Friday, November 28, 2008

Lexus Cup Friday: Alternate Shot Showdown

Check out the pre-tournament interviews and the pairings for the 1st round of the Lexus Cup. They're playing foursomes--alternate shot--today.

Here's how the teams stack up, with each player's latest Mostly Harmless ranking in parentheses after her name:

Song-Hee Kim (#17) and Inbee Park (#13) vs. Helen Alfredsson (#11) and Christina Kim (#29): Even though the average ranking for each team suggests a toss-up, with Park playing so horribly of late and Christina Kim a match-play ace, I have to give the advantage to Team International in this match. Neither Song-Hee Kim nor Park are all that accurate off the tee--the former is T59 at 70% and the latter is T85 at 67.6%--so even though Kim's iron play is fantastic (she's 5th on tour at 68.9%), she may find herself trying to hit greens from unfamiliar spots (Park, by contrast, is 109th on tour at 61.4%). While both Alfredsson and Kim are less accurate drivers than their competitors, they are both ranked in the top 30 in GIR and their extra length could give them an advantage on a course Annika Sorenstam has called long and wet. Team Asia has to hope Kim's approaches and Park's putting can save them.

Sarah Lee (n.r.) and Na Yeon Choi (#9) vs. Cristie Kerr (#6) and Karen Stupples (#16): Definite advantage to Team International here. Kerr and Stupples are both playing well in the 2nd half of the season, while Choi has been underperforming of late and Lee has dropped off the map. Lee is the only player in the field driving the ball less accurately than the inconsistent Se Ri Pak. Yikes!

Ya Ni Tseng (#4) and Seon Hwa Lee (#8) vs. Suzann Pettersen (#5) and Natalie Gulbis (#46): Definite advantage to Team Asia here, as Lee is 12-1-0 in match play since the 2006 HSBC and Gulbis hasn't played competitive golf in what seems like months. The only thing that can trip up Team Asia here is Tseng's Pak-like driving accuracy, but given that she'll be putting Lee a lot closer to the green than she's used to being, they should still get plenty of birdie opportunities. Tseng actually has a better GIR rate than Lee (#7 vs. #15) and must be putting the ball closer to the pin than her, too (T15 putts per GIR vs. T57), so Lee should be able to take advantage of where Tseng puts her and vice versa. The only hope for Team International is that Pettersen and Gulbis both play superlatively.

Se Ri Pak (#44) and Eun-Hee Ji (#14) vs. Paula Creamer (#2) and Nicole Castrale (#38): Definite advantage to Team International here, as Castrale is playing much better than her ranking while nobody knows which Pak will show up. Only chance for Team Asia is if the right Pak does--and if Creamer's intestinal woes prevent her from playing anywhere close to her potential.

Jeong Jang (#12) and Candie Kung (#19) vs. Angela Stanford (#7) and Annika Sorenstam (#3): I know, I know, on paper it's a definite win for Team International, but I'm calling this one a toss-up. I just think that Jang's and Kung's games mesh really well together and that they're experienced enough not to be intimidated by going up against Team International's strongest pairing.

Namika Omata (n.r.) and Mayumi Shimomura (n.r.) vs. Katherine Hull (#23) and Nikki Campbell (n.r.): Hull is one of the hottest players in the world right now and Campbell is #33 on the JLPGA money list, while Omata is #37 and Shimomura is #46, with scoring averages above 73, so definite advantage to Team Aussie over Team Japan here. But an upset could really spark Team Asia for Saturday's play.

We'll see how this shakes out shortly. Back soon!

[Update 1 (2:02 am): Don't bother with's livescoring link. Try this one from the Lexus Cup 2008 site.]

[Update 2 (2:10 am): Big upset for Park and Kim! And nice win by Jang and Kung. Tseng and Lee didn't dominate like I thought they would, but they still pulled out the win. Pak and Ji are taking Creamer and Castrale to the last hole--if they could halve, it would be a great 1st day for Team Asia!]

[Update 3 (11/30/08, 12:49 am): Here's Hound Dog's Day 1 recap.]

[Update 4 (12:52 am): And here are some links and photos from Annika Sorenstam.]

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