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Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Hope springs: 10 things for the LPGA in 2013

By Mechelle Voepel

Long Island wouldn't be very hospitable to golf right now after the blizzard has passed through. But just wait until June, when the U.S. Women's Open will be played at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.

The visually striking course, which opened in 2006, has gorgeous views of the Peconic Bay and is a Jack Nicklaus/Tom Doak collaborative design.

It's near the famed Shinnecock Hills, which has hosted the U.S. Open four times -- most recently in 2004, when some of the PGA's best were grumbling about "putting on Formica" because the greens dried out so hard.

With its waterside location, Sebonack should be affected by wind, to some degree, every day (but we hope not fog). The Women's Open has never been held on Long Island. The closest it has come was Winged Foot in Westchester County in 1972 and 1957, so this year's event is breaking new ground.

Huge crowds, interesting (but not overwhelming) winds, and a competitive Sunday are what we hope for the Women's Open. What are some other things we'd like to see this LPGA season?

The "zing" back in Tseng: It's not really fair to make too much of Yani Tseng's drop-off in 2012 after she dominated the LPGA tour in 2011. But she lost her swagger starting in late spring and never got it back. How will she respond in 2013?

"It all depends on her expectations," said her coach, Gary Gilchrist. "After doing so well, she was expecting to peak every single week. It was all about winning and winning.

"Then when she didn't win, she started to panic. This year, it's about focusing on the process and the plan, being consistent with her workouts, her thinking and having a lot of fun being out there."

No "bummer" endings at Mission Hills: Last year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, it was hard to watch as I.K. Kim missed a one-footer that would have given the South Korean her first major title. Then she lost in a playoff to countrywoman Sun-Young Yoo. Yikes.

The year before, Stacy Lewis won her first major & but then her mother broke her leg on the traditional champion's leap into Poppie's Pond. Ouch.

How about a less-painful conclusion to the season's first major championship?

The return of the Pink Panther: Paula Creamer is closing in on $10 million in career earnings, a mark she almost certainly should eclipse this year. But Creamer has won just one title in the past four years -- albeit a big one, the 2010 Women's Open.

Now 26, can she return to the form of her best years on tour? That was in 2007-08, when she won a combined six times and had 22 other top-10 finishes. Creamer came agonizingly close to a victory last year but lost on the ninth playoff hole -- seriously -- at the Kingsmill Championship to South Korea's Jiyai Shin.

The Solheim Cup has brought out the best in Creamer; she has an 11-3-5 record in four appearances. So perhaps that event in August, shortly after her 27th birthday, will have her extra fired up for this whole year.

A wowzer, not a snoozer, across the pond: The Women's British Open has been decided by fewer than three strokes just twice in the past 10 years.

The 2012 tournament, in fact, was the biggest blowout since the Women's British became an official LPGA event in 1994: Shin won by nine strokes.

Especially with the tournament at the Old Course in St. Andrews for just the second time, it would be great to see a compelling last day.

A sunny Solheim: The last big women's golf event in Colorado, the 2011 U.S. Women's Open, was shortened and pretty much spoiled by rain. That was in July in Colorado Springs. This year's Solheim Cup will be in Parker, Colo., south of Denver in mid-August. Rain, rain stay away.

A great eighth: Asked last year when she might retire, Karrie Webb had a good question as her answer: Why aren't you asking guys like Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods that?

Webb, who turned 38 in December, is a year older than Woods and four-and-a-half years younger than Mickelson. She's still competitive, having finished 12th on the 2012 money list with nearly $885,000. Her most recent victory was in 2011; she won twice that year.

Her most recent major title was the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship, which was the seventh of her career. So it's been a while. But could she get No. 8 in 2013?

It's possible. Webb has had a top-10 finish in at least one major for 16 of her 17 years on tour, 2005 was the exception. Last year, she tied for sixth at the LPGA Championship and tied for fifth at the Women's British Open.

And now she's got an extra chance, because the tour has expanded to five majors, with the Evian Championship being elevated.

Happy homecoming for Feng: The LPGA will have a tournament in Beijing this year, and that's thanks in part to the success of Shanshan Feng. She became the first LPGA title winner from mainland China last year when she took the LPGA Championship in June.

One can expect the rock star treatment for Feng when she plays in her home country in October during the tour's Asian swing.

A surprise welcome back: How about if, after the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November, the tournament's namesake makes a big announcement? That she actually is a little bored with retirement from golf and is ready to become one of the traveling moms on the LPGA tour?

Yeah, it's just a daydream. But we sure miss watching her play.

Annika Sorenstam keeping the rest of her fingers intact: The Hall of Famer had a kitchen-knife accident in January that lent itself to some pretty bad jokes. Such as, "This is one cut that Annika never wanted to make."

Of course, it wasn't very funny when you saw the picture Sorenstam tweeted of the top of her left index finger having been cut off. Yeah, yeah, yeah: a wicked slice.