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Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Preview, Pairings, and Much More

A big congratulations goes out to So Yeon Ryu for winning the Meijer LPGA Classic. Ryu, who shot a final round five under par 67, was challenged throughout the back nine by several players but kept her cool and outplayed them all down the stretch. It was her 6th win on the LPGA tour. 

Image result for walmart nw arkansas Championship logo

This week the LPGA moves to the state of Arkansas for the playing of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. This tournament has always been known to produce very low scores and last year was no exception. So Yeon Ryu started the final round with a 5 stroke lead and held off a charging Amy Yang (who shot a final round 64) and won by two strokes over Yang and Moriya Jutanugarn. 

Image result for so yeon ryu wins walmart
So Yeon Ryu's blistering 2nd round -10 under par 61 was the key to her 2017 title.

This will be tournament #17 of 32 on the 2018 LPGA schedule.

Here are the key details:

Race to the CME Globe:  500 points
Course:  Pinnacle Country Club
Location:  Rogers, Arkansas
Defending Champion:  So Yeon Ryu
Winning Score: 65-61-69 = 195 (-18)

Final Field:  144 players

Format:  54 holes
Par:  36/35 = 71
Yardage:  6,331
Purse: $2,000,000

Image result for gatorade 17th hole
The 17th hole at the Pinnacle Country Club is considered the loudest hole on tour.

My strength of field rating is a very solid 78.5% (up significantly from 69% last year). This is the 3rd strongest non Major Championship field of the year so far. Forty-four of the top fifty players from the LPGA Priority List, and 19 of the top 25 players from the Rolex World Rankings will be teeing it up. Top players in this week's field include: Inbee Park, Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, Lexi Thompson, Shanshan Feng, So Yeon Ryu, and Minjee Lee.
Players skipping the event this week include: Brooke Henderson, Sei Young Kim, and In Gee Chun.

Here are the first round pairings.

Here are the television times:
June 22 - GC 6:30 PM-8:30 PM ET 
June 23 - GC 3:00 PM-5:00 PM ET 
June 24 - GC 3:00 PM-5:00 PM ET

Players Most Likely to Win: (Top players in the field)
1- Inbee Park - When she tees it up, she's a threat.
2- Ariya Jutanugarn - Has been the best player on tour this year by a wide margin.
3- Lexi Thompson - Coming off two consecutive top tens. 

Players to Watch Out For: (I'm feeling it this week)
1- Caroline Masson - has been the hottest player on tour whose name is not Jutanugarn.
2- So Yeon Ryu - Could she win back to back events?
3- Jessica Korda - Can she join Ariya Jutanugarn as a two time winner this year?

Longshot Picks: (Not likely, but not impossible)
1- Azahara Munoz - Has never won a stroke play tournament but is playing her best golf in a long time.
2- Nelly Korda - Has contended several times this year.
3- Nasa Hataoka - Has done everything but win.

Other Tidbits:
With the cancellation of the tournament in Malaysia, the LPGA has now completed exactly one half of its 2018 schedule. There has been 15 different winners in the first 16 tournaments.

So Yeon Ryu's win was the 5th this year for a player from South Korea. Players from the USA have won four times and Thailand has won three.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
So Yeon Ryu jumps back into the top five, moving up a notch from #6 to #5. Caroline Masson makes the biggest move leaping up from #46 to #36. Azahara Munoz rises from #53 to #47, and Jacqui Concolino jumps up from #76 to #69.

Race to the CME Globe:   (1 million dollars)
Ariya Jutanugarn continues to be the runaway leader with 2,515 points. Her sister Moriya is second with 1,680. Third place at this time belongs to Inbee Park with 1,580.  They are followed by Minjee Lee (1,509) and Jin Young Ko (1,356). The top five finishers will control their own fate and a win at the CME Group Tour Championship will guarantee them the one million dollar bonus.

Who's Hot:
Caroline Masson has five top ten finishes in her last seven starts.
Su Oh has two top tens, four top twenties, and five top twenty-five finishes in her last five starts.

Who's Not:
Ilhee Lee has missed eight consecutive cuts. Alison Lee has missed her last seven.

This Week's Trivia Question: 
1) In the eleven years that this tournament has been played we have had ten different winners. Who was the only player to win twice?

For the answer to this week's trivia press here.

UPDATE: 6/19/18 - Leticia Ras-Anderica and Dylan Kim (a) are the Monday local qualifiers.

Here are the final results:

1 Nasa Hataoka -21
2 Austin Ernst -15
3 Ryann O'Toole -13
3 Sandra Gal -13
3 Ally McDonald -13
3 Brittany Altomare -13
3 Lexi Thompson -13
3 Minjee Lee -13
9 Haeji Kang -12
9 Jin Young Ko -12
9 Lydia Ko -12
9 Anna Nordqvist -12
9 Cristie Kerr -12
9 Mariah Stackhouse -12
15 Moriya Jutanugarn -11
15 Mirim Lee -11
15 Celine Boutier -11
18 Pornanong Phatlum -10
18 Jeong Eun Lee -10
18 Lizette Salas -10
18 Thidapa Suwannapura -10
22 Yu Liu -9
22 Sher. Santiwiwatthanaphong -9
22 Stacy Lewis -9
22 Shanshan Feng -9
22 So Yeon Ryu -9

Be sure to check back here daily for any LPGA news or updates.  They will be posted here at the bottom of this blog. Tournament results will be posted here at the end of each round. Links to all Women's Tour scoreboards can be found on the right side of this page (or on pull down menu on mobile website).


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