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LPGA returns to Oregon for Safeway Classic
August 27, 2013

A 40-year Portland, Oregon tradition continues this week at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola where Japan native Mika Miyazato hopes to deliver a successful title defense after capturing her first LPGA victory at the event last year. The tournament returns to Columbia Edgewater Country Club, which hosted the event as recently as five years ago, will feature a 144-player field, vying for a $195,000 first-place check.

Miyazato became the sixth Rolex First-Time winner at last year’s event with an impressive wire-to-wire victory over Inbee Park and Brittany Lincicome. She will face the challenge of defending her title at the revamped event which returns to a beloved venue and moves to a four-day layout. While the 23-year-old only boasts two top-finishes so far this season including a third place finish at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, she is hopeful for a successful title defense for her second-career victory.

Park out for the week: Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park withdrew from this week’s event citing an illness with flu-like symptoms. Park, who has won six times this season including the Tour’s first three majors, was coming off a tied for 13th last week in Canada.

“I’m disappointed I will be unable to play this week in Portland due to an illness,” said Park. “Safeway is such a great supporter of our Tour and I always look forward to playing in front of the great crowds in Oregon.”

LPGA Tour rookie and Vanderbilt University alum Marina Alex will take Park’s spot in the field and make her third start of her career.

Solheim resurgence: After such an emotional and taxing week like the Solheim Cup, it’d be understandable for players’ fatigue and weariness on the course to set in. But 16 of the 24 Solheim Cup players finished in the top-20 at the Tour’s event last week at the CN Canadian Women’s Open. Ten of them will be in the field this week in Portland including Europe’s Caroline Masson and Suzann Pettersen who both tied for seventh last week.

“I think it did a lot, it kind of shows you that maybe you belong there,” said Masson. “Every one of us was smiling all week long last week, you’re just in a really good mood. You just play golf, you don’t worry about playing bad, you just enjoy that week after the Solheim. It’s been a great feeling.”

Americans Gerina Piller (9th) and Paula Creamer (T10) also had solid showings last week after a blow-out 18-10 loss to the Europeans in Colorado and are both in the field this week.

Welcome Back, Welcome Back… This week, the LPGA Tour makes its triumphant return to the city known for its spectacular rose gardens, green initiatives, and decadent cuisine for the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola.

LPGA has played in the “City of Roses” of Portland, Oregon for over 40 years and the 26th year its event has been hosted at Columbia Edgewater. The past four years, the LPGA has played at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Pains.

Two-time LPGA Tour winner Gail Graham returns to Columbia Edgewater this week not as a player, but as the President of the Tournament Owners Association (TOA). Despite hailing from Canada, Graham feels right at home the second she pulls though the elaborate gates of Columbia Edgewater.

“I have great memories,” said Graham. “Driving into the front gate was like coming home, this was the home of this championship for a long time. The course has fantastic greens, always in great shape, great people, great crowds, great sponsors, it’s just one of those events that feels right for the LPGA.”

Suzann Pettersen is still beaming off the historic European Solheim Cup victory two weeks ago and after a T7 finish at last week’s CN Canadian Women’s Open, is looking to maintain momentum on a course that is full of good memories for several LPGA Tour players.

“I’m excited that we are playing this week since I’m playing good,” said Pettersen. “I have all kinds of different memories here but it’s an old style golf course. This is a place you have to fall in love with.”

The Rookie Race is on…Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn looked to be running away with the Louis Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award earlier this season after notching three top-20 finishes in her first six starts as an LPGA Tour member. But just nine events left on the LPGA Tour’s schedule and the final full-field event this week in Portland, the race has tightened dramatically with the emergence of Germany’s Caroline Masson and Japan’s Ayako Uehara.

“If I get Rookie of the Year it would probably be the best thing in my life up until this point,” said Jutanugarn. “You only get one time in your life to get it. But I don’t want to be really pressure with that because you’ll just start forgetting your game.”

As of April 29th and through the North Texas LPGA Shootout, Jutanugarn had a 130 point lead over Masson for top rookie honors. But some recent strong finishes by Masson at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic (T13), Wegmans LPGA Championship (T12) and CN Canadian Women’s Open (T7) has cut Jutanugarn’s lead to only 31 points.

“I’ve watched it a little bit but you just have to play well every week,” said Masson said of the points race. “I guess there are a few tournaments left and it would be a nice new goal for me. I really just want to concentrate on each week, enjoy playing and have fun then we’ll see what happens. Obviously it would be a nice thing to win Rookie of the Year so I’m going to try everything.”

Masson is also playing off a major resurgence in her game she got from playing in her first Solheim Cup two weeks ago in Parker, Colorado. She said she has made some goals for her first year on Tour and is on track to accomplish them all.

“I was struggling in the beginning I thought, I missed a few cuts but I did well in the big tournaments and played well in the majors,” said Masson. “Obviously playing Solheim was a big goal for me this year and it was a dream come true to play and actually win. Right now I did everything I wanted, I kept my card, I can play in Asia and the last two weeks have really, really turned it around for me.”

Below are the current standings for the top-five players in Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race:

Player  Country  Points
Moriya Jutanugarn  Thailand 364
Caroline Masson  Germany 333
Ayako Uehara Japan  328
Chie Arimura Japan 277
Austin Ernst United States 159

Shop ‘til you drop… If you are a fan of Adidas or Nike, Portland, Oregon could be considered your paradise. Players competing in this week’s Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola could be seen shopping until they dropped as they were given access to the Nike Employee Store and received 50 percent off all purchases at the Adidas Village Store.

Shoes shoes and more shoes!! #funtimes at the @nike employee store. #nikeswag – Michelle Wie (@themichellewie)

Shopping @Adidasamerica checking out the spring blade shoe! – Natalie Gulbis (@natalie_gulbis)

Of Note…Eight past champions are in the field this week: Mika Miyazato (2012), Suzann Pettersen (2011), Ai Miyazato (2010), Mi Jung Hur (2009), Cristie Kerr (2008), Pat Hurst (2006) Hee Won Han (2004) and Juli Inkster (1999). P.K. Kongraphan (68) and amateur Kristina Merkle (69) earned spots in the field this week at the Monday qualifier held at Columbia Edgewater. Merkle beat out Madeline Shields in a four-hole playoff for the final spot.


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