• Only seven of the last 37 LPGA majors have been won by Americans, and none of the last three. Who has the best chance to turn the tide? Michelle Wie. Where? The LPGA Championship. Why? School will be out, and Locust Hill Country Club (outside Rochester) has a final nine holes that favor her ever-more-polished knockdown shot, with the par-5 17th an eagle opportunity for her even if the tees are all the way back.
• I believe the LPGA should rebuild its foundation of U.S. events first, but if it insists on going global, go to Rio. Take advantage of the Olympic future by building a fan base over the next six years and encouraging the growth of the women's game in South America.
• Veterans will rule. The new grooves are going to be an adjustment for young pros as many have never truly experienced flyer lies. The youngsters will need to bring more creativity to their short games, which currently depend too much on the flop shot. They'll also need to be more conservative with their long games. With the new grooves making it hard to spin the ball, on some courses the bomb-and-gouge style will present more risk than reward.
• Along those lines, look for Steve Stricker(above) to win his first major—and don't be surprised if he does so at Augusta. He's been playing with conforming grooves in his irons for four or five years and has not had high spinning wedges in his bag, either. He'll face very few changes in '10, and he's already one of the best in the game from 100 yards in. He also drives the ball well and putts with the precision of a surgeon.
Dottie Pepper is a 17-year LPGA veteran and an on-course analyst for NBC and Golf Channel.
GOLF PLUS will next appear in the Jan. 18, 2010, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
ROBERT BECK (PEPPER)
FRED VUICH (STRICKER)