Stephanie Meadow will likely need a top-five finish at this week’s The Annika Driven By Gainbridge LPGA event if she is to squeeze her way into the top-60 on the Race to CME Globe Rankings, thereby making the field for the season-ending, big money CME Globe Championship.
Entering the week at 69th, she needs to secure at least 45 points more than the player ranked 60th, and hope that those in between fall short of their target, meaning that anything less than a top-five will likely fall short unless those in and around the bubble all miss the cut.
It’s a big ask, especially coming off the LPGA’s Asian Swing where she was an ever-present, but whatever happens this week, it’s been an excellent season from the Jordanstown girl with two top-10 placings, including a T3 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and she has her 2024 playing rights safely locked up.
She’s joined in the field by Leona Maguire, who has no such worries about her invitation to Pelican Golf Club next week where she finished second to then world number one Lydia Ko in last year’s event.
Maguire finished tied for 10th in last year’s staging, and will be making just her fourth start since playing an instrumental role in Europe’s retention of the Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin in September.
Defending champion Nelly Korda is going for three-in-a-row at Pelican having successfully defended in 2022, but without an LPGA win in 2023, she faces an uphill task with virtually all of the LPGA Tour stars in attendance, including Race to CME Globe leader Celine Boutier who captured her fourth title of the campaign after a nine-hole playoff in Japan the week before last.
“To three-peat, obviously there is pressure that I want to perform, but I try not to think about it,” Korda said in her pre-tournament press conference. “Really what I’m focused on today is going out, playing nine holes, play a practice round, work on my game, and eventually the first tee shot, and go from there. I try to stay in the present as much as possible, even with all the outside noise.”
Tournament host Annika Sorenstam namechecked Leona Maguire among the 57 ‘The Annika’ alumni that will tee it up in search of victory in the event sponsored by foundation that provides opportunities for women golfers at Junior, Collegiate and Professional levels.
“Well, I love see these young girls living their dream,” Sorenstam said. “I’ve seen some from 16 years back. Whether it’s Nelly Korda, Alison Lee, Leona Maguire. You said 57; I’m not going to repeat all of them, but it’s great to have them all here.
“Anything that you do, when you see it’s working and you see the results, it’s inspiring. The ANNIKA Foundation is a beneficiary this week. What does what mean? It means that one of the sponsor invites went to one of the players that won our collegiate event. It just kind of ties everything together.”
Meadow will join Swedish duo Madelene Sagstrom and Dani Holmqvist in the opening round, getting underway at 12:32 PM Irish time, while Maguire follows shortly after alongside Alison Lee and Nanna Koertz Madsen at 12:54.