EDMONTON – When the LPGA returns to Canada this week for the CN Canadian Women's Open, they will find the course at the Royal Mayfair Club has changed since the last time it was played in the Alberta capital in 2007.
Precision hitters and keen readers of the green, such as top ranked Inbee Park and No. 2 Stacy Lewis, should find the course to their liking, according to club pro Robb James.
"It's all about the second shot out here," said James in an interview as crews around him raked, pruned, and mowed the course to prepare for the event.
"(You're) trying to find that perfect landing area so that you've got an opportunity to control your approach shot and get it on the right portion of the green.
"(And) because our greens are large and have got some significant contouring, you better have a pretty good putting game to be able to try to convert the rare birdie opportunities you're going to have on some of these very challenging par-fours."
The Royal Mayfair is tucked into the river valley opposite the city's downtown, surrounded for the most part by the winding North Saskatchewan River.
It is secluded and protected by towering poplar trees, but buffeted by winds that prevail from the northwest and can sweep and twist in different directions from hole to hole.
"It plays tricks in terms of the wind," said James. "You've got that corridor where the wind just rips down the river valley and it can swirl around a bit."
Any errant shot will force players to contend with 93 sandtraps, two man-made water hazards and greens that, depending on pin placements, will see golfers fighting to avoid overhanging tree limbs.
Since 2007, when the open was won by Lorena Ochoa, there have been changes to the back nine, with crews moving sandtraps and reshaping the holes to present a greater challenge to hit more precise approach shots.
The course is "not overly long," with two par-fives, said James.
"It's going to favour the great ball-strikers, the ones that can shape their shots, that can control their yardages," he said.
"A big hitter just can't step up here and blast it."
Tournament organizers have confirmed that other top-10 ranked players coming to Edmonton to fight for the US$2-million purse include: Suzann Pettersen (3rd), Na Yeon Choi (4th), Karrie Webb (6th) and Jiyai Shin (9th).
Other notables in the field are: Paula Creamer (11th), Cristie Kerr (12th), Ai Miyazato (13th), Yani Tseng (14th), Hee Young Park (15th), and Angela Stanford (16th).
Defending champion Lydia Ko of New Zealand is also confirmed.
The Canadian contingent will be led by veteran Lorie Kane of Charlottetown.
She will be joined by Maude-Aimee LeBlanc of Sherbrooke, Que., Sara-Maude Juneau of Fossambault, Que., Rebecca Lee-Bentham of Toronto, Alena Sharp of Hamilton, and Stephanie Sherlock of Barrie, Ont.
Competing by way of exemptions are: Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C.; Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont.; Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ont.; Augusta James of Bath, Ont., and Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont.