Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Women's British Open Preview/Predictions/Pairings

It's major time again on the LPGA! And some of my favorite golfers are playing great heading into the Women's British Open. If you've read Hound Dog's tournament preview and Hot 20, you'll know what you need to know, but check out his critique of the majors mystique for a classic HD growl at conventional wisdom.

And if you're interested in the debate he's trying to start there, head on over to for Brent Kelley's argument that Michelle Wie is a no-brainer as a captain's pick for the US Solheim Cup team (assuming she doesn't win this week) and that captain Beth Daniel should be choosing between Stacy Lewis and Meaghan Francella for her 2nd pick (should nobody knock Natalie Gulbis out of the 10th and last guaranteed spot on the team this week). Me, I agree Wie deserves a spot, but I think Ron Sirak is right that the next pick is going to be Juli Inkster. I'm fine with that, even if Wendy Ward has been playing better than her and Pat Hurst (who hasn't done much of anything since winning early this season). Unless someone displaces Gulbis at #10 (and I'm rooting for Jane Park to do it), I don't think this week's results will matter much in Daniel's decision-making. With the style of course and weather so different from what the players will be facing in mid-August, it's hard to see even a standalone terrible result from one of the contenders for the captain's picks being all that significant.

OK, enough about the Solheim Cup. Most of the best players in the world aren't eligible to play in it, anyway. But more on that later. The question that's uppermost in my mind is what combination of accuracy and persistence will allow a player to come close to par this week? I can't imagine playing a course with that many bunkers--and that much trouble on the right on just about every hole--in the kinds of winds they're going to be getting this week. And if it rains as much as some players are expecting it to.... Yikes! Plus, the cold. Urgh!

OK, focus! When you're checking out Golf Observer's historical stats for the WBO, keep in mind that the ladies played Royal Lytham and St. Annes in 1998, 2003, and 2006. So perhaps there's some advantage for those in the field with more experience at links golf? But Lorena Ochoa noted in her pre-tournament interview that the course is much lusher and softer than it was in 2006. So your picks this week are as good as mine, or the Golfweek gang's, or the rest of the PakPickers.

1. Kim In-Kyung
2. Creamer
3. Kerr
4. Shin Ji-Yai
5. Miyazato Ai
6. Choi Na Yeon
7. Ji Eun-Hee
8. Kim Song-Hee
9. McPherson
10. Lang
11. Ochoa
12. Kung

Alts: Oyama; Ueda; Moromizato

Yup, I'm predicting an Ai-chan bounce from the Japanese contingent in the field, despite the fact that I'd normally expect them to play better the hotter it is.

The 1st-round draw (or pairings, as we're wont to call them this side of the Atlantic) are as interesting as you'd expect for a major. Ochoa sounds as pleased as I am that she'll be playing with Ai Miyazato for the 1st 2 rounds:

Q. Ai, a good friend of yours, can you give your reaction to her finally winning a tournament?

LORENA OCHOA: I was very super happy for her. I almost cried, we were watching her on TV on Sunday afternoon, and I got very emotional. She's been a good friend and I know how hard she works, how much pressure she has from the media back in her country.

And I just saw the news that I am going to play with her for the first two rounds, I'm happy about that. It's always nice to feel comfortable out there and to have somebody that you like. So I wish her the best and congratulations again.

They go off with Karen Stupples at 7:47 am. I think Ochoa's going to be inspired by Ai-chan's win, herself, and play more like the golfer who was -10 over the middle of the Evian Masters than the one who struggled out of the gates and down the stretch.

My other favorite pairings include In-Kyung Kim, Tania Elosegui, and Mika Miyazato at 6:52 am, because it gives Elosegui a taste of what playing full-time on the LPGA would be like; Jeong Jang, Stacy Prammanasudh, and Yuko Mitsuka right after them for the same reason, although Mitsuka would be playing with 2 LPGA regulars trying to forge comebacks rather than come fully into their own; and, well, I could go on and and about how great each pairing is and why, but I think one example should suffice for general awesomeness: Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie, and Momoko Ueda at 12:32 pm. As the great Stan Lee would say, 'nuff said.

[Update 1 (8:48 pm): Here's Jamie's WBO preview from Crosscourt Birdies. Glad that I can finally read what he's been posting the last few days--his site redesign and my browsers weren't cooperating until now!]

[Update 2 (9:09 pm): Hound Dog summarizes the race to make the Solheim Cup teams (and supports Sirak's and my conclusions through much more detailed and thoughtful reasoning).]

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