It's Cristie Kerr's time
Cristie Kerr has the stage.
At No. 4 in the world, the world's top-ranked American will tee off in Thursday's opening round of the State Farm Classic in Springfield, Ill., not only as the defending champ but riding a building wave.
Kerr, who also will be defending champ at the LPGA Championship -- the year's second major -- in two weeks, has yet to win this year but has contended almost every week.
In eight tournament appearances, Kerr, 33, has five top-10s, including runner-up finishes at the Sybase Match Play Championship in May and last week's Shoprite Classic.
She has broken par in 14 of 24 competitive rounds in 2010 and ranks third on tour in total birdies.
"I have nothing to hang my head about," Kerr said Sunday. "You can always say what if, but I'm looking forward to next week."
A breakthrough will have to be earned the hard way. This week's field has drawn pretty much everyone.
The top 24 on the LPGA money list and all but five of the top 100 on the Rolex World Rankings are entered in the 150-player field. That features eight of the top 10, including Nos. 1 through 6 -- Yani Tseng, Suzann Pettersen, Jiyai Shin, Kerr, Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim.
King and the kid
When the U.S. Women's Open is played next month (July 7-10) at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, 55-year-old Betsy King will be the oldest player in the field, and 12-year-old Mariel Galdiano, of Pearl City, Hawaii, will be the youngest.
Both earned their places by advancing through qualifying.
King, who won U.S. Women's Open in 1989 and 1990, will be playing in the event for the first time since 2004.
Galdiano, who earned medalist honors at the sectional qualifier at Poipu Bay Golf Club in Koloa, Hawaii, is the third-youngest qualifier in Women's Open history, at 12 years, 11 months and 3 days.
Alexis Thompson was 12 years, 4 months and 18 days old when she qualified for the 2007 championship and Morgan Pressel was 12 years, 11 months when she qualified in 2001.
Caught in Annika's web
It's hard to say if it is a good thing or not for the LPGA, but women's golf's biggest attention-getter remains the happily retired Annika Sorenstam.
Although she stepped away from competition at the end of 2008, Sorenstam's popularity hardly seems to have diminished, as shown by the news she will soon begin a series of webcasts to offer tips, discuss her current projects and answer fan questions.
Her first offering is scheduled for Thursday at 4 p.m. Fans can visit annikasorenstam.com to sign up for her monthly newsletter and receive an invitation for her first webcast.
"I am excited to be starting the webcasts," Sorenstam said. "This is a way for me to continue to share my passions with my fans. I am looking forward to the live interaction that the webcasts will offer."
According to Sorenstam, a new version will be available every four to six weeks.
The State Farm Classic has been a part of the LPGA schedule since 1976, played in Springfield, Ill. From its start through 2006, it was played at The Rail Golf Course. In 2007 it was moved to its current home at Panther Creek Country Club.
Originally known as the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Golf Classic, the tournament was underwritten solely by the owners of The Rail Golf Course for its first two years. A community-based, not-for-profit organization operates the event.
State Farm Insurance took over title sponsorship in 1993. Since 1980, more than $2.5 million has been contributed to medical and children's charities from tournament proceeds.
In February of this year, however, tournament organizers announced that State Farm will drop its sponsorship after this week's event.
Kerr held off late challenges by Anna Nordqvist and Na Yeon Choi at the rain-delayed Monday finish, shooting a 3-under 69 in the final round to claim the first LPGA Tour victory by an American since Michelle Wie won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational the previous November.
Kerr, who also won the title in 2004, finished at 22-under 266, a shot ahead of Nordqvist and Choi. "That definitely motivates me to be the top American and top player on tour," Kerr said. Karrie Webb played her way into a tie for 11th with a final-round 65.
Panther Creek, designed by Hale Irwin, a PGA Tour and Champions Tour Hall of Famer, opened in 1992. It will play this week as a 6,746-yard par 72, but can be stretched to 7,244 yards.
This links-style course has a variety of terrain, with generous fairways and large greens. Water will come into play on 13 holes and many bunkers are incorporated throughout the design.
By the Numbers
• 2: Amateurs to qualify.
• 18: Rookies in the field.
• 1.7: Total purse in millions, with $255,000 to the winner.
• 275.5: Average driving yardage of the LPGA's longest hitter, Brittany Lincicome -- 3.3 yards farther than No. 2 Michelle Wie.