Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Canadian Women's Open Preview/Predictions/Pairings

The Canadian Women's Open is finally almost here. With big wins this past week by Amanda Blumenherst over Azahara Munoz in the U.S. Women's Amateur, Amy Yang over Maria Hjorth and Minea Blomqvist at Annika's LET event, and Mindy Kim over Vicky Hurst and Stacy Lewis on the Futures Tour, the stage is set for Michelle Wie's last LPGA regular-season stand of 2008. As Hound Dog has covered the bases in his tournament preview and Golf Observer has covered the angles in their historical review, I'll cut straight to my predictions:

1. Tseng Ya Ni
2. Ochoa
3. Creamer
4. Wie Michelle
5. Choi Na Yeon
6. Ji Eun-Hee
7. Lee Seon Hwa
8. Miyazato Ai
9. Kerr
10. Han Hee-Won
11. Kim In-Kyung
12. Park Jane

Alts: Park Angela, Park Inbee, Park Hee Young

Basically I'm predicting that Michelle Wie will make it a down-to-the-wire finish to see if she can end up within the top 80 on the money list this season. Last year, T4 earned just shy of $105K, so a solo 4th would put her somewhere between $125K and $135K on the season. The current #80, Moira Dunn, has already won just shy of $110K. With 6 full-field events to go, Dunn would just need to make cuts to get into that vicinity.

It's interesting to see how the tournament organizers handled the Michelle Wie question. Unlike her other events where she was 1st off the 1st tee, she's going off at 1:00 pm off the 1st with Alena Sharp and a Canadian amateur. The real prime-time pairings can be found in the morning going off the back:

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Silvia Cavalleri
Sung Ah Yim

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Sophie Gustafson
Jin Joo Hong
Catriona Matthew

Start Time: 8:50 AM
Meena Lee
Cristie Kerr
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 9:00 AM
Suzann Pettersen
Morgan Pressel
Meg Mallon

Start Time: 9:10 AM
Annika Sorenstam
Yani Tseng
Inbee Park

Those last 3 pairings in particular are pretty impressive: Annika with the 2 young gun major winners of 2008 (one of whom is undefeated against her in head-to-head play), a 2-time champion with 2 fiery players from Europe and the U.S., and a former champion with the 2 top Americans in the field (both of whom are playing well coming into the event) are had to beat.

But there's a lot of star power going off the front in the afternoon:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Sherri Steinhauer
Ai Miyazato
Giulia Sergas

Start Time: 12:20 PM
Jee Young Lee
Teresa Lu
Pat Hurst

Start Time: 12:30 PM
Karrie Webb
Rachel Hetherington
Juli Inkster

Start Time: 12:40 PM
Se Ri Pak
Lorena Ochoa
Seon Hwa Lee

Start Time: 12:50 PM
Helen Alfredsson
Natalie Gulbis
Lorie Kane

There's not really a weak spot anywhere in these pairings; even veterans Pat Hurst and Sherri Steinhauer, while not playing up to their high standards this season, have some good rounds in them. And the high points are pretty darn high, particularly in that amazing next-to-last group.

The next-best prime-time quadrant goes off the back in the afternoon:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Song-Hee Kim
Young Kim
Angela Park

Start Time: 12:20 PM
Lindsey Wright
Christa Johnson
Louise Friberg

Start Time: 12:30 PM
Liselotte Neumann
Christina Kim
Sun Young Yoo

Start Time: 12:40 PM
In-Kyung Kim
Minea Blomqvist
Karen Stupples

Start Time: 12:50 PM
Jane Park
Nicole Castrale
Eun-Hee Ji

Of the Kims in this quadrant, only In-Kyung is playing particularly well heading into this event; all the rest got off to hot starts but haven't sustained their momentum. Blomqvist is coming off a final-round 63 in the Scandinavian TPC that vaulted her into a tie for 2nd place, while Friberg and Neumann are coming off T6 finishes there, but like all the top Euros except Pettersen (who skipped Annika's event) will be dealing with jet lag. That leaves Angela Park, Eun-Hee Ji, and Jane Park as most likely to contend with In-Kyung Kim from this quadrant.

Last, and unfortunately least, is the morning prime-time quadrant going off the front:

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Candie Kung
Hee-Won Han
Brittany Lang

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Meaghan Francella
Michele Redman
Julieta Granada

Start Time: 8:50 AM
Laura Diaz
Brittany Lincicome
Grace Park

Start Time: 9:00 AM
Leta Lindley
Angela Stanford
Wendy Ward

Start Time: 9:10 AM
Hee Young Park
Brandie Burton
Stacy Prammanasudh

Between less high-profile veterans (Ward, Burton, Redman, Lindley), struggling youngsters (Lincicome, Granada, and Francella), and hot-and-cold others (Diaz, Stanford, Prammanasudh, both Parks), that leaves the early threesome of Kung, Han, and Lang as the most likely to succeed from this quadrant.

Other players with a good chance to contend include Shi Hyun Ahn (7:40 am off #10) Shanshan Feng (7:30 am off #1), Kristy McPherson (1:40 pm off #1), H.J. Choi (1:40 pm off #10), and Kyeong Bae (2:00 pm off #10). I'll be following the Moira Dunn, Carolina Llano, and Linda Wessberg pairing at 7:20 am off #1 with great interest--Dunn is an old friend, Llano is a rookie who's shown signs of life, and Wessberg is a Junior Mint with great promise.

[Update 1 (5:40 pm): Chris Stevenson of the Toronto Sun gives the exact figures for Wie's bid for the top 80. If his numbers are right, a solo 4th would get her to $141.5K for the season, which ought to be good enough. But when you look at the names just outside the top 80 right now--Erica Blasberg, Johanna Head, Kris Tamullis, Kelli Kuehne, Dorothy Delasin, Brittany Lincicome, Laura Davies, Gloria Park, Karin Sjodin, and Meg Mallon--and consider who's further down the list--Jennifer Rosales, Sherri Steinhauer, Reilley Rankin, Mhairi McKay, Julieta Granada, Amy Yang, Grace Park, Liselotte Neumann, and Lorie Kane, to name a few--Moira and everyone else hovering around $110K thus far this season can't afford to coast. Anything below 4th just isn't going to cut it for Wie.]

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