Wednesday, July 16, 2008

State Farm Classic Preview/Predictions/Pairings

Not so long ago, I offered this mini-preview of the State Farm Classic:

there'll be great opportunities for players such as Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Jane Park, Jee Young Lee, and Christina Kim (the only ones from the top 20 of the money list currently in the field) to make up some significant ground on those ahead of them or lose ground to those relatively close behind them like Hee-Won Han, Angela Park, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang, Stacy Prammanasudh, Sun Young Yoo, and Ai Miyazato. And Vicky Hurst and Michelle Wie will get their turn to compete against the big girls.

As Hound Dog argues, we should look for the 19-year streak of winners coming in double digits under par to continue this week, but we should remember to take the historical stats with a grain of salt. The State Farm returns to Panther Creek Country Club once again after decades at The Rail (as in "there's no jail at..."), but a month and a half earlier than in its inaugural year there. With water on the 4th, 8th through 11th, and 17th and 18th, there are plenty of chances for big swings, so despite its length (over 6,600 yards), only the most accurate and consistent of the big bombers in the field will really have an advantage.

Here are the players I feel will come out on top:

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Choi Na Yeon
3. Park Jane
4. Tseng Ya Ni
5. Park Angela
6. Lee Jee Young
7. Hurst Vicky
8. Han Hee-Won
9. Kim Christina
10. Lang
11. Stanford
12. Yoo Sun Young

Alts: Oh Ji Young, Hurst Pat, Choi H.J.

You heard it here 1st--Ai-chan's 1st LPGA win comes this week! Hoping I'll get back on track in the Pakpicker, as well....

The pairings are actually pretty interesting this week. They start with a bang in the late-morning 1st-tee prime-time quadrant:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Michele Redman
Shi Hyun Ahn
Johanna Head

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Jimin Kang
H.J. Choi
Hee-Won Han

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Kris Tamulis
Brittany Lang

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Sherri Steinhauer
Christina Kim
Angela Park

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Pat Hurst
Stacy Prammanasudh
Ai Miyazato

That's right: Kim and Steinhauer, who had one of the best Sunday shootouts in LPGA history last September, will be looking to recapture the magic on Thursday and Friday. Oh, and by the way, Angela Park finished 5th here last season; with the only 2 players to finish ahead of her absent from the field this one, the tournament organizers have essentially put the 3 best finishers of 2007 together. It's a toss-up whether the Kang/Choi/Han pairing or the Hurst/Prammanasudh/Miyazato pairing is the next strongest--Hurst, who has a great history here, is too much of an x-factor from week to week to hazard a guess how she'll perform this year.

Speaking of up-and-down players, there are a bunch in the early-afternoon 10th-tee prime-time quadrant:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Christa Johnson
Becky Morgan
Sun Young Yoo

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Moira Dunn
Hee Young Park
Karin Sjodin

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Katherine Hull
Kelli Kuehne
Soo-Yun Kang

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Marisa Baena
Karine Icher
Irene Cho

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Angela Stanford
Gloria Park
Heather Young

In fact, the only steady performers in the bunch are Stanford and Yoo, and even they're coming out of a rough patch. But the thing is, just about everyone else in this quadrant is capable of getting hot and posting at least a top 10. I'm looking at you, Moira! We're talking seriously streaky here, though, so the ones who minimize the damage the course does to them and maximize the damage they do to par will get top 20s and better.

The late-afternoon 1st-tee prime-time quadrant has a nice concentration of Junior Mints, Super Sophs, and rookies who have the talent to win this thing:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Russy Gulyanamitta
Lorie Kane
Carolina Llano

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Jee Young Lee
Sandra Gal
Wendy Ward

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Katie Futcher
Kristy McPherson
Alena Sharp

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Dina Ammaccapane
Allison Fouch
Jill McGill

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Meredith Duncan
Jin Joo Hong
Kyeong Bae

Most eyes will likely be on the monosyllabic trio of Lee, Gal, and Ward, but I think the most intriguing pairing is the Futcher, McPherson, and Sharp one. For some reason, I think of these 3 players as having very similar histories and talents, kind of where I used to rank Lindsey Wright until she made her quantum leap this season. I'd love to see Hong and Bae get their seasons kick-started in Springfield, as well.

Last but not least is the late-morning 10th-tee prime-time quadrant:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Jane Park
Julieta Granada
Il Mi Chung

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Danielle Ammaccapane
Leta Lindley
Shanshan Feng

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Dorothy Delasin
Brandie Burton
Ji Young Oh

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Na On Min
Nancy Lopez
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Jamie Hullett
Sung Ah Yim
Diana D'Alessio

I sincerely hope Lopez's vertigo (which caused her to withdraw from the Farr last week) is better, as it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Tseng to play with this Hall of Famer and fan favorite. Lopez won the LPGA Championship 3 times, the 1st coming in her Rookie of the Year season (and what a season that was!). Sound just a little bit familiar? Now, I'm not saying Tseng will win 9 times, including 5 in a row, while getting the ROY, POY, and Vare trophies this season, but I am saying she has the talent, personality, and attitude to become as popular with fans as Lopez has been in her long career.

Other notable starting times include Michelle Wie in her now-traditional 1st-off-the-1st routine, Vicky Hurst and Ashleigh Simon in the mid-afternoon off the 1st tee, and Anna Rawson in the next-to-last pairing on the front. We'll see if any of these not-quite-ready-for-prime-time-players can perform to their potential in the big leagues.

[Update 1 (7/16/08, 8:21 pm): Do yourself a favor and skip the AP tournament preview. Instead, go straight to Dave Kane's from Springfield. They embedded an edited youtube clip of Michelle Wie's pre-tournament interview, which at least partly redeems his decision to go along with the golfy media's Wie obsession.]


JC said...

Hey Con- i noticed when you listed your predictions- you went last name first, i think you were Korean in your past life... there's always talk about "best golfer without a major" would you say Ai-Chan is the best golfer without an LPGA win?

The Constructivist said...

Hey jc, I do it that way b/c it makes it easier to copy and paste my picks into the Pakpickers window each week at Seoul's the format they want, so that's what they get!

Let me think about that "best w/o a win" thing. If you say that non-member wins are unofficial, then Jee Young Lee and Momoko Ueda have to be in that mix, too....

The Constructivist said...

OK, I'd add Na Yeon Choi to that list from the rookies, Angela Park, Jane Park, Song-Hee Kim, and In-Kyung Kim from the Super Sophs, and Brittany Lang from the Junior Mints. Based on their LPGA records, I'd rank them as follows:

1. Jee Young Lee
2. Angela Park
3. Ai Miyazato
4. In-Kyung Kim
5. Jane Park
6. Na Yeon Choi
7. Song-Hee Kim
8. Brittany Lang
9. Momoko Ueda

The Constructivist said...

And how about

10. Lindsey Wright
11. Amy Yang


How would you rank them? Who else would you include?