All eyes on Park, Shin, Thompson in LPGA event (Apr 26, 2017)

The pre-tournament news surrounding the LPGA Tour’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout has been about three golfers — one of the event’s most prolific winners, last year’s champion and a woman who is trying to put a ruling in her most recent tournament behind her.

Those three golfers — former World No. 1 Inbee Park of South Korea, defending champion Jenny Shin (also of South Korea) and Lexie Thompson, who lost her last outing in a playoff after an officials’ ruling cost her two two-stroke penalties — head a stellar field in this tournament.

Play begins Thursday at the Las Colinas Country Club in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas.

A field of 144 players will tee it up for 72 holes of stroke play with a total purse of $1.3 million up for grabs, with $195,000 and 500 Race to the CME Globe points going to the winner.

The roster of players for this tournament includes the top 20 golfers in the Rolex Rankings, 91 of the top 100 players on the 2017 LPGA Tour money list and all eight of the tournament winners from this season.

The tournament’s shootout format is one that’s unique to the LPGA Tour and will consist of two cuts. The first will be made after the second round to the top 70 golfers and ties and the second to the top 50 and ties after the third round.

After missing the bulk of last season and making just 10 starts, Park has gotten her 2017 season off to a hot beginning.

Earlier this year, Park became the first two-time winner of the HSBC Women’s Champions for her 18th victory of her LPGA Tour Hall of Fame career and her first on the LPGA since her gold medal triumph in Brazil. Park took six months off following her win at the Olympics because of injuries.

Park is the only two-time winner (2013, 2015) of the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, and she is the only past champion of this event who scored all four rounds in the 60s.

She feels right at home at Las Colinas Country Club.

“I love the golf course and the community and the people,” Park said. “And obviously there is a lot of Korean people living here, so I love them coming out here and watching us.”

Last year at this event, Shin shot a bogey-free final round 67 to pull two strokes clear of Gerina Piller and South Korea’s Amy Yang Mi Jung Hur to capture her first career LPGA victory.

“I feel like my game is coming back after changing my coach in the offseason and getting off to a slow start for the first time in seven years,” Shin explained after being asked about her play so far in 2017. “I was kind of anxious but I turned things around two weeks ago in Hawaii. Hopefully it won’t be six years before I win again.”

Thompson addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon for the first time since the minutes after her loss in the ANA Inspiration on April 2.

Thompson was leading the tournament on the 12th hole of the final round when she was informed that she was being docked two strokes for a violation for improperly marking her ball on 17th green during the third round, plus two more stokes for signing an incorrect scorecard after that round. The original violation was sent to LPGA officials via an email from a television viewer.

“It’s been hard, but I know where my game is at and just having the support of my family means the world to me,” Thompson said Wednesday while holding back tears. “Also seeing players supporting me, it means a lot.”

On Tuesday, the USGA and R&A announced a new decision to limit video review but not viewer call ins or emails.

“Golf is the only sport that call ins are available,” Thompson said. “Do I think it’s right? Not really, but it’s not my say. We’ll see what happens in the future with it.”

This week’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, the only LPGA tournament in Texas, is the ninth event in the Tour’s season-long Race to CME Globe.

With six top-seven finishes in her six starts in 2017, including a win at the ANA Inspiration, So Yeon Ryu of South Korea is atop of the current standings with 1,525 points.