Wednesday, July 8, 2009

U.S. Women's Open Preview/Predictions/Pairings

OK, time to shift the focus from the LPGA's leadership crisis to the USGA's U.S. Women's Open at Saucon Valley's par-71 Old Course. Hound Dog is the place to go for your tournament preview and hot 20 list. I agree completely with his assessment in the former that "6740 yards makes for a long course in LPGA terms. Add to that the typical U.S. Open setup of thick rough (lots of rain in the area recently) and slick greens plus par of 71--we may not see anybody under par by the end of the day Sunday." Not only is the course long, it features long par 5s, so any long hitter who's hitting it straighter than the others will have an incredible advantage on these holes in particular. But with Saucon Valley's tiered, undulating and super-fast greens, touch and finesse will also be at a premium. In short, this is going to be a test of every aspect of everyone's games, not to mention their judgment, patience, ability to bounce back from mistakes, and overall mental focus, toughness, and endurance.

The field is impressive, even with Michelle Wie, Natalie Gulbis, Vicky Hurst, Wendy Ward, Sakura Yokomine, Miho Koga, and So Yeon Ryu either not qualifying or choosing to stay on their home tour. It's always interesting to find out how JLPGAers Yuri Fudoh, Akiko Fukushima, Ji-Hee Lee, and Miki Saiki, KLPGAers Hee Kyung Seo, Sun Ju Ahn, and He Yong Choi, LETers Gwladys Nocera and Martina Eberl, and Futures Tour regulars Jean Reynolds, Mina Harigae, Misun Cho, Alison Walshe, Hannah Jun, Esther Choe, and Libby Smith will fare against new pros like Amanda Blumenherst, Maria Hernandez, Jennie Lee, Cindy LaCrosse, and Maria Jose Uribe, as well as much-heralded amateurs like Jennifer Song, Kimberly Kim, Alexis Thompson, Victoria Tanco, Azahara Munoz and Tiffany Lua. The Open has always been where the present and future of women's professional golf meet and this year is no different.

Golf Observer's historical stats show how players have done at previous Opens, but Daniel Wexler's odds, Ryan Ballengee's picks, and Jeff Skinner's rundown of top contenders are also worth a close look. In this week's PakPicker, I'll take some wild guesses:

1. Tseng
2. Shin Ji-Yai
3. Pettersen
4. Stanford Angela
5. Wright
6. McPherson
7. Kim Song-Hee
8. Kerr
9. Ochoa
10. Lang
11. Lee Seon Hwa
12. Pressel

Alts: Miyazato Ai, Pak Se Ri, Lee Jee Young

It was difficult not to pull the trigger on In-Kyung Kim, Paula Creamer, Na Yeon Choi, Inbee Park, Jane Park, Amy Yang, and Sun Young Yoo, and when you look at the pairings, you'll probably find a dozen more who could win this thing. Since just about every one of them has the quality of a typical prime-time pairing, I'll just list the 12 I'd be most interested in following were I to drive down to Bethlehem this Thursday or Friday.

Th, 8:06 AM, #1; F, 1:36 PM, #10
Karrie Webb
Pat Hurst
Ai Miyazato

Th, 7:44 AM, #1; F, 1:14 PM, #10
Mina Harigae
Stacy Lewis
Sun Young Yoo

Th, 1:25 PM, #1; F, 7:55 AM, #10
Morgan Pressel
Maria Jose Uribe
Jane Park

Th, 7:55 AM, #10; F, 1:25 PM, #1
Paula Creamer
In-Kyung Kim
Lorena Ochoa

Th, 1:47 PM, #10; F, 8:17 AM, #1
Ji-Yai Shin
Amanda Blumenherst
Inbee Park

Th, 1:03 PM, #10: F, 7:33 AM, #1
Suzann Pettersen
Na Yeon Choi
Lindsey Wright

Th, 7:55 AM, #1; F, 1:25 PM, #10
Cristie Kerr
Anna Nordqvist
Ya Ni Tseng

Th, 7:33 AM, #10; F, 1:03 PM, #1
Christina Kim
Martina Eberl
Seon Hwa Lee

Th, 8:17 AM, #1; F, 1:47 PM, #10
Song-Hee Kim
Katherine Hull
Angela Stanford

Th, 8:06 AM, #10; F, 1:36 PM, #1
Mika Miyazato
Eun-Hee Ji
Stacy Prammanasudh

Th, 1:14 PM, #10; F, 7:44 AM, #1
Juli Inkster
Azahara Munoz
Se Ri Pak

Th, 1:36 PM, #1; F, 8:06 AM, #10
Kristy McPherson
Yuri Fudoh
Hee-Won Han

Time to get psyched for some great golf and even better competition!

[Update 1 (12:57 pm): Congratulations to Mika Miyazato for getting a sponsor exemption into the Evian Masters.]

[Update 2 (3:48 pm): Here are the Golfweek reporters' picks. Be sure to check out their complete coverage along with Golf Channel's Shag Bag blog, where Randall Mell is joined by David Allen. Should be a good competition.]

[Update 3 (8:12 pm): Jay Busbee has his 5 to watch and Ryan Ballengee introduces Waggle Room's Open correspondent.]

[Update 4 (7/9/09, 8:42 am): Here are Stephanie Wei's picks.]

[Update 5 (5:08 pm): Jeff Skinner comes through with a 2nd Open preview, this one with a predominant focus on Stacy Lewis, who struggled in the morning today.]

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