GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Twenty-one of the top 25 players in the world rankings are entered in the ShopRite LPGA Classic, which begins at the Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club on Friday.
The 54-hole affair marks the start of five tournaments over the next six weeks, two of them major championships.
Brittany Lincicome will defend her title in a field featuring all seven players who have won LPGA Tour events this season, including top-ranked Yani Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Stacy Lewis, Sun Young Yoo, Angela Stanford, Jessica Korda, and Azahara Munoz.
It also includes Morgan Pressel, fresh off her semifinal loss to Munoz at the Sybase Match Play Championship two weeks ago in an event that saw Pressel penalized for slow play.
Cristie Kerr hasn't won a tournament in nearly two years, since the 2010 Wegmans LPGA Championship, but she's known success at Seaview in years past. Kerr won here in 2004 and tied for second last year, one shot behind Lincicome. She also tied for third here in 2001, and has two top-10 finishes this season.
Kerr has a familiar face on her bag this week. She's reunited with Worth Blackwelder, who was on the bag when Kerr won eight years ago, one of five victories the two have as a team.
"I like to be part of the team," Kerr said. "Yes, I drive the ship, but I like to have a teammate out there. You need them to obviously get the information correct and be able to judge conditions and to know your game."
The 34-year old Kerr is fifth in the world rankings. She points out that it's become more difficult for American players to stand out on a tour that has truly become a global one.
"I think really, honestly, in the last couple years I think we have stepped up," she said. "Angela's won this year. Stacy's won this year. I have not won in over a year now, and I'm looking to get back into the winner's circle."
The Bay Course at Seaview is as short as many of the players will see all year at just 6,155 yards with a par of 71. Originally designed by Donald Ross and Hugh Wilson, it's a links-style test with small greens that place a premium on accuracy.
The wind is the course's first line of defense. If the breeze picks up it can play significantly longer than the listed yardage. If the conditions remain calm, birdie opportunities are abundant. Lincicome finished at 11 under par for the 54 holes a year ago. Miyazato finished at 16 under when she won here in 2010 when the tournament returned to the LPGA Tour schedule after a three-year hiatus.
It was first played in 1986.
Inclement weather is in the weekend forecast, particularly for Friday and Saturday.