Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Women's British Open Preview/Predictions/Pairings

This week, the Women's British Open returns to Sunningdale, which has crowned Karrie Webb (1997), Se Ri Pak (2001), and Karen Stupples (2004), the latter 2 since the event became an LPGA major in 2001. The field is one of the strongest of the year and the Old Course one of the more interesting parkland layouts in the UK. With a good mix of short and long par 4s, par 5s that are reachable for most of the field, and great strategic challenges, Sunningdale has given up a surprising number of low scores over the years, as Hound Dog points out. If the weather stays benign outside London this week, expect more of the same this year.

Because many of the WBOs have been played on links-style courses, Golf Observer's historical stats aren't as useful as they could be. In any case, a lot has changed in the world of women's golf even since 2004! With players from the class of 2003 and younger outclassing the LPGA's veterans (although Annika Sorenstam and Helen Alfredsson have combined for 4 wins), one of the LPGA's big subplots has been youth versus experience. Another has been health: coming back from injuries (Sorenstam, Alfredsson, Ai Miyazato, Michelle Wie...), playing with pain (Mi Hyun Kim, Jeong Jang, Ya Ni Tseng...), and coming back from pregnancy and delivery (Karen Stupples, Hee-Won Han...). As a result, there are some stark choices facing those playing in this week's Pakpicker at Do you go with the players with the proven track record on the Old Course who can withstand Open pressure despite recent injuries or inconsistency? Or do you load up on Young Guns? Here's what I decided, for what little it's worth!

1. Ochoa
2. Creamer
3. Lee Jee Young
4. Miyazato Ai
5. Kerr
6. Sorenstam
7. Lee Seon Hwa
8. Choi Na Yeon
9. Jeong Jang
10. Shin Ji-Yai
11. Pressel
12. Stupples

Alts: Park Angela, Ji Eun-Hee, Yoo Sun Young

As is traditional in British Opens, everyone goes off the 1st tee, so the field could be facing very different conditions over the course of a single day. Let's bunch the Thursday and Friday pairings by starting time, then.

6:41 am/11:26 am: Jang
6:52 am/11:37 am: Inkster, Pak, I. Park
7:03 am/11:48 am: Saiki, Davies
7:14 am/11:59 am: Fudoh, Ochoa, Pressel
7:25 am/12:10 pm: Ueda, Webb, Sorenstam
7:36 am/12:21 pm: Kerr
7:47 am/12:32 pm: Alfredsson, Gustafson
7:58 am/12:43 pm: Shin, A. Park, Castrale
8:09 am/12:54 pm: C. Kim, Stanford
9:15 am/2:00 pm: Yang, J.H. Lee
9:26 am/2:11 pm: Gr. Park
9:37 am/2:22 pm: Kung, Y. Kim, Hurst
9:48 am/2:33 pm: Gl. Park, Moira Dunn!
9:59 am/2:44 pm: S.H. Lee, M.H. Kim
10:32 am/3:17 pm: J.Y. Lee, N.Y. Choi
10:43 am/3:28 pm: E.H. Ji

11:15 am/6:30 am: J. Park, S.H. Ahn
11:26 am/6:41 am: I.K. Kim
11:48 am/7:03 am: Stupples, Baba
11:59 am/7:14 am: Yokomine, Gulbis, Pettersen
12:10 pm/7:25 am: Miyazato, Creamer, Matthew
12:21 pm/7:36 am: Diaz, Hjorth
12:32 pm/7:47 am: Steinhauer, Tseng
12:43 pm/7:58 am: Prammanasudh
12:54 pm/8:09 am: Icher, Oh, Feng
1:05 pm/8:20 am: S.H. Kim, Song
1:16 pm/8:31 am: H.J. Choi, Yoo
1:27 pm/8:42 am: M. Lee, Han
1:38 pm/8:53 am: Stahle, Uribe
2:22 pm/9:37 am: Hetherington
2:44 pm/9:59 am: Lu

With pairings like that, who needs Michelle Wie? Ron Sirak reports some of the tour vets are upset with Michelle Wie for skipping the European swing, but I think some of their anger is misplaced. With the Open pre-qualifier coming right in between 2 key LPGA events for Wie that counted toward the $125K or so she needs to win to get her card this season, a quick jaunt across the pond would not have been the best way to prepare for the State Farm Classic. Turning down Evian's sponsor exemption is a much more serious error of judgment, in my opinion, as a good finish there could have earned her a wild card for the WBO. Given that she turned down the European swing and turned her back on the Futures Tour, I guess option 3--hoping that a smackdown with David Duval will help prepare her for the pressure of the make-or-break Canadian Women's Open--is the best decision she could have made.

[Update 1 (3:15 am): Here's Daniel Wexler's own odds on the top contenders, Average Golfer's commentary on the actual odds and predictions, and Mulligan Stu's WBO poll.]

[Update 2 (9:15 pm): Ron Sirak focuses on the youth vs. experience angle and gives a weather report. Steve Elling does the former, as well.]

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