Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wegmans LPGA Pairings

Time to teach Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle a thing or two about analyzing pairings in the Wegmans LPGA. Yes, Michelle Wie is getting the usual first-off-the-first treatment reserved for struggling media draws like Anna Rawson this season, but is that really the top story? And if you're going to mention a local like Danielle Downey (7:59 am off #10), at least give a shout-out to fellow New Yorkers Laura Diaz, Moira Dunn (8:21 am off #10), and Meaghan Francella while you're at it. But enough of the details. Let's take a broader look at the prime-time pairings.

The late-morning 1st-tee quadrant is definitely the most compelling:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Paula Creamer
Lorena Ochoa
Suzann Pettersen

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Katherine Hull
Louise Friberg
Maria Hjorth

Start Time : 8:54 AM
Annika Sorenstam
Jeong Jang
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Sung Ah Yim
Christa Johnson
Inbee Park

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Candie Kung
Michele Redman
Grace Park

What a great reward for Tseng to be paired with Sorenstam after outplaying her so thoroughly over the weekend in the LPGA Championship; we'll see how they match up in their first head-to-head rounds of the season against each other and against Jang, who has among the best recent records in this tournament of just about anyone in the field and has suffered so many near-misses over the past year. And of course pairing Ochoa with the 2 leading rivals of her generation is a great move. I also like the Park-Kung pairing, as both are on the comeback trail this year (Kung farther along, to be sure). Putting Friberg with Hjorth should be interesting, although I would rather have seen Gustafson with them than Hull. But it would have been nice to see a more compelling match for Inbee Park--perhaps another one of the top Super Sophs like In-Kyung Kim (who came this close here last year to becoming the first winner in her class--a post yet to be filled, by the way) would have made the most sense....

The next-best quadrant is the early-afternoon 10th-tee one:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Nancy Lopez
Diana D'Alessio
Lorie Kane

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Brittany Lincicome
Teresa Lu
Jee Young Lee

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Seon Hwa Lee
Morgan Pressel
Laura Diaz

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Cristie Kerr
Mi Hyun Kim
Karen Stupples

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Juli Inkster
Leta Lindley
Natalie Gulbis

The Kerr-Kim and Lee-Pressel pairings are genius and could only have been topped by pairing Gulbis with Kung and Park in the previous quadrant--some fantastic peer rivalries there. It's also nice to see Junior Mints who have been having good seasons like Lee and Lu paired together. Would have been nice to see Hall of Famers Lopez and Inkster together, though, not that the former has a chance to come close to making the cut.

The eventual winner may just come from the early-afternoon 1st-tee quadrant:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Laura Davies
Hee-Won Han
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Christina Kim
Sun Young Yoo
Catriona Matthew

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Sophie Gustafson
Brittany Lang
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Jane Park
Angela Park
Eun-Hee Ji

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Allison Fouch
Song-Hee Kim
Lindsey Wright

There's not a weak golfer in the entire quadrant (which can't be said of the previous 2); particularly impressive is the Fouch-Kim-Wright pairing. Putting Jane and Angela Park together with Ji is also a nice move, as they may be the 3 top golfers among the Super Sophs, who are shaping up to be one of the best and deepest rookie classes in LPGA history (the Junior Mints are deeper but the Super Sophs' top 10 matches up well with theirs).

That leaves the late-morning 10th-tee quadrant as the weakest of the 4:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Julieta Granada
Pat Hurst
Ji Young Oh

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Meaghan Francella
Giulia Sergas
Silvia Cavalleri

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Sherri Steinhauer
Meena Lee
Brandie Burton

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Rachel Hetherington
Liselotte Neumann
Jimin Kang

Start Time: 9:16 AM
In-Kyung Kim
Russy Gulyanamitta
Helen Alfredsson

Ji Young Oh and Jimin Kang stand out as the players with the best seasons or best recent runs lately, although Granada and Francella have shown some signs of breaking out of their continuing sophomore jinxes, Hetherington has been on the comeback trail this season, and Hurst is always capable of going low. But overall, the fact that Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Na Yeon Choi, and Momoko Ueda are sitting this one out shows.

Among those not getting into the prime-time quadrants, Ai Miyazato (7:26 am off #10) and Vicky Hurst (1:38 pm off #10) are the biggest stories because of their success on the JLPGA and Futures Tour. Ai-chan may just end up starting a wave of young Japanese imports to American professional golf. Hurst just got her second win on the Futures Tour. But there are any number of young players who could make some noise this week, from Sandra Gal (7:37 am off #1) to Na On Min (1:27 pm off #10).

That's what makes the LPGA so interesting week in and week out!

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