Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ANZ Ladies Masters Preview

The LET had finally updated their field list to include the 11 invitees and the 55 ALPG, 18 KLPGA, 4 JLPGA, and 7 amateur players in the field in addition to their own 55. Let's dig a little deeper than their preview, shall we?

I'll be very curious to see how sharp Ya Ni Tseng and Ji-Yai Shin are in their 1st tournament of 2009, as well as how they deal with the higher expectations and greater pressure that come from being ranked in the top 5 in the world of women's golf at the start of the season. If someone as mentally tough as Ai Miyazato has found the leap to the world stage quite a challenge, I'm particularly interested in seeing how they'll stack up against her this week. We've already seen Australian phenom Sarah Oh crack under Sunday pressure (and tough winds) last week on the ALPG, falling to a more experienced Gwladys Nocera and behind a more seasoned Katherine Hull while failing to win her 2nd consecutive event on tour this season. I think Tseng and Shin are far better than Nocera and Hull, but never discount the vagaries of youth.

Speaking of Hull, I'll also be very interested in seeing how she--not to mention all the other up-and-coming Aussies in the field, but particularly the LPGAers in it--plays with living legend Karrie Webb on the premises. It's a similar anticipation as wondering how Bo Bea Park, who played well last week, will do with not only Shin but also Hee Kyung Seo (6-time KLPGA winner in '08), So Yeon Ryu ('08 KLPGA ROY runner-up), and the LPGA's H.J. Choi in the field. Or how Japanese young guns Chie Arimura, Riko Higashio, and Yuki Sakurai will handle themselves in Miyazato's presence. Or how defending champion Lisa Hall, Melissa Reid, and Rebecca Hudson will do with Laura Davies in the field.

Then there are players more known for their buzz than their accomplishments, such as Anna Rawson, Ashleigh Simon, and Kiran Matharu. The former 2 seem poised to live up to their own high expectations, while the latter seems stuck in neutral. And there are players looking to make up for Q-School disappointments, like Alison Walshe, Becky Brewerton, Beatriz Recari, and Stephanie Na, as well as vets looking to jump-start their engines such as Davies, Lorie Kane, Rachel Hetherington, and Brandie Burton.

Finally, I'll be curious to see how the LPGAers in the field--especially those playing their first tournament of the season--stack up against those from the JLPGA, KLPGA, LET, and ALPG. The next two weeks in Australia will be a kind of mini-preview of the HSBC Women's World Champions. Somehow Sisters of Swing, the ALPG's moniker for this week's event, doesn't have quite the same ring as the Showdown in Singapore, but for early February, it's not half bad.

[Update 1 (7:07 pm): Here are the pairings! Ai-chan is paired with Laura Davies and Brandie Burton in the afternoon groups going off #10, followed by Ji-Yai Shin with Katherine Hull and Anne-Lise Caudal. #10 is the place to be in the morning, too, as Karrie Webb heads out with Martina Eberl and Lisa Hall, followed by Ya Ni Tseng, Gwladys Nocera, and Rachel Hetherington. Watch out for So Yeon Ryu going off early and Alison Walshe going off late.]

[Update 2 (2/4/09, 2:20 pm): Here are Bruce Young's 2 previews, based on pre-tournament interviews. Highlights: Webb hasn't played much b/c of rains in the north of Australia and hasn't added up a score since the ADT last November; Shin's been in Australia the last 3 weeks; the reason for Lindsey Wright's fall-off last season after a hot start was a shoulder injury she sustained in May; Hall and Nocera have no interest in playing on the LPGA.]

[Update 3 (5:10 pm): Is it just me, or are the oddsmakers discounting Tseng's chances a tad? And why is Walshe 125-1? That's just ridiculous.]

[Update 4 (5:18 pm): Here's the live scoring link. Play is underway--it's already the 5th down under!]

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