Wednesday, March 25, 2009

J Golf Phoenix LPGA International Preview/Predictions/Pairings

As Hound Dog emphasizes, the J Golf Phoenix LPGA International has a major-quality field, but even though the LPGA has competed in Phoenix since 1980, they've moved to a new course that has just completed renovations (Hound Dog links to a caddie who thinks Papago will play easy; local journalist Bill Huffman thinks it'll play tough). So take Golf Observer's historical stats and Ochoa's domination last year with a big grain of salt if you're playing this week's Pakpicker over at Seoul Me, I'm basically going with my hot list, with some adjustments based on who I think will adjust best to the new track. Of course, Hound Dog's been kicking my butt all winter in the Pakpicker, so take my predictions with an even bigger grain of salt!

1. Ochoa
2. Stanford
3. Lee Jee Young
4. Tseng
5. Choi Na Yeon
6. Kerr
7. Lang
8. Ji
9. Shin
10. Wie
11. Pettersen
12. Creamer

Alts: Hull, Kim Song-Hee, Yoo

It would be nice to know who have been the best ballstrikers on tour this season, but the LPGA's key performance stats were not kept in Mexico, just as they weren't in Asia. So this is a bit more guesswork than I usually like to be making. Still, the LPGA is back in the States and winter is over, so I'm hoping my luck will turn over a new leaf. (At the same time, I'd love to see Moira Dunn, Ai Miyazato, Seon Hwa Lee, and In-Kyung Kim make me pay for leaving them off my list!)

In any case, the pairings for the first 2 rounds are up, and once again, they are a treat. I'm not even going to try to rank the prime-time quadrants. Just check out the front-side morning groups for Thursday's round:

Start Time: 8:07 AM
Ji-Yai Shin
Eun-Hee Ji
Angela Park

Start Time: 8:18 AM
Laura Davies
Hee-Won Han
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 8:29 AM
Sophie Gustafson
Brandie Burton
Laura Diaz

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Wendy Ward
Teresa Lu
Meaghan Francella

Start Time: 8:51 AM
Ji Young Oh
Silvia Cavalleri
Helen Alfredsson

Yeah, it's a little vet-heavy at the bottom for my taste, but these vets got game. Compare their counterparts in the back-side morning pairings and you'll see what I mean about how hard it is to say one set is better than another:

Start Time: 8:07 AM
Young Kim
In-Kyung Kim
Song-Hee Kim

Start Time: 8:18 AM
Stacy Prammanasudh
Candie Kung
Louise Friberg

Start Time: 8:29 AM
Karrie Webb
Carin Koch
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Paula Creamer
Juli Inkster
Natalie Gulbis

Start Time: 8:51 AM
Christina Kim
Grace Park
Morgan Pressel

OK, maybe you could make a case that there are more players among those going off the back with a legitimate shot at winning the tournament and fewer in danger of missing the cut, but you'd have to work really hard to convince me.

Now check out the front-side afternoon pairings:

Start Time: 11:45 AM
Jane Park
Brittany Lang
Liselotte Neumann

Start Time: 11:56 AM
Leta Lindley
Katherine Hull
Cristie Kerr

Start Time: 12:07 PM
Se Ri Pak
Hee Young Park
Seon Hwa Lee

Start Time: 12:18 PM
Sun Young Yoo
Meena Lee
Momoko Ueda

Start Time: 12:29 PM
Lorena Ochoa
Suzann Pettersen
Pat Hurst

Wow! But check out their counterparts going off the back:

Start Time: 11:45 AM
Lindsey Wright
Ya Ni Tseng
Karen Stupples

Start Time: 11:56 AM
Lorie Kane
Brittany Lincicome
Jee Young Lee

Start Time: 12:07 PM
Rachel Hetherington
Michelle Ellis
Inbee Park

Start Time: 12:18 PM
Nicole Castrale
Minea Blomqvist
Giulia Sergas

Start Time: 12:29 PM
Michele Redman
Shanshan Feng
Mi Hyun Kim

Even with vets struggling to find their top games, 2 legitimately slumping younger players, and others who haven't been playing quite up to their potential lately, any quadrant with Ya Ni Tseng and Jee Young Lee in it has a lot going for it.

But to get a true sense of the strength of the field, consider who'll need to earn their way into the prime-time weekend pairings. Off the 1st tee, we have Futures Tour playoff-loser Song Yi Choi (7:01 am), Europe's hottest golfer Anja Monke (7:12 am), American rookies Michelle Wie (who's featured in the 1st pre-tournament interview) and Vicky Hurst, playing with NCAA superstar Carlota Ciganda (12:40 pm), sponsor exemption and KLPGA Super Soph So Yeon Ryu (1:02 pm), American rookie Stacy Lewis (1:24 pm), Australian media magnet Anna Rawson (1:35 pm), and 11-time JLPGA winner Shiho Oyama (1:46 pm). Off the 10th tee, we have Japanese rookie Mika Miyazato (7:12 am), LPGA Super Soph Amy Yang (7:23 am), LPGA Senior Standout Ai Miyazato (7:45 am), and Euro-star Johanna Mundy (1:46 pm).

This should be an exciting week! If Pat Hurst can come out of nowhere and beat a relatively strong field in Mexico, who says someone else can't do the same to a much stronger field in Phoenix?


Anonymous said...

I am personally a little concerned at the absence of Mindy Kim at this tournament. After her withdrawal from Mexico last week, I wonder if she's injured or what is going on. I'd doubt she'd want to sit this one out voluntarily.

diane said...

Jamie, see her caddy's Web site:

The Constructivist said...

First Mindy, then Anthony. Bad news for the Kims--oh, except that In-Kyung is winning and Mi Hyun is pregnant!

Ottawa Golf Blog said...

Who would of thought Karrie Webb was going to win.

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