LPGA Tour: Sybase Match Play Championship Preview

KUALA LUMPUR MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 22: Michelle Wie of USA Yani Tseng of Taiwan and Suzann Pettersen of Norway walk towards the 1st hole during Round One of the Sime Darby LPGA on October 22 2010 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

World No. 1 Yani Tseng heads up a star-studded field at the LPGA Tour's Sybase Match Play Championship.

Suzann Pettersen plans a fierce defense of her Sybase Match Play Championship title this week at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J.

“You can be aggressive and for me, that is what I love to do,” Pettersen told LPGA.com about her approach to match play competition.

Pettersen, No. 3 in the world rankings, will join 63 other top women in the third annual match play tilt that starts on Thursday. Last year, she held off Natalie Gulbis, Amy Hung, and Stacy Lewis before downing Cristie Kerr in the final match for her first of two wins of the 2011 season. Pettersen also came out on top when she defeated Na Yeon Choi in a playoff at the Safeway Classic in August.

Top-ranked and top-seeded Yani Tseng leads the field, which includes seven of the world’s top-10 golfers. Tseng, the incumbent Player of the Year for two seasons running, has three LPGA wins so far this season and will face Jeong Jang in the first round in the Patty Berg division, a bracket that also boasts Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome.

Ai Miyazato heads up the Kathy Whitworth division and will face Mariajo Uribe in the opener. Other notables in the bracket include Kerr and Michelle Wie.

The top seed in the Mickey Wright division, second-ranked Choi will draw Grace Park in the first round. The Wright bracket also includes Morgan Pressel and Gulbis.

In the Annika Sorenstam division, Pettersen will have to get by Jodi Ewart in her opening contest. Sophie Gustafson, Karrie Webb, and Lewis are some of the big names in Pettersen’s division.

Pettersen, by the way, is apparently not a big fan of the night life in this mid-Atlantic Garden State burg. The 31-year-old from Norway said she planned to take it easy when not attacking the pins.

“Sleep when I am not playing,” Pettersen said about her “favorite things to do while in New Jersey.”

In other tour-related news, Lexi Thompson will not compete in this week’s field, and will, instead, attend her high school prom with U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Mark Scott. The 17-year-old golf pro chose the 20-year-old Marine reservist from more than 100 military men who applied via her Facebook page to accompany her to the prom at Coral Glades High School.

"This is probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make," Thompson said in a video announcing the winner, who will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "But there was one story that stood out to me... I chose [Mark] for his passion and courage for his country and for his dedication.”

Scott, from Naperville, Ill., received a Purple Heart after being wounded while serving in Afghanistan.

On the course, the popular Thompson will be the star attraction at next month's CVS Caremark Charity Classic. The youngest golfer to win an LPGA event will join retired tour legends Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, Tseng, and Juli Inkster in the annual event hosted by PGA Tour pros Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade. The tourney is scheduled for June 17-June 19 at Rhode Island Country Club.

The LPGA, by the way, wants to make it easier for fans to follow their favorite players via social media. Under the new “LPGA @CaddieBib Program,” which will launch at next month’s Wegmans LPGA Championship, the bib of each player’s caddie will feature the golfer’s last name and Twitter handle. Paula Creamer’s bib, for example will read: CREAMER @ThePCreamer.

"We feel that our players are some of the most accessible and fan friendly in all of professional sports,” Kraig Kann, the tour’s chief communications officer, said in a statement on Monday. “They are our biggest ambassadors and understand the value of ‘connection.’ We think this idea will add to our fan experience and create more interest in our tour by showcasing the players as people."

The Wegmans LPGA Championship will run from June 7-10 at Locust Hill CC in Pittsford, N.Y.

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