Now that the Navistar LPGA Classic, that was played in Prattville at Capitol Hill, is no more, the only time the LPGA Tour will visit the state is for the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic that begins play today on the Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove, part of the statewide Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
Stacy Lewis, the No. 2 ranked player in the world, is the defending champion and there is no bigger name in the women's game. (No. 1 ranked Inbee Park is not teeing it up in Mobile). Lewis looks to defend her title against many strong players, including Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie, former Navistar winner Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, Jiyai Shin, Brittany Lang, Christina Kim, Brittany Lincicome, Azahara Munoz, Karrie Webb and Angela Stanford.
Also look out for sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, who have both been doing very well in the women's golf game, both amateur and professional, and are both in the field.
Locals in the field include former Alabama golfers Kathleen Ekey and Brooke Pancake; former Auburn Tigers Karlin Beck (she also played for Birmingham-Southern), Cydney Clanton and Nicole Hage; and Jordan Hardy (Birmingham-Southern).
Last year Stacy Lewis staved off a Sunday charge from then 17-year-old rookie Lexi Thompson to capture the championship. Lewis shot a final-round 69 to defeat Thompson, who fired a closing 7-under 65, by one stroke. Lewis' lead grew to five strokes after the 2011 Kraft Nabisco champion recorded back-to-back birdies on her first two holes, but the rest of the field wasn't afraid to make a move, including Thompson who matched her career-best round with her 65. Lewis' lead shrank considerably over the back nine as Thompson recorded four birdies and The Woodlands, Texas native ended a streak of 24 holes without a bogey on the par-4 15th.
Lewis hit her second shot into the water to the left of the green and got up-and-down for bogey which put her in a tie for the lead with Thompson, who had just birdied the 16th hole.
Lewis was able to recover her composure and birdie the 16th hole to take a one-shot lead over Thompson. After a par on the 17th, Lewis two-putted from around 30 feet on the 18th to secure her victory.
Lewis later went on to win the Navistar LPGA Classic, also on the Trail, and was named Rolex Player of the Year for 2012.
Tournament director Jonathan Romeo expects low scoring this week due to a lack of rough as recent weather has prevented the rough from growing very deep. Combined with pleasant sunshine, he expects the best in the world to take it deep.
Not that the course will be a pushover. It will measure 6521 yards and play to a par of 72. The purse is $1.2 million, with the champion taking home $180,000.
Plus, the course is another year on from a total renovation in 2009-2010 and thus is more mature and known to last year's players.
The event will raise money for Hope for the Warriors charity and daily passes are $10. For more information visit www.mobilebaylpgaclassic.com