Wednesday, June 4, 2008

LPGA Championship Pairings

Here's how good the field at the LPGA Championship is: Na On Min, who could easily have won the tournament last season as a non-exempt rookie, is going off the 1st tee at 7:26 am, in the 2nd pairing of the day. She shouldn't feel too bad, though--the 2004 rookie of the year, Shi Hyun Ahn, is going off at the same time...on the back.

So who made it into the primest of prime-time quadrants? That would be the last morning groups off the 1st tee this week:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Angela Park
Michele Redman
Se Ri Pak

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Laura Davies
Sandra Gal
Sophie Gustafson

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Annika Sorenstam
Seon Hwa Lee
Diana D'Alessio

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Suzann Pettersen
Christina Kim
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Louise Friberg
Karen Stupples
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 9:27 AM
Mi Hyun Kim
Natalie Gulbis
Meg Mallon

Yup, they're going 6 deep for the Golf Channel this week. It's hard to say whether Pak and Park, Gustafson and Gal, Sorenstam and Lee, or Creamer and Friberg is the most interesting big name-young gun combo, much less whether one of them or the Pettersen-Kim-Stanford rumble will feature the most pre-weekend fireworks.

And, yes, the tournament organizers put the world #1 in a different quadrant--the afternoon one off the 10th tee:

Start Time: 12:25 PM
Brittany Lincicome
Nicole Castrale
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 12:36 PM
Laura Diaz
Momoko Ueda
Jane Park

Start Time: 12:47 PM
Karrie Webb
Morgan Pressel
Lorena Ochoa

Start Time: 12:58 PM
In-Kyung Kim
Inbee Park
Jeong Jang

Start Time: 1:09 PM
Helen Alfredsson
Cristie Kerr
Meena Lee

Start Time: 1:20 PM
Pat Hurst
Wendy Ward
Leta Lindley

Personally, I would have rather seen Tseng with Mi Hyun Kim on the front, and the struggling Gulbis with her struggling American peers on the back. Or Castrale and Lincicome ditched and replaced with two players--say, another young gun like Jee Young Lee, Na Yeon Choi, or Song-Hee Kim and a mid-career veteran like Lindsey Wright, Hee-Won Han, or Candie Kung--who would definitely have played their way onto such a stage.

Not that they're entirely out of the limelight--some of them are going off #10 in the morning:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Julieta Granada
Jin Joo Hong
Maria Hjorth

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Sun Young Yoo
Lorie Kane
Silvia Cavalleri

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Hee Young Park
Eun-Hee Ji
Liselotte Neumann

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Katherine Hull
Jimin Kang

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Meaghan Francella
Young Kim
Hee-Won Han

Start Time: 9:27 AM
Kristy McPherson
Minea Blomqvist
Jee Young Lee

That leaves the afternoon 1st tee quadrant, usually one of the strongest, as arguably the weakest--if you go by name recognition and not by quality of play (as the mercy inclusions, Miyazato and Yim, are playing far better than Francella and Granada, while the rest are fairly evenly matched):

Start Time: 12:25 PM
Carin Koch
Allison Fouch
Sherri Steinhauer

Start Time: 12:36 PM
Stacy Prammanasudh
Ai Miyazato
Rachel Hetherington

Start Time: 12:47 PM
Karine Icher
Brittany Lang
Catriona Matthew

Start Time: 12:58 PM
Brandie Burton
Lindsey Wright
Teresa Lu

Start Time: 1:09 PM
Giulia Sergas
Candie Kung
Sung Ah Yim

Start Time: 1:20 PM
Russy Gulyanamitta
Ji Young Oh
Song-Hee Kim

Overall, though, it's hard to quibble with the tournament organizers' ranking of the top 72 in the field, given the necessary nods to getting players with a range of times on tour, nationalities, and name recognitions out in prime time. It'll all even out by the weekend, in any case, when the pairings are based strictly on current performance.

It'll be interesting to see if the streaky Gloria Park can get it going from her late afternoon time off the back and whether Junior Mints who may be finding their inner birdie machines again like Linda Wessberg (8:21 am off #1), H.J. Choi (8:21 am off #10), and Kyeong Bae (1:42 pm off #10) will actually do so this week. I guess making your first cut has its privileges: instead of being in the first group off the back, Anna Rawson is now in the last, alongside an actual (amateur) champion, Maria Jose Uribe.

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