Wednesday, June 10, 2009

LPGA Championship Preview/Predictions/Pairings

The LPGA returns to Bulle Rock this week for the 55th playing of the LPGA Championship. Ron Sirak, Candus Thomson, and Ryan Ballengee explain why the 5-year run at Bulle Rocke is ending and what it means for the tour's business model, but I'll be focusing on the competition itself in this post.

Sirak was right to raise the questions he did last week (something I did last year, by the way), but his last one, at least, is easy to answer: with all due respect to Jay Busbee and Michael Arkush, we are seeing the bar being raised for greatness on the LPGA right before our eyes; mediocrity can't even get through Q-School these days. Just check the field list if you don't believe me: only Ai Miyazato, Yuri Fudoh, Sakura Yokomine, and Ji-Hee Lee won't be there among those eligible to play (they'll all be facing off in Kobe at the Suntory Ladies Open). All in all, 42 of the top 50 in the Rolex Rankings will be vying for the crown.

Maybe it's the fact that there are fewer than 15 Americans on that list that's prompted the latest anti-Asian meme going around the golfosphere, which Jeff Skinner counters with a defense of the LPGA's internationalism and Hound Dog fights back against with a blast of the Korean-haters. I agree with both of them, of course, and am overjoyed to see that State Farm will be there for the LPGA for the next 2 years, at least. I wish more U.S. corporations would decide to practice State Farm's "good neighbor" policy and sponsor more U.S.-based events, of course, especially because it's not as if many Asian economies are doing all that well right now, either. But I have to disagree with Golf Channel's Tom Abbott, who called for the LPGA Championship to open up more spots for Europeans on the LET, because the top Europeans are already playing on the LPGA. You should have to earn your way into the LPGA Championship the hard way if you're not already an LPGA member--top 3 in the Rolex Rankings not already qualified sounds just right to me. If more LET regulars want to get in, they'd better play better than the 8 JLPGA players in the Rolex Top 50.

There's no disagreeing with Brent Kelley, Daniel Wexler, and Jay Busbee's run-downs of the top contenders for the LPGA's 2nd major of 2009, but I'm going to mix things up a bit for this week's PakPicker:

1. Choi Na Yeon
2. Lee Jee Young
3. Ochoa
4. Tseng
5. Pettersen
6. Stanford
7. Lee Seon Hwa
8. Webb
9. Creamer
10. Kerr
11. Pak Se Ri
12. Hurst, Vicky

Alts: Shin, Yang, Lang

I've finished 1-2 the last two weeks, so my hopes are high. I've tried not to overvalue how long Bulle Rock is playing after all the spring rain it's gotten.

The pairings, of course, are amazing. The prime-time quadrants are 6 deep, rather than the usual 5. Let's start with those going off #10 in the early afternoon:

Start Time: 12:25 PM
Carin Koch
Stacy Prammanasudh
Pat Hurst

Start Time: 12:36 PM
Brandie Burton
Rachel Hetherington
Sandra Gal

Start Time: 12:47 PM
Mi Hyun Kim
Maria Hjorth
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 12:58 PM
Lindsey Wright
Juli Inkster
Natalie Gulbis

Start Time: 1:09 PM
Angela Stanford
Suzann Pettersen
Cristie Kerr

Start Time: 1:20 PM
Morgan Pressel
Sophie Gustafson
Lorena Ochoa

How 'bout that next-to-last one, eh? Pairing last year's playoff participants was a nice touch, too. Going off #1 opposite them in the late morning are most of the rest of the top Americans on tour:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Silvia Cavalleri
Teresa Lu
Lorie Kane

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Liselotte Neumann
Il Mi Chung
Young Kim

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Laura Davies
Wendy Ward
Brittany Lincicome

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Laura Diaz
Karrie Webb
Helen Alfredsson

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Nicole Castrale
Paula Creamer
Kristy McPherson

Start Time: 9:27 AM
Shanshan Feng
Michelle Wie
Christina Kim

Great opportunity there for Feng to play with 2 of the tour's top media magnets. It's nice to see the tournament organizers making it easy for the Japanese media; Momoko Ueda, Shiho Oyama, and Mika Miyazato are all going off #1 in the early afternoon:

Start Time: 12:25 PM
Katherine Hull
Janice Moodie
Meena Lee

Start Time: 12:36 PM
Sarah Lee
Hee Young Park
Vicky Hurst

Start Time: 12:47 PM
Mika Miyazato
Jane Park
Michele Redman

Start Time: 12:58 PM
Brittany Lang
Momoko Ueda
Jee Young Lee

Start Time: 1:09 PM
Angela Park
Louise Friberg
Candie Kung

Start Time: 1:20 PM
Shiho Oyama
Song-Hee Kim
Se Ri Pak

Here's hoping all 3 Japanese players bounce back from their missed cuts last week. That leaves a lot of talented players who haven't had the most consistent of seasons to go off #10 in the late morning:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Eun-Hee Ji
Alena Sharp
Ji-Yai Shin

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Seon Hwa Lee
Hee-Won Han
Giulia Sergas

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Sun Young Yoo
Ji Young Oh
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Meaghan Francella
In-Kyung Kim
Soo-Yun Kang

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Louise Stahle
Karen Stupples
Jimin Kang

Start Time: 9:27 AM
Meg Mallon
Amy Hung
Inbee Park

Even #2 on the money list In-Kyung Kim has had her ups and downs this season; sure, she hasn't missed any cuts, but when she hasn't contended, she hasn't even finished in the top 20. That's how tough the competition is on the LPGA in 2009.

This one should be awesome. Be sure to check Golf Observer's list of the best average finishes among those the field, watch the high def coverage on Golf Channel, and follow IceCat's on-site observations.

[Update 1 (6:18 pm): Here's Hound Dog's preview and hot 20 list.]

1 comment:

Stephanie Wei said...

Nice call on Choi Na Yeon as your pick! Looks like you might be right... Uh oh, the Wei jinx has hit! ;)

Also, thanks for the shout-out on the LPGA web 2.0 post. I'd love to take that job! Maybe someday...