The $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic finished Sunday on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. The Classic began in 1986 and has been held every year since except for a three-year gap from 2007-09.
Here is how five storylines played out during the 54-hole event, which is one of the major highlights of the South 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 were back this year and both were seeking their first wins of 2017.
Creamer began Sunday tied for the lead with eventual-winner In-Kyung Kim. Creamer was seeking her first LPGA victory since 2014. The Classic seemed like the perfect venue for her to rejuvenate her game. Creamer first wowed LPGA fans by finishing tied for second as a 17-year-old amateur at the 2004 Classic.
But Creamer faltered Sunday. She bogeyed five holes and shot a 3-over 74 to finish tied for seventh.
Still, Creamer took some positives from the tournament.
“Anytime you get to play in the last group, it’s a good thing,” she said. “I hit a lot of good quality shots, but I hit a lot of poor quality shots, too.”
Meanwhile, Wie thrilled fans early in Sunday’s final round with four birdies in her first five holes. She went on to shoot a 6-under 65 to finish tied for third with a 54-hole total of 7-under 206. It is Wie’s best finish ever at the Classic. Her previous best was a tie for ninth in 2013.
“It felt good today to go out there and crush all of it and keep building momentum (for the rest of the year),” Wie said. “I just stuck it in there close. I was kind of frustrated after my first round. I couldn't get my wedges in close at all, so I spent a lot of time on the range afterwards just working on my wedge game.”
A Nordqvist three-peat?
Anna Nordqvist won the Classic in 2015 and 2016. The Swedish native was trying to become the first player to win three-straight Classics. Nordqvist was also trying to join Annika Sorenstam and Betsy King as the only golfers to win three Classics.
But Nordqvist shot a 2-under 69 Sunday and finished second, two shots back of Kim. Still, Nordqvist relished the experience of trying for a three-peat.
“Just having the honor to back-to-back defend is quite amazing,” she said. “There is a little bit of pressure coming into it, but it's just been fun. I'm trying to embrace it. I love this golf course.”
In pursuit of No. 1
So Yeon Ryu entered the tournament No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. Lydia Ko, the No. 1 player, skipped the Classic. Ryu would have taken over the No. 1 spot if she finished a solo third or better at the Classic, but she shot 74-74 and missed the cut with a 36-hole total of 6-over 148.
That ended Ryu’s streak 64 straight cuts made — the longest streak on tour. The last cut she missed was at the 2014 Classic. Stacy Lewis now has the longest LPGA cut streak with 49 straight made.
A Classic past
The Classic field was filled with past champions. Among the former winners to play this year were Stacey Lewis (2014 and 2012), Cristie Kerr (2004), Karrie Webb (2013), Angela Stanford (2003) Juli Inkster (1986 and 1988) and Brittany Lincicome (2011).
None of the past champions threatened after Friday’s first round. Here is where they finished: Lincicome (5-under 208, tied for 12th); Webb (four-under 209, tied for 17th); Lewis (2-under 211, tied for 32nd); Inkster (even-par 213, tied for 46th); Stanford (even-par 213, tied for 46th) and Kerr (3-over 216, tied for 60th).
A rookie to watch
Nelly Korda began this week No. 3 in the race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award. But she shot 76-73 in the first two rounds and missed the cut with a 36-hole total of 7-over 149. Korda, 18, is the younger sister of four-time LPGA winner Jessica Korda. Nelly had not missed a cut in nine tournaments she played this year.