Florida is flavour of the month for the LPGA with the circus moving from east to west this week and making the two and a half hour journey from Boca Raton to Fort Myers.
The LPGA Drive On Championship will be staged at the Crown Colony Golf and Country Club, a venue that hosted the Tour in 1974 and 1975 but has not been on the schedule since.
The Drive On concept was born last year out of the Covid pandemic causing several tournaments to be cancelled and several events bearing the title across the U.S.
This year there will be only one event under the Drive On banner – this one – with a 120-player field and a Thursday to Saturday 54-hole format.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Austin Ernst won the Florida Drive On event last year though the 2022 event is being billed as a completely new tournament.
RIGHT: Despite winning a Drive On event in Florida last year, Austin Ernst is not considered the defending champ this week by the Tour. PHOTO: Michael Reaves/Getty Images.
COURSE: Having been out of the public eye for close to 50 years the Crown Colony layout will be a revelation to the bulk of fans and players alike.
The tournament itself is a low-key affair with no pro-am, no fans and no broadcast television in the U.S. with coverage only available via streaming on Golf Channel and Peacock.
(Australian fans will have coverage thanks to Fox Sports, see guide below for times.)
A comprehensive video tour of each of the course’s 18 holes suggest the players will face a resort style layout though not necessarily easy.
Pushed up greens and some steep run offs into Bermuda rough will put a premium on accuracy with the irons though wide fairways and large greens will likely see good scoring.
One unusual hole to watch for is the par-4 11th which demands a straightforward 200 metre tee shot followed by a short iron to an island green which bears an eery resemblance the 17th at TPC Sawgrass.
Any misstep on the tee shot here could make for some interesting results and potentially big numbers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: It’s another quality field that will line up Thursday with five of the world’s top-10 players taking part.
Nelly Korda lost the No.1 ranking to Jin Young Ko last week after not playing her best but that’s a rarity for her these days and it seems likely she will bounce back this week.
However, it’s at the other end of the world top-10 where this week’s winner might come from, Canada’s Brooke Henderson making a flying start to her 2022 season.
She has scored in the 60’s in five of her eight tournament rounds in Florida and looks to have all parts of her game in good shape.
It has been almost a year since the 10-time winner claimed a trophy but her recent play suggests that drought is unlikely to extend to 12 months.
Solheim Cup standout Leona Maguire makes her second start of the year this week and while T27 last week is hardly scintillating she played some good golf in the tough weekend conditions.
Many will be watching her closely in 2022 on the back of that Solheim Cup performance but she will welcome the spotlight and motivated to make a fast start this week.
Of particular interest this week will be the play of World No.4 Inbee Park who last week missed her first cut since October 2020.
Rounds of 71-75 at the Gainbridge tournament were out of character for the seven-time major winner and the last time she missed a weekend she finished second the following week.
72-HOLE RECORD: Inaugural event.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Su Oh, Sarah Kemp and Katherine Kirk.
Round 1: Friday Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 4am –7am)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 4am – 7am)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 5.30pm – 6.30pm)
*AEDT, check local guides