How low will they go at Safeway?

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Here at the LPGA Safeway Classic, I am predicting the highest winning score of the year among non-major tournaments.

This is in relation to par, with 2009’s highest winning score being 10-under par, shared by Angela Stanford at the SBS Open and Pat Hurst at the MasterCard Classic.

Many players are saying the winning score at the Safeway will fall between 12 under and 1 under, and I don’t get it.

Why do they feel this way? Because the host Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club has five par-5 holes. Because three of these par 5s are consecutive (8, 9 and 10). Because two of the five par 3s (3 and 16) are short-iron holes. Because one of the eight par-4 holes (17) is driveable from each of the three tee positions that will be used. Because every one of the world’s top 50 players has entered.

In response, I urge caution. This layout is a tantalizing mixture of easy and hard holes, with the hard holes being more like killer holes. The par 4s can be an adventure. The greens are very large with subtle slopes.

I say 4 under wins the tournament.

Here are predictions from others who are very familiar with Ghost Creek:

Dominic Marconi, Pumpkin Ridge director of golf: 10 under.

Ryan Clemens, Ghost Creek head pro: 5 under.

Nicole Keller, Ghost Creek assistant pro: 12 under.

Dave Porter, head pro at the other Pumpkin Ridge Course, Witch Hollow: 7 under.

Bobby Rymer, Witch Hollow assistant pro: 9 under.

Tom Maletis, president of Tou rnament Golf Foundation, which runs the tournament: 10 under.

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