Thursday, March 19, 2009

MasterCard Classic Pairings

Picking up where I left off yesterday in my MasterCard Classic preview, I'll be focusing on the pairings today. But first a note on the pre-tournament interview with Ji-Yai Shin. Here's the money quote for me (even more important than the news that the 2nd-hottest golfer on the planet and hottest player in the field is still homeless and that she still considers $6000 a lot of money):

Q. Did you change anything with your game during the off-season?
JI-YAI SHIN: I tried getting more distance with my driver, so I tried more training. But my friends say don’t do that because many players try to get more distance, but make more mistakes. So, I tried not to change. I tried more of the same, like last year. Last year, I was very successful--I had three victories--so I tried to stay the same.

I wish more players (not just Morgan Pressel) would take Shin's decision to heart. Improved fitness and increased strength is great for everyone--and of course your swing changes as your body changes--but unless your name is Tiger Woods, reengineering the swing that got you to the top tour in the world is a very risky proposition. And Tiger wasn't even trying to find more distance the times he did it. Remember, Annika Sorenstam went from being an average to a long hitter over the course of several seasons, but never at a cost to her accuracy. If you're a precision player, accept it. The LPGA is a long way away from trying to "Wie-proof" course set-ups. Getting better at the 100 yards and in game is always a good investment and most often a better one than trying to gain a few more yards with each club. Just ask Lorena Ochoa.

OK, back to the pairings. The tournament organizers certainly have a sense of drama, pairing Futures Tour rivals Vicky Hurst and M.J. Hur off the 1st tee at 7:50 am (not to mention Marisa Baena and Maria Jose Uribe off the 10th at the same time). It carries over to their prime-time pairings, such as the back-side early morning quadrant that may well be the strongest of them all:

Start Time: 8:00 AM
Inbee Park
Cristie Kerr
Jane Park

Start Time: 8:10 AM
Katie Futcher
Ji-Yai Shin
Il Mi Chung

Start Time: 8:20 AM
Song-Hee Kim
Heather Young
Karine Icher

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Natalie Gulbis
Brittany Lincicome
Christina Kim

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Suzann Pettersen
Kim Hall
Lindsey Wright

Those going off the front in the same time span can be counted on to disagree with my assessment, though:

Start Time: 8:00 AM
Stacy Prammanasudh
Lorie Kane
Janice Moodie

Start Time: 8:10 AM
Alena Sharp
Brittany Lang
Kristy McPherson

Start Time: 8:20 AM
Brandie Burton
Liselotte Neumann
Irene Cho

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Karen Stupples
Katherine Hull
Teresa Lu

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Louise Friberg
Lorena Ochoa
Hee-Won Han

Similarly, I have to rank the back-side mid-day quadrant ahead of their front-side counterparts:

Start Time: 11:30 AM
Young Kim
Meaghan Francella
H.J. Choi

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Laura Davies
Hee Young Park
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 11:50 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Sun Young Yoo
Helen Alfredsson

Start Time: 12:00 PM
Minea Blomqvist
Jee Young Lee
Diana D'Alessio

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Seon Hwa Lee
Candie Kung
Se Ri Pak

It's pretty close, though:

Start Time: 11:30 AM
Allison Fouch
Ya Ni Tseng
Jill McGill

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Giulia Sergas
Meena Lee
Michelle Ellis

Start Time: 11:50 AM
Grace Park
Shi Hyun Ahn
Eun-Hee Ji

Start Time: 12:00 PM
Sandra Gal
Becky Morgan
Silvia Cavalleri

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Michele Redman
Ji Young Oh
Pat Hurst

Looking beyond those whom the tournament organizers expect to see at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday, it'll be interesting to see how the SunCoast Series gang--Johanna Mundy, Kris Tamulis, M.J. Hur, Meredith Duncan, Moira Dunn, Jin Young Pak, Jeehae Lee, Taylor Leon, Lisa Strom, and Brittany Lincicome, who have been hanging out with many of their Futures Tour peers for much of the winter--will handle the tougher competition on the LPGA (recent winners Tamulis and Duncan will get to feed off each other's play Thursday; they start on the back at 12:30 pm). Same goes for the ALPG gang, although with the likes of Ji-Yai Shin, Katherine Hull, Ya Ni Tseng, and Laura Davies in their ranks (not to mention Karrie Webb, Rachel Hetherington, and Ai Miyazato, who are not playing this week), it's easy for Mollie Fankhauser, Sarah Jane Smith, Diana D'Alessio, Anna Rawson, Wendy Doolan, Michelle Ellis, Lorie Kane, Sarah Kemp, and Haeji Kang (the last 2 of whom Monday-qualified) to be overshadowed. Hey, taking the best 8 scores each day from each "team" (barring those in my projected top 12) would make a nice little match, especially if Kemp makes the field. Come to think of it, since Shi Hyun Ahn, Marisa Baena, Brandie Burton, Sophie Giquel, and Kris Tschetter are kicking off their 2009 seasons this week, the newbies can join in the fun, too, with their top 4 scores of the day. It'll be a great opportunity to see what kind of preparation for the LPGA works best for which players.

I'm hoping that Shiho Oyama benefits from the early starting time (7:00 am off #10 with Mika Miyazato and Jamie Hullett). She's been one of the fastest players on the JLPGA, so I'm curious to see how quickly that pairing moves with no one in front of them. I'm also curious to see how Sarah Lee (7:20 am off #10) does in her 2nd event of what will hopefully be her comeback season. And I'm also hoping fellow early bird Amy Yang (7:00 am off #1) plays fast and plays well. But most of all, I'm hoping that Moira Dunn plays great from the moment she leaves the 1st tee (with Anna Rawson and Becky Lucidi) at 12:30 pm to the time she steps off the 18th green. Go, Moira!

[Update 1 (3/20/09, 3:42 am): Here's some pre-tournament interviews from ESPN Deportes with Natalie Gulbis and Lorena Ochoa. Guess which one is in Spanish?]

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