Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Samsung World Championship Preview/Predictions/Pairings

The Samsung World Championship is coming! The Samsung World Championship is coming! As Hound Dog points out in his preview, they've changed sites from Bighorn to Half Moon Bay, so take Golf Observer's performance chart with a grain of salt. Certainly, Lorena Ochoa, Cristie Kerr, and Ji-Yai Shin have to be considered the hottest golfers in this highly-elite field right now, but in addition to Hound Dog's pick Katherine Hull, watch out for Super Sophs Angela Park, Song-Hee Kim, and Eun-Hee Ji. In fact, why don't I just jump to my predictions right now?

1. Shin Ji-Yai
2. Ochoa
3. Kerr
4. Park Angela
5. Tseng
6. Creamer
7. Kim Song-Hee
8. Choi
9. Hull
10. Ji Eun-Hee
11. Sorenstam
12. Lee Seon Hwa

Alts: Pettersen, Webb, Han

May as well justify who I'm not picking rather than who I am! Juli Inkster is a great Hall of Famer who can still win any given week, but she's playing such a reduced schedule this season I just can't see her hanging in there all 4 rounds against the world's best. Helen Alfredsson got hot in mid-summer but I haven't seen much from her since her win at Evian. Angela Stanford won recently and went very low early in the season, but I just don't see her beating the players I picked this week. Jeong Jang's wrist is still a huge question mark--she got off to a good start last week, but played terribly in the next 3 rounds. And Inbee Park has been in a little post-major funk. But you know what? In a field this good, I could end up being almost completely wrong: all 8 players I didn't pick could get top 10s and I wouldn't be all that surprised.

Take a look at the pairings and ask yourself which twosome you'd follow if you could only follow 1 all day:

Start Time: 11:50 AM
Ji-Yai Shin
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 12:00 PM
Hee-Won Han
Helen Alfredsson

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Juli Inkster
Karrie Webb

Start Time: 12:20 PM
Ya Ni Tseng
Suzann Pettersen

Start Time: 12:30 PM
Paula Creamer
Eun-Hee Ji

Start Time: 12:40 PM
Song-Hee Kim
Angela Park

Start Time: 12:50 PM
Katherine Hull
Jeong Jang

Start Time: 1:00 PM
Inbee Park
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 1:10 PM
Cristie Kerr
Seon Hwa Lee

Start Time: 1:20 PM
Lorena Ochoa
Annika Sorenstam

Think hard. They reshuffle the pairings after every round, so this could be your last chance for any 1 of 'em. World #1/World#1A is the obvious choice, but what about the other pair of Hall of Famers, the fireworks of Tseng/Pettersen, the precision of Creamer/Ji, or the raw talent of Shin/Choi?

As good as these pairings are, I would have done things a bit different. Shin and Kerr should have been paired in the penultimate group as the next-2-most-likely-to-succeed, preceded by the top 2 challengers to Ochoa's reign (Creamer/Pettersen), by the two previous rookies of the year (Lee/Angela Park), the current contenters for the ROY title (Tseng and Choi), the next-best-Super-Soph contenders (Ji/Inbee Park), and finally by nationality (Hull/Webb, Jang/Han) and, uh...ahem...experience (Inkster/Alfredsson). That would have made the pairings even harder to choose between.

The fact that I took 10 minutes to play armchair tournament organizer and come up with my fantasy pairings for the Samsung gives a hint why the LPGA schedule for the rest of the season is so much better than the PGA's. Even though the Tour Championship ended up being a great event, it was tied to a playoff format that would do well to imitate the LPGA's qualifying criteria for and event structure of the soon-to-be-at-least-renamed ADT Championship. Whereas the PGA's Tour Championship announces the end of the season for its top players, freeing them up to play enough European Tour events next season to get involved in the Race for Dubai, the Samsung World Championship kicks off a "fall series" for the LPGA that takes its best players from the west coast across the Pacific to Asia and back, eventually to Florida, for their final showdown of the season. While I don't like seeing so many limited-field- and guaranteed-money-events in this stretch, I can see all the tournaments in it evolving as the Evian Masters has (expanding the field, instituting a cut, and expanding the prize money) over time. And I love the idea of the LPGA's finest taking on Asia's best.

So while I'm psyched Danny Lee is playing close to my home town this week on the PGA, curious about the Venice Q-School qualifier, and pumped for the Japan Women's Open, the Samsung is where it's at!

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