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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: September 17, 2:49 PM ET
There's no clear favorite for Women's British

By Mechelle Voepel

Since the elevation of the Women's British Open to a major championship in 2001, the event has been played at most of the "name" courses in the United Kingdom made famous over decades by men's competitions.

This year, for the first time, Royal Liverpool is the site for the women's tournament, which begins Thursday.

Last year, the British Open at Carnoustie was part of the Yani Tseng victory tour, one of her seven LPGA wins in 2011. She also won the British title in 2010.

It's been a very different year for Tseng, who has won three times but hasn't won since March. Her best finish since late May was 11th at the Safeway Classic on Aug. 19. Tseng's game and mindset have become a bit muddled for reasons she still seems to be trying to figure out.

And 2012 has been quite different for the LPGA Tour, too: There has been no dominant player or storyline. Unless you count how spread out the trophies have been as a "storyline."

Sun Young Yoo, Shanshan Feng and Na Yeon Choi
The major winners thus far this year are, from left: Sun Young Yoo, Kraft Nabisco; Shanshan Feng, LPGA Championship and Na Yeon Choi, U.S. Women's Open.

The major winners thus far are South Korea's Sun Young Yoo, China's Shanshan Feng, and another South Korean, Na Yeon Choi. Golfers of Asian heritage -- including Korean-born teen Lydia Ko, who now lives in New Zealand -- have won the past seven events.

Paula Creamer almost broke through for her first tour win of 2012 -- and the first for an American since Brittany Lang's title at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic on June 24 -- but fell short Monday after an agonizingly long playoff.

Creamer and South Korea's Jiyai Shin first went eight playoff holes Sunday at the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va. They piled up the pars, one after another, until it was too dark to go at it for the ninth time.

Then Monday morning, it took just one more hole -- and a Creamer three-putt -- for Shin to prevail. Creamer had bogeyed No. 18 in the final round Sunday to prompt the playoff.

Will Creamer take the good from Kingsmill (that she put herself in great position to win the 10th LPGA title of her career) more than the bad (that she was unable to shut the door)?

How about Shin, who won for the first time since 2010? She took the 2008 Women's British title, but Tseng is the only player this season who has won back-to-back (again, she did it in March.)

Could Tseng, who did not play at Kingsmill, finally find her championship form again? Or will we have yet another player who wins for the first time this season?

Five players to watch

Inbee Park, South Korea

She has eight top-10s in 2012, including one victory, and is the LPGA's leading money winner so far this year. She's not driving for show (ranked 45th in average distance), but she is definitely putting for dough (leads the tour in putting average and putts per greens in regulation). She has a steadiness, especially in big events, that could come in handy as the players navigate Royal Liverpool for the first time.

Paula Creamer, United States

Playing the same hole over and over as the playoff Sunday reached absurd lengths; Creamer and Shin had to feel a little as if they were having their own "Groundhog Day." But it was worse for the Pink Panther because she came up short of the trophy. However, the whole tournament showed that Creamer has the game to win now, if not quite the knockout punch. Maybe that will come in the U.K. She has been solid in all the 2012 majors: tied for 20th at the Kraft Nabisco, tied for ninth at the LPGA Championship and tied for seventh at the U.S. Women's Open.

Azahara Munoz, Spain

We have to pick at least one European as a favorite for this tournament, right? We'll go with the young Spaniard, who has six top-10s in 2012, including a victory at the Sybase Match Play Championship in May. She tied for ninth at Kingsmill and tied for 11th in the previous tournament, the CN Canadian Women's Open.

Munoz, who doesn't turn 25 until November, also has one win on the European tour: She took the Madrid Ladies Masters in 2009.

Stacy Lewis, United States

OK, so her Arkansas Razorbacks -- Lewis played her college golf in Fayetteville -- flamed out in spectacular fashion against Louisiana-Monroe to start the football season Saturday. Lewis could restore a little Hogs pride with a return to the winner's circle this weekend. She has two victories in 2012 and has been in the top 10 in her past two starts, including a tie for ninth at Kingsmill.

Karrie Webb, Australia

Maybe we're reaching a bit here for the "golden oldie" Webb. She's only 37, but considering that 15-year-old Ko is in the field, it seems as if Webb has been around forever.

But she's still competitive, enough so that you have to consider her, especially in regard to major championships, which still get her motor running. Plus, Webb's best finish of this season was in Europe; she tied for second at the Evian Masters in late July. Webb has won the Women's British Open three times: in 1995 and '97, before it was a major, and in 2002 after its promotion.