LPGA players excited for Portland stop
Unable to play golf for about three months because of COVID-19 restrictions in her native England, Georgia Hall made the most of the interruption.
The runner-up at the 2018 Cambia Portland Classic moved into a new home and busied herself with do-it-yourself projects that would have been put off in a normal golf year.
"I think the distraction of getting settled into my new home and the novelty of the new house meant I didn't really get too stressed about the break," Hall said in an email to the Tribune. "I was very aware that there was so many more important things going on in the world and that people facing so many difficulties as a result of COVID-19 that it helped me to keep everything in perspective."
The shuffled LPGA Tour calendar brings Hall to one of her favorite courses this week for the Cambia Portland Classic, which is on course to take place for the 49th year Friday through Sunday at Columbia Edgewater Country Club.
The tournament has been shortened to 54 holes after Thursday's round was canceled because wildfire smoke is forcasted to impact Portland's air quality through midday Thursday.
This will be the seventh tournament staged since the Tour restarted in late July.
Four weeks after winning the 2018 Women's British Open, Hall placed second at the Cambia Portland Classic. If not for a rough final round, Hall might have won that tournament. But she remains fond of the event.
"I really love the course and the whole setup of the tournament," Hall said in an email. "The main challenge on course comes in the form of over 50 well-placed bunkers and the beautiful tree-lined fairways, which mean you have to be really accurate off the tee. It suits my eye though and I really look forward to returning each year. The course is always in absolutely immaculate condition, which makes it even more enjoyable to play."
Conditions this year might be impacted by wildfire smoke. The LPGA Tour last week dealt with poor air quality and temperatures above 100 for the ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage, California. As of Monday, the Portland tournament was still happening.
For Hall, golf came to a halt for more than four months following the Australian Open in mid-February, where she placed 25th.
Golfing was off-limits in England until July, a restriction Hall said was a challenge, but one she turned into a positive. In addition to moving, Hall put her energy into fitness.
"Actually, I think the break was good for me and I got really into my running, so I feel like I am a lot fitter and also really fresh mentally from the break," Hall said.
Tour events, including this stop, are happening without fans and with limited interaction because of COVID-19. Hall said the absence of a gallery, while disappointing, has not changed the thrill of playing on the LPGA Tour.
"I feel quite used to it now and just try to keep really focused on what I am trying to do out on the course," she said. "It doesn't feel at all like a practice round to me once the tournament starts as you still feel all the excitement and nerves of being in competition and these are all big events we have been playing in."
Though Hall hasn't yet scored as well as she was scoring before the shutdown, she said she is confident in her game.
"All around, I feel pleased with where my game is at," Hall said. "I need to hole more putts but I am happy with my stroke so I know it will come with being back in competition each week."
Another player anxious to get back to Portland is Hannah Green. The Australian surged on the Sunday back nine to win the 2019 Cambia Portland Classic.
It was her second LPGA victory, but because of the schedule shuffle in 2020, the Portland event will be her first experience as a defending champion.
"I am so looking forward to coming back to defend my title at the Cambia Portland Classic. It's pretty exciting as it will actually be my first LPGA title defense," Green said.
"I have nothing but positive memories from last year's tournament and I had such a fun week in Portland along with all the excitement of winning that I can't wait to return," Green said. "I will miss the support from the amazing fans but I will do my best to defend this special title so I can enjoy it all again next year."
The 2021 LPGA schedule has not yet been announced. The LPGA is waiting to see how COVID-19 evolves before announcing next year's complete slate.
Eight 2020 tournaments are scheduled to follow the Portland event, though events in South Korea and Japan could be canceled because of travel and quarantine rules.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan recently said one or two fall tournaments in the United States might be added if the events in Asia cannot happen.
Entering last week's ANA Inspiration, a LPGA major, American Danielle Kang led the tour money list with $643,933 won in 2020 on the strength of back-to-back wins at the LPGA Drive On Championship and at the Marathon LPGA Classic.
Before the ANA Inspiration, the tour had reported a total of eight positive COVID-19 tests from about 3,300 tests of players and caddies on the LPGA and Symetra tours (three caddies and two LPGA players had tested positive).
Hall said the players are thrilled to be able to compete despite the challenges presented by COVID-19. She appreciates sponsors, including Cambia Health, sticking with the events.
"I think we are all incredibly appreciative that our sponsors are continuing to support us and ensure we can keep competing even when they can't welcome the fans on site this year," Hall said.
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