LPGA players loving conditions (and rare courtesy vehicle perk from Ford) at Seville in Arizona

GILBERT, Ariz. — The LPGA is no stranger to the state of Arizona. Over the last 75 or so years, the tour has visited the state close to 70 times.

This year, the tour is in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert for the inaugural Ford Championship presented by KCC. Nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings are here as are all five tournament champs so far in 2024.

The Thunderbirds, the civic organization that runs the PGA Tour’s WM Phoenix Open, joined as a founding partner about a month ago and kicked in some extra funds, raising the total purse to $2.25 million, with the winner getting an oversized check for $337,500.

Just a few weeks before that, Ford came on as title sponsor, and that provided an unusual perk for the LPGA players.

“Shoutout to Ford for supplying every single player with a Ford vehicle this week,” said 2024 tournament director Emily Podzielinski. “We had pretty much every player take us up on that offer, which is great.

“That doesn’t happen, ever on the tour, for the players that every single person gets the opportunity to receive that.”

After two rounds, players said they were enjoying the set up of the golf course, too.

2024 Ford Championship
2024 Ford Championship

Ayaka Furue of Japan putts on the sixth green during the first round of the 2024 Ford Championship at Seville Golf and Country Club in Gilbert, Arizona. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Azahara Munoz, who played her college golf at nearby Arizona State, opened her week 64-68. Is there anything in particular she likes about Seville Golf and Country Club, a Gary Panks-design that opened in 2002?

“Everything, I guess,” she said. “It’s good. It sets up good. Gives you really good lines off the tee. The greens are firm, which is nice but it’s kind of forgiving, too, so you can be aggressive and make lots of birdies.”

Wide fairways, firm and fast greens and plenty of sunshine have generated low scores. The 36-hole cut came in at 5 under, tying the LPGA mark, which was last achieved in 2019.

There’s already been a 61 (Hannah Green), three 63s (Pajaree Anannarukarn, Sarah Schmelzel and Yuka Saso) and a slew of 64s by Munoz, Carlota Ciganda, Isi Gabsa, My Hyang Lee, Gabi Ruffels, Lydia Ko, Lilia Vu and Frida Kinhult.

Celine Boutier of France won the LPGA’s Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain in nearby Gold Canyon a year ago in what turned out to be a one-year stint.

“I love coming to Arizona. I think the golf courses here are so nice, and especially this time of the year they’re always pristine condition,” she said. “Obviously a little bit sad not to be playing Superstition Mountain again but I think it’s still a great track here. Be a good test to shoot some low scores.”

After shooting 65-69 over the first two days, Boutier confirmed her initial impressions.

“It’s been good. I feel like this course is very scorable, so you get a lot of birdie chances. The par 5s are pretty reachable, so I think it’s a scorable course.”

Nelly Korda, one of the longer hitters on tour, returned to No. 1 in the world after winning last week.

“The par 3s are pretty tough out here, but all the par 5s are pretty gettable,” she said. Korda had an eagle and seven birdies with just two pars on the course’s four par 5s over her first 45 holes.

The LPGA held one-off events at the Legacy (2000), Papago (2009) and at Superstition (2023). Will Seville be a one-and-done as well, or will the tour return in 2025?

“I think we’re going to get through this one and all I know is it’s amazing having Ford on board, Ford Motor Company as the title partner,” Podzielinski said. “We want to be here in the Valley for a really long time and so we’re going to build a community-sustainable event and we’re excited to do that. This one came really really quickly and we’re happy with it. The club’s been great, the community’s been great but a lot of things have to fall into place before we start planning for 2025.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek