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ShopRite LPGA Classic preview: Fountain of youth

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By Vince Robitaille

GolfWRX Staff Writer

After a short pause allowing the world’s premier female golfers the opportunity to catch their breath after the dramatic incidents of the Sybase Match Play Championship, said golfers are back at in the Garden State. The ShopRite LPGA Classic, with its 144-player-deep field, kicks off Friday morning at 7:15 EST on Stockton Seaview’s Bay Course, and, if last year’s edition is any indication of things to come this weekend, players will experiment the overwhelming feeling of being engulfed in the Deep Blue Tour yet again. This time, however, with the LPGA Championship around the bend, those who’ll be able to stay afloat won’t only survive the ripping sea of the LPGA, but will have their sights – whilst wavering – set on the jewelled treasure out beyond the horizon.

A disparate triumvirate consisting of Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin and Brittany Lincicome – from which the latter elevated herself to reign, towering over other imperatores, if only for a brief period – made the 2011 ShopRite Classic the Rome of their clash. As all parties involved proverbially crossed the Rubicon, Kerr’s assault seemed the most likely to net her supremacy over the Championship as she boasted a comfortable lead at 11-under on the 7th tee of the final day; then, a chink in her armored was exposed. Back-to-back bogeys – the second one stemming from a wayward drive that resulted in an unplayable lie – left the American at 9-under and slipping. Joining her at the point were Jiyai Shin and Lincicome who exploded early with an eagle on the par-5 3rd and a birdie on 6th. The youngest American briefly grabbed a hold of the lead at the turn, before Shin managed to get to 11-under through consecutive birdies on 11th and 12th. Ultimately, back-to-back bogeys cost her the tournament as Lincicome skillfully navigated the last 38 holes of the tournament without a single blemish en route to an aggregate tally of 11-under. The supreme feat of the latter’s performance lies in an escape from the greenside fescue on the very last hole enabling her to convert the subsequent winning birdie.

Whilst Lincicome seems poised to enter the winner’s circle once more in regards to her recent form, her somewhat inconsistent putter – inconsistent in the sense that is has the malign habit of flinching one round every weekend – seemingly representing the lone barrier fending her off, our interest lies elsewhere. If we were to be more specific, we’d say that it lies with English legend Laura Davies. Not that we expect the one grabbing our attention to come out victorious in New Jersey – actually, one might find himself better off giving Powerball a shot than trying to predict how she’ll perform from week-to-week – but, no matter the outcome, she always gets there in a scorching manner and we can’t help watching. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the course appears to be built to her exact specifications. One of the most heralded links player in women’s golf, her awe-inspiring record on the Ladies European Tour speaking for itself – despite the absence of an ever so important trophy in her case – Davies finds herself in her element on the grounds of The Bay Course. Adding to her comfort is the fact that, on top of familiarity with both design components and surfaces, the Commander of the British Empire can enjoy the clement and calm, in comparison to the British Isles and coastal Australia ­– to name a few of the places she’s made her own in regards to the golfing world – weather of New Jersey. A prime example of this combination’s potency can be found in Davies’ third place finish in the 2006 edition; a performance which included a career-low 62.

Laura Davie’s go big or go home mentality might have produced 57 combined wins on the LET and LPGA Tour, but for pretty much every top-10 recorded, a cut has been missed. So far this season, for instance, in eight LPGA Tour-sanctioned events, Davies wasn’t allowed to participate to the weekend’s action on four occasions. Ever saddening is the fact that, of those opportunities, she could never reap anything more than a mediocre tie for 49th at the Lotte Championship.  The reason behind the drastic turn for the worse that Davies’ production has taken halfway through the 2011 season is nebulous, although one could point the finger at either time or her reckless course management finally catching up to the 48-year-old, but, as she showed last week in Munich with her runner-up finish, she’s always only a few rounds away from a trophy. After all, albeit a British Women’s Open victory might represent the fitting end – and, concurrently, her main desire – to an illustrious career that is, no matter what technicalities might say otherwise, undeniably Hall of Fame-worthy, I’m pretty sure that the ultimate Solheim cupper wouldn’t mind adding ShopRite LPGA Classic champion to her resume. After all, ending a LPGA Tour winless drought that dates back to Angela Stanford’s rookie year might just be the Fountain of Youth to her Ponce de Leon.

Click here for more discussion in the “LPGA/Ladies golf talk” forum.

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Equipment

Spotted: Phil Mickelson testing Callaway’s mini driver

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There is some serious equipment testing going on at Pinehurst’s legendary No. 2 course before the 2024 U.S. Open starts! We spotted renowned club tinkerer Phil Mickelson on the range with a new setup. He was testing out the new Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Ti 340 Mini Driver with a new Mitsubishi Diamana BB (Blue Board) shaft.

Phil has long been a mini driver/2-wood/strong 3-wood guy, as he was the inspiration for the Callaway “Phranken Wood” about 10 years ago. For many pros, adding a strong 3-wood or mini driver allows them to turn it over easier and add a more consistent draw to their bag off the tee without losing too much distance.

Mitsubishi’s Diamana BB is the newest mid-launch shaft in the Diamana line. The “BB” on the shaft of course references the iconic Blue Board shafts from 20 years ago and this model will have a similar smooth feel.

 

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 U.S. Open

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GolfWRX is live this week from the third major of the season: the U.S. Open at historic Pinehurst No. 2.

Qualifier WITBs are the stars the the show so far — along with in-hand looks at what Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau are playing.

Check back throughout the week as we continue to add more galleries.  

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying about the photos from the U.S. Open in the forums. 

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Equipment

Why Wyndham Clark is playing a brand-new driver and an old putter this week

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Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of an article originally filed for PGATour.com’s Equipment Report by our Andrew Tursky. Read the full piece here. 

At the top end of the bag, Clark is set to change into Titleist’s new GT2 driver during the first week it’s being made available to PGA TOUR players. On Monday, Titleist officially unveiled its new lineup of GT drivers and fairway woods, and Clark plans to become one of the early adopters of the new technology as competition begins on Thursday at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Interestingly, Clark was relatively late to make a permanent switch into the company’s previous TSR3 driver. Although the TSR drivers first launched in 2022, Clark was back-and-forth with the 2020 TSi3 driver and the 2022 TSR3 driver until the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2024.

On Wednesday, GolfWRX.com caught up with Clark to get his take on the new GT2 driver, and why he’s switching so quickly.

“It’s faster (than my previous TSR3),” Clark said. “I felt like I got 2-3 mph more ball speed, which is amazing. And it has really consistent spin, which is obviously huge for what we do out here.”

…On the bottom end of the bag, Clark will likely play his first event since 2023 without an Odyssey Jailbird putter in the bag.

In case you forgot, Clark and Rickie Fowler were the trendsetters who brought the 2014 Odyssey Versa Jailbird back to the forefront of the golf market in 2023. Clark then switched into the upgraded Odyssey Ai Jailbird during the week of his win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

This week, however, Clark is going back in time, switching into a PXG prototype mallet that he used in 2022.

Read the full piece at PGATour.com

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