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Look out Tammie! Green is the pick



Published: Thu, July 18, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



VIENNA -- It's that time of the year again when I go out on a limb and predict the winner of the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic.

Since I'm a perfect 12-for-12 in my previous selections -- I've never hit one yet -- I really hate to make a pick because it is almost like putting the kiss of death on that player.

Before I tell you who is going to win this tournament, let me first tell you who isn't going to win.

Nancy Lopez will not win this event. Not that I wouldn't love to see her win, because I would. Her game is nowhere near what it used to be and she knows it. That's one of the reasons that this is her farewell tour.

If Nancy wins this event, it will be because of her huge heart. There is no finer person on the tour today or in the past. She's the best and she's giving it up because she can't compete.

It's not that she has lost the skills to compete -- she just won't take away from her family the time that she needs to practice like she once did.

No three-peat

Dorothy Delasin won't win the tournament either.

Delasin is the two-time defending champion of this tournament and a three-peat is something that only six other players in LPGA history have ever done.

Talking with Dorothy this week, even she thinks this might be just a little more than she can handle. Then again, nobody expected her to win the last two events, even her.

And past winners Michelle McGann (twice) Jackie Gallagher-Smith and Beth Daniel won't win this event.

McGann is not having a great season, with her best finish being a tie for 13th place at the LPGA Corning Classic. She also has missed five cuts in the 13 events she has played.

Gallagher-Smith, the 1999 winner of this event, is having the same kind of year, although she did finish fourth at The Office Depot Classic. However, she surrounded that finish by five missed cuts.

Daniel, who won the first LPGA event held in the Mahoning Valley in 1990, is having her best season in years. She tied for second at the McDonald's LPGA Championship and was fifth at Rochester.

In her last appearance here, she lost in a playoff that was won by Betsy King in 1992, but she hasn't been back to the area since.

Top three

There are three players I think can win this tournament -- Tammie Green, Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb.

In the four years Pak has played in this event, she has never finished lower than a tie for seventh place. She won it in her first appearance here in 1998 at Avalon Lakes.

Last year, Pak made a double bogey on the par-4 11th hole in the final round and finished two shots back in third place to Delasin.

Webb's season, which would be outstanding for just about anyone else on tour, has not been up to par as far as she's concerned. It only includes on victory (Rochester) and three other top five finishes.

She's capable of winning any tournament she enters. Although she has never seen Squaw Creek Country Club, you can definitely figure she'll be in the hunt come Sunday afternoon.

My pick to win this year's tournament is Green. She just might be my favorite player on tour right now.

She's a lot like Lopez, in that she always makes time for her fans and the media. But the best thing about Tammie is that she was born and raised in Ohio and never lets anybody forget that.

She hasn't been playing all that great this year with a best finish of tie for 16th at The Office Depot event, but this is her first trip back to Ohio this year and she always performs well in her home state.

The Somerset native will have a lot of friends and family here this week as always. She is the leading money winner in this tournament and she is the only player on tour who has played in all 12 of the previous tournaments here.

She was second last year, just missing a shot on the final hole to tie. This year she won't need that to win.

XPete Mollica covers the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic for The Vindicator. Write to him at mollica@vindy.com.




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