Thursday, October 23, 2008

Grand China Air Pairings

As a rule, I hate guaranteed money events. To me, it's not a real tournament unless there's a cut. But I'm willing to make an exception over the next 3 weeks during the LPGA's Asian Swing. Take a look at the 1st-round pairings for the Grand China Air kickoff event and you'll see why. Here are some of my favorite threesomes:

Start Time: 8:57 AM
Helen Alfredsson
Inbee Park
Mi Hyun Kim

Start Time: 9:08 AM
Hong Mei Yang
Sophie Gustafson
Carin Koch

Start Time: 9:52 AM
Hee Young Park
Xiaolong Zhong
Brittany Lang

Start Time: 10:03 AM
Jane Park
Teresa Lu
Karen Stupples

Start Time: 10:19 AM
Juli Inkster
Laura Diaz
Leta Lindley

Start Time: 10:30 AM
Jeong Jang
Katherine Hull
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 10:41 AM
Morgan Pressel
Tao-Li Yang
Se Ri Pak

Start Time: 10:52 AM
Seon Hwa Lee
Suzann Pettersen
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 11:03 AM
Annika Sorenstam
Shanshan Feng
Cristie Kerr

In addition, perhaps the 2 biggest surprise winners in 2008, Louise Friberg and Ji Young Oh, are paired together at 8:24 am, while Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim, another pair of 1st-time winners this season, go off 2 groups behind them at 8:46 am. Junior Mint Allison Fouch gets to play with Christina Kim at 9:19 am, while Song-Hee Kim (7:40 am) and Na Yeon Choi (11:14 am) have the dubious honor of going off in the 1st and next-to-last pairings.

As we saw at the Samsung, the no-cut format can be cruel to slumping players. I hope in the coming years the tournament organizers decide to imitate the Evian Masters in making their entrance criteria somewhat less exclusive in exchange for the drama of a cut. On the other hand, given the fledgling status of professional golf in China, even a modest cut of, say, 90 to 70 would most likely result in the local Chinese talent only getting to play 36 holes. So until more Chinese golfers make it to the LPGA, JLPGA, KLPGA, and LET and show they can keep their cards, I wouldn't expect to see a cut here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for linking to the Golf in China post, I hadn't found this blog yet when it was posted.

I've been fascinated on seeing the progress of Yang Hong-Mei after winning her first Futures event in 2004, and it's sad to see her leave the US due to the barriers of language. She seemingly had a lot of talent, I wonder if she'd ever give it a try again.

Imagine if golf was an olympic sport? I'd imagine the Chinese would be just as prevalent or even more so then Korea.

The Constructivist said...

Check out Yang's comments in the pre-tournament interviews. She seemed to be hinting that if she won she'd be open to returning to the LPGA. At least that's how I read her comments. What do you think?

I think China's probably 7-1o years away from making a real bang in women's golf. I didn't see any good performances from the Chinese amateurs in the Evian junior event this summer or the Sweden-dominated team amateur event from a couple of weeks ago. That's not to say some youngsters can't improve quickly, but the level of competition internationally is rising so fast, it won't be as comparatively easy as it was for the younger Koreans.

In the pro ranks, Feng has gotten hot, so hopefully will finish strong and get off to a good start in '09, but Na Zhang is injured (back) and has hardly played at all on the JLPGA this season. From the 1st round and LAGT results, seems like Tao-Li Yang might be the next big thing, but I'd like to see her get some seasoning on the JLPGA if she can't pull off a win this week.