Jasmine Suwannapurra and Cydney Clanton return to defend their title at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, July 14-17, in Midland, Michigan. The 72-hole event features two-player teams competing in both foursomes and four-ball for a $2.3 million purse.
The field includes 12 of the top 15 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and will be cut to low 35 teams and ties after 36 holes.
Clanton spent more time on the Symetra Tour in 2019 than the LPGA when she teamed up with Suwannapurra at the Dow. She’d missed a full card that year by $8. It was a caddie that brought the two together, and they lapped the field by six at the inaugural event. The 2020 Dow was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are 10 teams to keep an eye on in the 2021 edition (Rolex rankings in parentheses):
Nelly Korda (1) / Jessica Korda (13)
Together they own four LPGA titles in 2021 and will represent the U.S. in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. “Team Jelly” went 2-0 at the 2019 Solheim Cup in foursomes and tied for 12that this event in 2019. Nelly ranks No. 1 on the tour in birdies while Jessica is fifth.
Danielle Kang (6) / Lydia Ko (10)
Ranked Nos. 3 and 4 in birdies, respectively. The pair, who are close like sisters, first met at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur, won by Kang. (Ko won the next year.) Ko ended a three-year victory drought earlier this year in April. Kang has four top-10 finishes in her last five starts.
This is a partnership that has been a long time coming. Their team name: Sisters from Another Mister.
“Her putting and chipping, her short game around the green, that touch is immaculate,” said Kang. “So I said whoever is going to handle the short game more, she feels more comfortable with that, and I told her I’ll get it on the greens so she can make it from all around the green.”
Inbee Park (3) / So Yeon Ryu (18)
Longtime best friends and former No. 1s are playing in the Dow for the first time. While Park won in her first start in 2021, Ryu hasn’t won on the LPGA since the 2018 Meijer LPGA Classic. Ryu was a bridesmaid in Park’s wedding along with fellow International Crown teammates Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim. Park and Ryu paired up together at the 2014 Crown and were 2-1.
Nasa Hataoka (9) / Lexi Thompson (11)
Hataoka said her caddie, Greg Johnston, who also used to work for Thompson, first got the ball rolling for this pairing. The Japanese star said she felt some pressure about the pairing, but after opening last week’s Marathon LPGA Classic with a 61 (and eventually winning), she felt “a little lighter.”
Thompson is coming in off a T-12 at the Aramco Team Series in London and said the key will be working out their alternate-shot strategy: “…that’s really what it comes down to, and seeing who is going to putt more, who is going to hit more iron shots, and really getting that matchup correctly.”
Ariya Jutanugarn (22) / Moriya Jutanugarn (34)
“Team M&M” – they’re known as Mo and May – tied for third at the Dow in 2019. They’ve teamed up often together in the UL International Crown for Thailand. Ariya won her 11th LPGA title earlier this year in Thailand; Moriya’s best finish this season is a runner-up at Kingsmill.
Brooke Henderson (7) / In Gee Chun (49)
Two friends with very different games: Henderson, a power player who ranks No. 1 in greens in regulation and the elegantly smooth Chun, who counts two majors among her three LPGA titles. Both of these soft-spoken players have mega-watt smiles.
Yuka Saso (8) / Minjee Lee (15)
Yuka Saso celebrates her victory during the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. (Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press)After Minjee Lee’s original partner dropped out of the Dow, she invited Yuka Saso, the LPGA’s newest member, to team up.
“Who would say no, right? It’s Minjee,” said Saso, winner of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open.
Lee summed up her partner’s strengths: “She’s got really accurate iron shots. She’s a really good putter. She hits it really long. She’s young, fearless. I know she’s going to do well. I’m just going to go along for the ride.”
The Kordas aren’t the only players with a brother worth catching. Perhaps Lee can take some inspiration from brother Min Woo’s playoff victory on Sunday at the Scottish Open. Min Woo competes in his first major championship at this week’s British Open.
Patty Tavatanakit (12) / Leona Maguire (59)
Couple of LPGA rookies with two different styles of play who are 1-2 in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race will team up in Midland.
Tavatanakit went wire-to-wire at the year’s first major and Maguire has two runner-up finishes this year and hasn’t finished outside the top 15 in her last four starts.
Sophia Popov (24) / Anne van Dam (145)
Best friends Popov and van Dam were a no-brainer for this event. They’ve teamed up before at an LPGA tournament, only with Popov caddying for van Dam. Their team name – PopDamBottles – came from a Twitter contest.
Stacy Lewis (45) / Maria Fassi (200)
Lewis put Arkansas women’s golf on the map, and Fassi carried on the program’s success by matching Lewis with an NCAA individual title. Now the mentor and mentee will have the chance to be teammates.