Golf’s No. 1,Yani Tseng will aim for her fifth win of the young 2011 season when the LPGA Tour kicks off its U.S. swing with this week’s inaugural Founders Cup.
Sizzling. Tseng, the hottest golfer on any tour, has four world-wide victories this year, including a run of three in a row. She hoisted the trophy at the LPGA’s season-opening Honda LPGA Thailand, finished third at the HSBC Women’s Champions, and has to be the favorite heading into the 54-hole event that will start Friday in Phoenix.
Tseng will have plenty of competition vying for the title of a tourney that almost exploded before lift-off. In addition to seven-time major champ and 10th-ranked Karrie Webb, who bested Tseng and Chie Arimura for the Women’s Champions win in Singapore, Tseng will contend with No. 2 Jiyai Shin and Americans Cristie Kerr (No. 5), Paula Creamer, and Morgan Pressel.
The participation of the three U.S. golfers was not always a sure thing, given the months of controversy surrounding the contest’s format. The three most vocal critics of the original approach never said they objected to playing for free, which all 134 golfers in the field will; rather, they voiced concerns about the distribution of funds to charity.
Tweaks. Commissioner Mike Whan fine-tuned the approach, under which each golfer will name a charity to receive her winnings. The top 10 finishers will divvy up $500,000 among their chosen philanthropies, with the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program getting the other $500,000. While the players won’t pocket any cash, they will earn money-list and other season-long points.
After the tragedy in Japan, it’s likely that many golfers will follow Tseng and Creamer’s lead and designate Japanese relief funds as their charities of choice. Tseng tapped UNICEF to help children affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
Whan designed the Founders Cup to honor the women who created the LPGA. Co-founder Shirley Spork will play in the pro-am, as will Hall of Famers Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan, and Betsy King.
Wie RSVPs. Michelle Wie (No. 8), by the way, sent her regrets for the event via Twitter earlier this week. The popular Wie tweeted that she hoped to play in next year’s tourney after she has earned her Stanford University degree.
The Founders Cup will begin a stretch of three quick U.S. tourneys — next week’s Kia Classic and the first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
For more on the Founders Cup, read how Creamer praised Whan for his leadership in responding to players’ concerns.