If you are a member of the LPGA Tour who is planning on having a great 2018 season, we have reached the juncture of the schedule that could be called, as Magic Johnson once described it in basketball, “winning time.”
The tour travels to Williamsburg, Va., this week for the Kingsmill Championship presented by GEICO, one of the most popular events for both players and fans. It is immediately followed by another much-anticipated event, the LPGA Volvik Championship, and then May culminates in the biggest title and purse of the year, the U.S. Women’s Open.
Who will step up and show top form for the pivotal stretch ahead? Last year, it was Lexi Thompson, who gave a hint she might be up for a big week by skydiving into the Pro-Am before the tournament, and then delivering a performance which showed she knows how to go low, too, posting three rounds of 65 (along with a third-round 69) to break by one stroke the all-time Kingsmill scoring record of 19-under 265, set in 2008 by Annika Sorenstam.
Lexi is back and joined by five other of the current top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings, giving Kingsmill a first-rate field for 2018.
Here’s a round up of all you need to know about the week ahead at Kingsmill.
Tournament: Kingsmill Championship presented by Geico
Dates: May 17-20, 2018
Where: Williamsburg, Va.
Course: Kingsmill Resort — River Course
Distance: Par 71, 6,445 yards
Architect: Pete Dye
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $195,000
Defending Champion: Lexi Thompson
Marquee Players: Thompson, So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn, In-Kyung Kim, Jessica Korda, Cristie Kerr, Moriya Jutanugar, Anna Nordqvist, Minjee Lee, In Gee Chun, Brooke M. Henderson, Michelle Wie, Lizette Salas, Brittany Lincicome
TV AND ONLINE
Kingsmill has long been one of the most popular stops on the LPGA tour, dating back to when the women first started playing this event with Michelob as the sponsor in 2003. There was a two-year hiatus in 2010-11 before the tournament resumed as the Kingsmill Championship.
Prior to the LPGA coming to Kingsmill, it had been a stop on the PGA Tour for 22 seasons.
Kingsmill Resort sponsors the Kingsmill Championship presented by Geico in order to continue the long history of golf championships at Kingsmill Resort. This year will be the 35th LPGA or PGA event held on the River Course at Kingsmill.
The tournament boasts big-name past winners including the only multi-time winner, Cristie Kerr, who has claimed the title three times. Other top names who have won at Kingsmill include Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb, Suzann Petterson, Annika Sorenstam, Jiyai Shin, Lizette Salas, Minjee Lee, Ariya Jutanugarn and Lexi Thompson.
The title sponsor is the resort itself, along with insurance giant GEICO. Earlier in the year, the LPGA announced that a new three-year extension of the tournament was agreed to with Kingsmill, ensuring the tournament will continue through at least 2020.
2018: Kingsmill Championship presented by GEICO
2012-17: Kingsmill Championship
2010-11: (No tournament)
2003-09: Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill
2017: Lexi Thompson (-20)
2016: Ariya Jutanugarn (-14)
2015: Minjee Lee (-15)
2014: Lizette Salas (-13)
2013: Cristie Kerr (-12)
2012: Jiyai Shin (-16)
264 (-20) Lexi Thompson (2017)
3 – Cristie Kerr (2005, 2009, 2013)
Lexi Thompson fired a final-round 6-under 65 to capture her eighth LPGA Tour title at the 2017 Kingsmill Championship.
Thompson took a three-shot lead into the final round, briefly saw it cut to two, but after consecutive birdies on 14 and 15, the tournament wasn’t in much doubt, with the lead up to the final margin of five shots.
Thompson finished at 20-under 264 for her four rounds in Williamsburg, all of them sub-70 (65-65-68-65).
In Gee Chun, who posted a final round 4-under 67 to close at 15-under, finished solo second, five shots behind Thompson.
FINAL TOP 5
1 Lexi Thompson -20
2 In Gee Chun -15
3 Angela Stanford -11
4 Danielle Kang -10
5 Carlota Ciganda -9
5 Sei Young Kim -91
Lexi Thompson is the top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world and the defending champion. She’s also hopeful she’ll be able to look back on Kingsmill in 2018 as the place where she kicked her season into higher gear.
Thompson’s victory last year was four years in the making, as she had posted top 10 finishes in this event each of the three previous seasons, including a tie for second in 2014.
This year, she has had an uneven first five months, posting top 10s in her first two starts, but no more in the five events she has played in since the beginning of March. Given the strength of her record at Kingsmill, you have to believe in her mind she thinks this will be the week she gets things rolling again.
Other players ranked in the top ten in the world who will tee it up this week include No. 5 So Yeon Ryu, No. 6 Ariya Jutanugarn (the 2016 Kingsmill winner), No. 7 In-Kyung Kim, No. 9 Jessica Korda and the player with the most career success in this event, three-time champion Cristie Kerr, the world’s current No. 10-ranked player.
You can also add to the mix two other very capable past winners here in 2015 champ Minjee Lee, the current world No. 14, and 2014 champ Lizette Salas, currently ranked No. 26 in the world.
Also lurking among those in the field just outside of the world top 10 are three players who have won events since March 1 — world No. 11 Moriya Jutanugarn, who had her breakthrough win three starts ago at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open, world No. 16 Brooke M. Henderson, the winner at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey, and world No. 18 Michelle Wie, who won at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
Two more players who should be viewed as serious threats are In Gee Chun and Korda.
Chun, ranked No. 15 in the world, took second place at Kingsmill last year and tied for 10th in 2016, so she’s obviously comfortable on this track. The aforementioned Korda also finished in a tie for 10th at Kingsmill in 2016, and comes into this year’s event playing the best golf of her career.
Despite making only six starts so far as she eases back into things following off-season jaw surgery, Korda scored a victory in her first start of the season at the Honda LPGA Thailand event, and has three more top 10s in her five additional starts since. Her last outing resulted in a tie for third in late April at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.
THREE MARQUEE GROUPINGS
GROUP 1: Highlighting the morning groupings is Rolex Rankings No. 5 So Yeon Ryu, and 2018 tournament winners No. 9 Jessica Korda and No. 18 Michelle Wie at 8:21 a.m. off the first tee.
GROUP 2: Rolex Rankings No. 3 Lexi Thompson is set to begin her title defense off No. 10 at 1:16 p.m. alongside 2018 tournament winner Brittany Lincicome and fellow Team USA Solheim Cup member Angel Yin.
GROUP 3: In the next group at 1:27 p.m., six-time LPGA champion No. 16 Brooke Henderson will play with 2018 tournament winner No. 11 Moriya Jutanugarn and major champion No. 15 In Gee Chun.
FULL FIELD & ODDS
Place your bets on the Kingsmill Championship at Bovada.
Credits: LPGA Tour Media, Getty Images