Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grand China Air Preview/Predictions

The field at the Grand China Air LPGA event is missing some very big names, to be sure: Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Angela Stanford, Karrie Webb, Jee Young Lee, Maria Hjorth, Ai Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, and Natalie Gulbis (who actually could have gone because so many from the top 51 on the money list bowed out). Ochoa is skipping the Asian Swing entirely, Gulbis is hanging with The Donald or something, while Creamer and Ueda are joining Ji-Yai Shin as visitors on the JLPGA this week (although Eric at Seoul puts Shin in the KLPGA's final major). By the way, next week Creamer and Gulbis will hook up with the LPGA in the Korea Championship; the majority of the field hasn't yet been announced. The following week Miyazato and Ueda will be rejoining the tour in the Mizuno Championship. Asia is definitely going to be hopping the next few weeks!

So when you look at who will be playing on Hainan Island this week, you can't help but be struck at how some of the hottest players on the LPGA right now--Cristie Kerr, Ya Ni Tseng, In-Kyung Kim, Song-Hee Kim, Katherine Hull, Suzann Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Sun Young Yoo, Morgan Pressel, and Laura Diaz--will be facing off. From the numbers and pictures I've seen, the course looks long and flat, with a good number of creeks and ponds and the occasional palm tree. As it's near the coast, it probably gets pretty windy. Hound Dog has found out more. Very high risk/reward on a good number of holes, especially the par 3s and some of the par 5s.

So who are my Pakpicker picks this week?

1. Kim Song-Hee
2. Hull
3. Kerr
4. Pettersen
5. Tseng
6. Lang
7. Choi Na Yeon
8. Feng
9. Yoo
10. Lee Seon Hwa
11. Kim In-Kyung
12. Pressel

Alts: Diaz, Sorenstam, Han

As Morgan Pressel's unexpected win last week shows, though, there's no predicting who's going to get hot on the weekend and beat out the players you'd expect to do the best in a given event. The fact that the next few events are only 54 holes adds even mre spice to the mix. Frankly, the way this season has been going for me, I'll be happy if I don't get shut out.

[Update 1 (1:18 pm): In pre-tournament interviews, Pressel confirms that the course can get windy and Pettersen licks her lips at the soft greens and considers the thin lines that separate good, great, and fantastic seasons.]

[Update 2 (4:18 pm): Annika has photos!]

[Update 3 (4:22 pm): And here's a link that takes you to Louise Friberg's photos. In her most recent diary entry, she suggests the course can be had:

I just got done with the practice round and it is the type of course that what you see is what you get. The fairways are wide and I think the scores this week could be very low. The tough part will be the grain on the greens. They are extremely grainy and that must be taken quite a bit into account around the greens.

Wonder if the fairways are that wide b/c the winds get so strong? We'll see!]

[Update 4 (10/23/08, 2:18 am): Ah, the field for the Korea Championship has been announced now. Too bad Tseng, Ueda, and Miyazato are skipping it!]

[Update 5 (2:24 am): Ji-Yai Shin is not listed in the pairings for the JLPGA event this week, but Paula Creamer is playing with Yuri Fudoh and Miho Koga! Amateur Kumiko Kaneda is also in the field, by the way.]

[Update 6 (2:30 am): Golf Channel gives the event about a minute....]

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