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Published: Thursday, 7/2/2009

Top talent vying for Farr title

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

There is no shortage of high-profile candidates who seem likely to contend at the 25th annual Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.

The name atop the 2009 LPGA money list, Jiyai Shin, feels her accurate driver will be a big asset at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

Lorena Ochoa is in town for the first time as the No. 1-ranked player in the world and would love to add the Farr Classic title to her overflowing trophy case.

Then there's Se Ri Pak, who has played decent this year and knows she can always count on Highland Meadows to kick-start her game.

To make defending champion Paula Creamer part of this list might not be possible. Creamer is unsure if she'll be able to tee off this morning in the first round because of a thumb injury that forced her to withdraw last week in Rochester.

"I have to make a decision, and I hope I can make the right decision for me," Creamer said. "Swinging the club, hitting the ground, taking divots, it all puts a lot of pressure on the thumb."

If Creamer can't go, 143 other golfers will compete to replace her as champion and grab a piece of the

$1.4 million purse in the process.

Perhaps it will be Shin, a 21-year-old rookie making her first visit to Toledo. She has already won more than $1.3 million in prize money this year and was victorious last week at the Wegmans LPGA and also won the HBSC Women's Champions in March.

Shin is tied for first on tour in driving accuracy. Not coincidentally, she is tied for second in the best percentage of rounds under par.

"I have confidence with my driver, so I like a narrow course," Shin said. "This course is narrow too."

Ochoa will play Highland Meadows for the first time since 2004. At that time she was a one-time winner who finished tied for sixth in the August event. Since then she has won 25 times on tour.

Ochoa and others hope to have their game in top form for the U.S. Women's Open next week in Bethlehem, Pa., but realize a sizable prize is up for grabs before that here in northwest Ohio.

"Next week is for sure very important, but we are here right now," Ochoa said. "I want to play 100 percent and not look too far ahead. The important thing right now is to play good [today], and then we will go from there."

Pak begins her second attempt to be the first player in LPGA history to win an event six times. She finished second at the State Farm Classic last month, her only top 10 finish of the season, and is 23rd on the LPGA money list.

"I really enjoy being here," Pak said. "I just feel a lot of confidence, and I am really having fun."

Her attempt to make history this year after winning her fifth Farr in 2007 comes with significantly more roadblocks than last year. In 2008, just one player in the top 10, Creamer, competed in the tourney. This year, 48 of the top 50 players in the world are in the mix.

"Every year, I think it's been a pretty good field," Pak said. "It is the best players playing every week out here. It's not easy to get to the top of the leaderboard, but hopefully I will get that chance this week."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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