Friday, January 23, 2009

HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup Preview/Pairings/Predictions

What better place for an LPGA exhibition than Rio? The 36-hole HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup kicks off the 2009 LPGA preseason tomorrow. I'd love to see a showdown between Angela Park and Eun-Hee Ji, the top 2 players in the Class of 2007, in their 1st appearance as Junior Mints.

But each threesome is interesting. Veterans Jill McGill, Leta Lindley, and Catriona Matthew start things off, followed by Young Guns Allison Fouch, Kristy McPherson, and Louise Friberg. Brazilian amateur Patricia Carvalho gets to measure her game against the likes of Ji and Karen Stupples, while struggling Brazilian professional Candy Hannemann gets to measure hers against Jimin Kang and Christina Kim. The final trio consists of Angela Park, Laura Diaz, and Carin Koch. I'm curious to see if Matthew and Kang can get '09 started right after a disappointing '08s, if Koch can get a career jumpstart a la Lindley in '08, how prepared Kim and Diaz are for their Solheim Cup runs the 1st half of this season, and whether Fouch, McPherson, and Friberg are ready to break through after solid campaigns last season.

I wouldn't put too much weight on bad or indifferent starts for anyone, but we'll get a pretty good sense of who's already pretty sharp if we see any really good rounds this weekend. With the LET's ANZ Ladies Masters only a couple of weeks away, it's never too soon to start putting up some low numbers. Here's my sense of who'll be best prepared for this week, taking into account the numbers of moms with families likely tagging along and the pressures on the 3 Brazilians unofficially hosting the unofficial event:

1. Ji
2. Fouch
3. Kim
4. Park
5. Stupples
6. Diaz
7. McPherson
8. Friberg
9. Matthew
10. Koch

I agree with Jason Sobel that it would have been nice if more of the top LPGA stars had chosen to play here, but as long as this event remains an exhibition, it's going to be hard to draw more than a few of them a year. My suggestion would be to get HSBC to make this the new site for their Women's World Match Play Championship (on hiatus since 2007). What better place to enjoy yourself if you get bounced in the 1st round than Rio? And what better way to kick off the LPGA season than with a showdown between the previous year's top-ranked players?

Whatever the future holds for this event, be sure to follow the LPGA Insider's on-site reports this weekend!

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