No Way I'm not backing Pettersen in NW Arkansas

The Ladies head to North West Arkansas for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G. Technically the event started in 2007 but the weather was the winner that year, whilst Stacy Lewis won last year at the Pinnacle CC which has hosted since the event started. It's a 54 hole event and so it will start of Friday the 26th June, around 1pm UK time.

The Course & Past Winners

The Pinnacle CC is just outside the town of Rogers which is in north-west Arkansas, as you may have guessed. A parkland course that plays 6,386 yards and a par 71 for the ladies. A few trees keep it tight in places, but accuracy will be important to avoid the bunkers and also the plenty of water around, especially the 15th which is an island green par 3.
Oh and if you're in the area and feeling fit there's a 5k run around the course you can enter.
The past winners of this event have been:
Year Player Score Players Under Par Winning Margin
Stacy Lewis
Inbee Park
Ai Miyazato
Yani Tseng
Yani Tseng
Jiyai Shin
Seon Hwa Lee
The Weather
Another event where the winning score has been the same for the last 4 years, 12 under par, although the field scoring has been a bit more consistent. Indeed the field seem to be getting used to the course as apart from the first year it has improved just about every year, 1.33 shots over par in 09, then 0.87, 0.88, 0.68, 0.39 & just 0.21 over par. 2008 the course played as a par 72 and was 0.62 shots under par.

The Contenders

For the first time in a while there is just one hot favourite at a ladies event, not because players are missing the event but because the form of the other two regular favourites has dropped off. However Inbee Park's form continued with her third win of the season in the last event two weeks ago, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. Whilst she has finished no worse than 18th in her thirteen events this year, a run that has helped her back to the World No 1 spot. As for her form here then she is a past winner in 2013, 4th in 2010 & 12, 10th in the first year 2008, did miss the cut in 2009, 38th in 2011 and 15th last year. She has an average round of 68.95 which is 7th best in the field and leads the field with 17 under par rounds at 85% which is 5th best.
Also with 17 under par rounds here is the defending champion Stacy Lewis although because she hasn't missed a cut she is at 81% which is 7th best in the field. Also a touch behind Park with an average round of 69.00. Has made all 7 cuts here finishing 50th, 21st, 9th, 8th, 19th, 4th and the win last year. Worry is her current form, without a win since this event last year, and 13th a couple of weeks ago was her best performs in four events. Missed the cut at the Manulife LPGA Classic the week before the KPMG, her first since mid-2013, 51st 7 25th before that. Had been in good form to start the season with no worse than 15th in her first 9 events.
With the best record here and the third of the usual triumvirate at the top of the betting is Lydia Ko. She's only played here for the last two year finishing 4th in 2013 and 2nd last year, so she leads the field with an average round of 67.50 and not only has all 6 rounds under par she has them all under 70. Again though current form is poor in recent weeks, she did win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in April to pick up her second win of the year, but had been 51st in the event before that and has followed the win with 41st, 16th, 27th and a missed cut at the KPMG, her first ever on tour.
Two others have all their rounds under par with So Yeon Ryu making it 9 from 9. She finished 10th in 2012 on debut, lost in a playoff to Park in 2013 and was 5th last year, three good results which leave her just behind Ko with an average round of 67.59. Although she did manage a couple of top ten's she has had a relatively slow start to the year, but found some form recently with 2nd at the Kingsmill Championship, 4th at the Manulife LPGA Classic and 13th a couple of weeks ago.
The current leader of the Symetra Tour is Mexican Alejandra Llaneza and she is the other player with all rounds under par having been 15th on debut last year. Again though form on that tour has been poor following her win at the start of May, followed it with 19th, a missed cut and 40th last week. Interspersed in those results have been four appearances on the main tour where she missed the cut at the LOTTE Championship, 52nd in North Texas, 66th at the Kingsmill and another missed cut two weeks ago.
Back to those at the top of the betting and Suzann Pettersen (pictured 2nd right with Lewis, Park & Ko) also has a good record here with 23rd on debut in 2010 her worst result. Followed that with 10th & 14th, then improved with 7th & 6th last year, and so she has an average round of 68.87 which is 5th best and 87% (13/15) which is beaten only by the 100% gang. She has also found some form recently with 5th at the Kingsmill following a missed cut at the LOTTE Championship, 23rd at the Shoprite LPGA Classic, won the Manulife LPGA Classic and 7th a couple of weeks ago.
A player that has dropped way down the ranking in recent times has been Ai Miyazato who is now ranked 122nd in the World. That reflects in her record here, 4th in 2008 then 10th, 9th, 3rd & won in 2012, dropped to 11th in 2013 and missed the cut by a shot last year. Still averages 68.50 which is 3rd best in the field and 75% (15/20) of rounds under par, but that was 68.17 & 83% before last year. Form this year is not great either with a best of 17th at the JBTC Founders Cup in March. Followed that with a pair of 41st, 18th at the LOTTE Championship, 26th at the Swing Skirts & 20th at the Kingsmill were a better run but then 42nd at the Shoprite and missed the cut at the Manulife LPGA Classic, her last event.

My Selection

Last year I backed Ryu to 5th and it is tempting to go with her again, although her form is on a slight downward trend. I also backed Miyazato to her win in 2012, but her form is too poor to contemplate. Whilst Arkansas University graduate Lewis is also tempting to retain her title, but again recent form puts me off. I think therefore I will go with Suzann Pettersen, a good record here and one which is improving, plus good recent form with three top 7 finishes in her last 4 events including a win. Ladbrokes the best odds at 12-1.