LPGA’s best getting ready to tee it up in Edmonton

EDMONTON — Golf’s current trailblazers Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park have confirmed they will renew their fight for the top spot in the LPGA rankings next week at the CN Canadian Women’s Open. But when Lewis and Park tee it up Aug 22-25, they will find the course at the Royal Mayfair Club has changed since the last Canadian Women’s Open in the Alberta capital in 2007.

EDMONTON — Golf’s current trailblazers Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park have confirmed they will renew their fight for the top spot in the LPGA rankings next week at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.

But when Lewis and Park tee it up Aug 22-25, they will find the course at the Royal Mayfair Club has changed since the last Canadian Women’s Open in the Alberta capital in 2007.

Park, ranked No. 1, saw her points lead shrink a bit after Lewis won the Ricoh Women’s British Open Championship Aug. 4.

Park finished tied for 42nd on the Old Course at St. Andrews, but retains a healthy overall lead. She has a 12.77 world ranking average compared with 9.61 for the No. 2-ranked Lewis.

The British Open also ended Park’s bid to become the first golfer to win four majors in a row in the same tournament year.

Nevertheless, the 25-year-old putting demon from Seoul, South Korea — with six wins on tour in 2013 — is still the golfer to beat. Lewis, the 28-year-old from The Woodlands, Tex., has won three events this year.

Lewis and Park are the top two in scoring average, player points, and putts per greens in regulation. Lewis was ranked No. 1 overall in March only to be overtaken when Park reeled off five wins in her next nine tournaments. Both are known as precision hitters and keen readers of the green, which will serve them well on the Mayfair course, said club pro Robb James.

“It’s all about the second shot out here,” said James in an interview as crews around him raked, pruned, and mowed the course to prepare for the event.

“(You’re) trying to find that perfect landing area so that you’ve got an opportunity to control your approach shot and get it on the right portion of the green.

“(And) because our greens are large and have got some significant contouring, you better have a pretty good putting game to be able to try to convert the rare birdie opportunities you’re going to have on some of these very challenging par-fours.”

The Royal Mayfair is tucked into the river valley opposite the city’s downtown, surrounded for the most part by the winding North Saskatchewan River.

It is secluded and protected by towering poplar trees, but buffeted by winds that prevail from the northwest and can sweep and twist in different directions from hole to hole.

“It plays tricks in terms of the wind,” said James. “You’ve got that corridor where the wind just rips down the river valley and it can swirl around a bit.”

Any errant shot will force players to contend with 93 sandtraps, two man-made water hazards and greens that, depending on pin placements, will see golfers fighting to avoid overhanging tree limbs.

Since 200, when the open was won by Lorena Ochoa, there have been changes to the back nine, with crews moving sandtraps and reshaping the holes to present a greater challenge to hit more precise approach shots. The course is “not overly long,” with two par-fives, said James.

“It’s going to favour the great ball-strikers, the ones that can shape their shots, that can control their yardages,” he said.

“A big hitter just can’t step up here and blast it.”

Tournament organizers have confirmed that other top-10 ranked players coming to Edmonton to fight for the US$2-million purse include: Suzann Pettersen (3rd), Na Yeon Choi (4th), Karrie Webb (6th) and Jiyai Shin (9th).

Other notables are: Paula Creamer (11th), Cristie Kerr (12th), Ai Miyazato (13th), Yani Tseng (14th), Hee Young Park (15th), and Angela Stanford (16th).

Lydia Ko of New Zealand (19th) — the winner of last year’s Canadian Women’s Open — is also confirmed.

Morgan Pressel, who finished tied for fourth at the recent British Open, along with Brittany Lincicombe, Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie, and Katherine Hull-Kirk will also be among the 156 participants.

The Canadian contingent will be led by veteran Lorie Kane of Charlottetown.

She will be joined by Maude-Aimee LeBlanc of Sherbrooke, Que., Sara-Maude Juneau of Fossambault, Que., Rebecca Lee-Bentham of Toronto, Alena Sharp of Hamilton, and Stephanie Sherlock of Barrie, Ont.

Competing by way of exemptions are: Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C.; Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont.; Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ont.; Augusta James of Bath, Ont., and Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont.

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