of South Korea, won the Anna Inspiration major championship in April. She began the Classic leading the tour in scoring average (68.944). She is currently No. 1 in the Rolex Player of the Year point race.
A Classic past
The Classic field is filled with past champions. Among the former winners to play this year are Stacey Lewis (2014 and 2012), Cristie Kerr (2004), Karrie Webb (2013), Angela Stanford (2003) Juli Inkster (1986 and 1988) and Brittany Lincicome (2011). Can these past champions contend this weekend?
Lewis put herself in position to contend this weekend with a 4-under 67. She is tied for sixth, three shots out of the lead. First-round scores by other past champions were: Webb (70); Kerr (71); Inkster (71); Lincicome (73); and Stanford (75).
A rookie to watch
Nelly Korda began this week No. 3 in the race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award. Korda, 18, is the younger sister of four-time LPGA winner Jessica Korda. Nelly has not missed a cut in nine tournaments she played this year, but that streak is danger. She shot a 5-over 76 Friday and is tied for 125th. Only the top-70 players, plus ties, after Saturday’s second round make the cut to Sunday.