The LPGA is back! Here are 5 player storylines to follow

Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang and Nelly Korda

Lexi Thompson (left), Danielle Kang (middle) and Nelly Korda (right) are the three top-ranked American players on the LPGA Tour.

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The LPGA’s 2020 season only completed four events before the coronavirus pandemic forced a lengthy hiatus. But after over five months of inactivity, the Tour will resume with this week’s inaugural LPGA Drive On Championship in Toledo, Ohio — a 144-player, 54-hole event that will forgo spectators, a pro-am and sponsors, and offer a $1 million purse.

So what can we expect as the ladies return to competition? Here are five storylines to follow.

Inbee Park’s resurgence

Park is the LPGA’s most recent champion, claiming her first victory since the 2018 Founder’s Cup at February’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. The 32-year-old has moved up to No. 11 in the world after dropping as low as No. 19. The former World No. 1 has been the top-ranked player for a number of stretches throughout her career, but most notably for 59 weeks during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Given her form before the break, with both a win and a T2 in four events, she appears poised to make another run.

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Can Nelly Korda claim the top spot in the world ranking?

Nelly Korda is currently ranked second in the world, behind South Korean Jin Young Ko.

While Ko has a solid lead, and has held the top position for for a year and counting, Korda has a chance to become only the third American to reach No. 1 in the world since 2006 (the other two: Cristie Kerr and Stacy Lewis). Korda, 21, has three career victories and 25 top 10s since 2017.

Americans to watch

There are currently five Americans in the World Top 20: Nelly Korda (No. 2), Danielle Kang (No. 4), Lexi Thompson (No. 9), Jessica Korda (No. 17) and Lizette Salas (No. 19). Of these names, Kang has perhaps the most recent momentum, with four top 3 finishes in her last five starts, including a win in October.

Jin Young Ko

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Can Ko continue her reign?

Jin Young Ko has a firm grasp on the World No. 1 ranking — a position she’s held since last July and has only solidified after claiming four wins (including two major championships) and 12 top-ten finishes in 2019.

Can anyone challenge her? It will be a tall order for sure. Ko’s lead over Nelly Korda, ranked second in the world, is currently over 142 points. For context, over on the PGA Tour, Jon Rahm’s lead over Rory McIlroy is only 39 points.

What’s in store for Lexi?

If the below hype video posted to Lexi Thompson’s Instagram account is any indication, the 25-year-old is pumped to get back on the course. Though the young American star endured a series of difficulties in 2017 and 2018, including the struggles with her body image, her mother’s cancer diagnosis and her grandmother’s death. She also took a self-imposed social media break last April. But since then, Thompson has been resurgent. She won the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June and has finished in the top 15 in her last three starts, launching her back inside the World’s Top 10 at No. 9.

The re-started LPGA season begins on Thursday, July 31 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. You can catch the action on Golf Channel.

Jessica Marksbury

Golf.com

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.