Preview: LPGA Championship

Ai Miyazato at the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup.

LPGA Tour Championship

June 24-27

Location: Locust Hill Country Club, Pittsford, N.Y.

Purse: $2.25 million, winner's share: $337,500.

TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; Friday, midnight-2 a.m., 12:30-2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2-4 a.m., 4-7 p.m., 9:30-11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 4-7 p.m., 9:30-11:30 p.m.).

Last year: Sweden's Anna Nordqvist won the major championship for her first LPGA Tour title, beating Lindsey Wright by four strokes at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, Md.

Notes: Last year at Locust Hill in the Wegmans LPGA, Jiyai Shin won by seven strokes, finishing at 17-under 271. The second-ranked Shin is returning to play after withdrawing from the State Farm Classic because of appendicitis. ... Yani Tseng won the first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco in early April. Tseng won the 2008 event at Bulle Rock.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – David Leadbetter works with two of the most naturally talented, athletic players on tour in Suzann Pettersen and Michelle Wie. They play an athletic game that stands in stark contrast to World No. 1 Ai Miyazato, whose slower, elegant-looking swing produces a very ladylike game.

It’s difficult to believe that Miyazato has won four times this year while Pettersen and Wie have produced nothing but close calls. Pettersen, especially, with five top-4 finishes in eight starts.

Locust Hill, site of the LPGA Championship, is another track that suits Miyazato’s game, with its premium on narrow fairways and penal rough. The major will be played for the first time at Locust Hill, a course that has hosted the tour since 1977. Wegmans bailed out the LPGA last year by offering to turn its regular-season event into a major since the tour couldn’t find a title sponsor to replace McDonald’s. 

In an effort to make Locust Hill more major-like, a total of nine holes have been lengthened this week, with 30 yards added to Nos. 1 and 10. The course will play to a par 72 at 6,506 yards. 

Leadbetter tells Wie she’s too long to play her natural game on the LPGA and too short to play her natural game on the PGA Tour. 

“You have the perfect game for the Champions Tour,” he jokes. Just give her a few decades.

While Miyazato must be considered a heavy favorite, both Pettersen and Wie are marquee names worth watching. Leadbetter said Pettersen’s perfectionist attitude can be a hindrance to her mental approach. She’s obsessed with hitting it purely, but Leadbetter says top players have to learn to win ugly, too. 

“She’s got it all,” he said. “She just gets in her own way a little bit really. ... If anything she tries too hard at everything she does.”

Wie’s best finish this year is third at Tres Marias Championship in Mexico, where she nearly stole Lorena Ochoa’s retirement thunder. That title, like so many others this year, went to Miyazato.

In her second full season on tour, Wie still faces a good deal of pressure to collect victories. Hardly a week goes by when someone doesn’t mention how several Wie wins could really turn this tour around. The good news for the LPGA is that Wie doesn’t mind the expectations.

“I would lie if I say I didn’t like the attention,” she said. “I do, secretly, I do.”  

As long as that attention is for all the right reasons.

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