So Yeon Ryu, who won last year’s Jamie Farr Toledo Classic at Highland Meadows, ranks fifth on this year’s LPGA money list.
While the name of the LPGA tournament has changed, there are a number of the game’s best players aiming to conquer Highland Meadows this week, including last year’s champion.
Despite standing fifth on this year’s LPGA money list and fourth in the player of the year rankings, So Yeon Ryu said a mental “reset” roughly a month ago has improved her game.
“Last year I finished so many [tournaments] in the top 10, even top five, so the really hard thing was [I would think], ‘Last year I finished top five at this tournament so … I have to finish better than last year.’ And that was really hard,” Ryu said.
“So I just reset my mind. Every year is different. Also every tournament is different. So I just forgot about last year and then just focus on now.”
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The top-ranked player in the world, Inbee Park, recently won three straight LPGA tournaments and has six titles this season. Her steady improvement in this tournament the past few years makes her hopeful to improve on last year’s third-place effort.
“When I first came here to Highland Meadows, I thought this course was a tough golf course,” she said. “The fairways were narrow and it just looked for the first time like a very tough golf course.
“But it seemed like everybody was scoring so low out here that I couldn’t keep up with them for the first couple of years. Then I started to really get used to this golf course, and used to seeing this golf course, and started to get a lot more comfortable.”
Park continued: “My game sharpened up a lot last year, and I really came close to winning. … Last year was the best I played on this golf course. That definitely gives me a lot of confidence going into this week.”
None is more prominent than Stacy Lewis, the hometown favorite whose parents are from Toledo and who was born here before the family moved when she was 2. That’s one reason the newly renamed Marathon Classic has plastered her face all of its advertising materials.
“A lot of the other players have been giving me a hard time,” Lewis said of being the tournament poster child.
Lewis, Park, Ryu, and a field of 141 other top golfers will begin the first of four rounds of tournament play today, with threesomes teeing off at 7:30 a.m. from the first and 10th tees. The morning group will continue to tee off every 10 minutes thereafter until 9:20 a.m., then the afternoon group will start from both tees at 12:15 p.m. and every 10 minutes until 2:05 p.m.
After Friday’s second round, during which the afternoon group will have morning tee times and vice versa, the field will be cut to the best 70 scores, including ties, for the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.
That group will play for a share of a $1.3 million purse, with the winner receiving $195,000.
The tournament field includes seven of the top-10 players on the 2013 LPGA Tour money list and six of the top 10 in the world rankings. That includes four of the five top-ranked players.
The past six champions — Ryu (2012), Na Yeon Choi (2010), Eunjung Yi (2009), Paula Creamer (2008), Se Ri Pak (2007), and Mi Hyan Kim (2006) — have combined to go 103 strokes under par, an average of more than 17 shots under par.
Creamer, who nearly set an LPGA Tour record with 60 in the first round of her 2008 title run, expects that run of low scores to continue.
“I think it’s going to take another low number [to win] this weekend,” she said. “Mentally, you have to prepare and be able to go out and make a bunch of birdies.
“I think I can do that out here. I’ve done it before. No reason I can’t do it now.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.