Thursday, August 27, 2009

Safeway Classic Pairings

Hound Dog's preview for the Safeway Classic is out, and once again he notices something I missed in mine. Even though virtually all of the top players on tour are taking on Ghost Creek (although Mi Hyun Kim appears to have started her maternity leave), many of the mid-level pros decided to skip the event, so that players in the 300s on the priority status list got into the field. This should make for some interesting not-ready-for-prime-time pairings on Friday. Let's check those out 1st.

One that sticks out to me is the Alena Sharp-Meredith Duncan-Katie Futcher group going off the 1st tee at 7:37 am. If you had asked me, I would have told you at the start of the season that I thought at least 1 of these players was going to have a breakthrough year. Instead, Sharp and Futcher are fighting to stay in the top 80 on the money list and Duncan to get into the top 100. With all the Canadians playing so well on the Futures Tour--lead by sponsor exemption Samantha Richdale--Sharp had better pick it up. Richdale gets to play with Sandra Gal and Song Yi Choi in the last group before the prime-time pairings begin. Others fighting to get into the top 100 include some of the hottest players in the world at the end of last season, Anja Monke (off #10 at 7:26) and Johanna Mundy (#1, 2:11). My buddy Moira Dunn (#1, 2:00) has dropped just outside the top 80 and is playing with Kim Hall, whose M.O. is to have 1 strong finish each year that gets her just inside the top 80. Will this be Hall's week? At #138 on the money list, she sure needs it to be.

It's strange to see golfers who haven't been having all that terrible seasons going off right next to players hoping to be around in 2010. Shi Hyun Ahn is 1 group before Moira's, while Jane Park is 2 (she's playing with Hye Jung Choi, who had a great chance to win in Korea and couldn't take advantage of it). On the back in the afternoon, Vicky Hurst is 1 group out of the prime-time pairings, Amy Yang and Shiho Oyama are 2, but then you get once-elite Sarah Lee with ex-Futures Tour star and rookie M.J. Hur and...Jeanne Cho-Hunicke?! The former pair are fighting for the top 80, while the latter is trying to avoid the basement (somehow Audra Burks, who's the current cellar-dweller, got a 1:05 starting time off the 1st, while Jeehae Lee, who's right ahead of Cho-Hunicke, is in the next group).

So it's not all fun and games on the LPGA. Even being in the primest of prime-time quadrants, late morning off the 1st tee, is no picnic. Just ask the 1st group going off:

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Meaghan Francella
Jeong Jang
Louise Friberg

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Eun-Hee Ji
Brittany Lang
Lindsey Wright

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Ai Miyazato
Angela Stanford
Anna Nordqvist

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Suzann Pettersen
Paula Creamer
Ji-Yai Shin

Start Time: 9:27 AM
Cristie Kerr
Lorena Ochoa
Michelle Wie

Jang is still recovering from wrist surgery, Francella is coming out of a slump, and Friberg is in the depths of one. Not really so different from Wie and Miyazato (trying to put injury and slump far behind them), Pettersen and Stanford (who have to deal with chronic injuries that flare up), or Lang (who had a terrible sophomore slump of her own), but with all them at the top of the game now, it sure feels like light-years separate them.

It's a similar story in the 2nd-brightest concentration of LPGA stars going off the back in the early afternoon. The 1st and last names on the list had been wandering in the golf wilderness for quite some time.

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Inbee Park
Mika Miyazato
Jee Young Lee

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Young Kim
Hee-Won Han
Michele Redman

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Se Ri Pak
Morgan Pressel
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Catriona Matthew
Christina Kim
In-Kyung Kim

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Karrie Webb
Ya Ni Tseng
Brittany Lincicome

I'm wondering if Park (who lost in a playoff last week on the KLPGA) is ready to make that same quantum leap back to the LPGA's elite that Lincicome surprised me by making this season. Tseng, who was struggling by her standards coming into the tour's mid-summer vacation, is also looking to come out sharp, while Solheim Cup rivals and Women's British open Sunday partners Matthew and Kim get to test their momentum against a well-rested In-Kyung Kim.

The other prime-time pairings don't have as many names that leap off the page. But there sure is an interesting combination of veterans and newbies going off the back in the late morning:

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Hee Young Park
Laura Davies
Leta Lindley

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Helen Alfredsson
Nicole Castrale
Eunjung Yi

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Stacy Prammanasudh
Rachel Hetherington
Ji Young Oh

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Momoko Ueda
Sophie Gustafson
Laura Diaz

Start Time : 9:27 AM
Wendy Ward
Kristy McPherson
Stacy Lewis

It's either 1 youngster with 2 vets or players in the prime of their careers like McPherson, Castrale, and Prammanasudh in the middle. As for the late morning front-side quandrant, don't be surprised if the winner comes out of the very 1st group:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Sun Young Yoo
Teresa Lu
Song-Hee Kim

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Natalie Gulbis
Liselotte Neumann
Lorie Kane

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Meena Lee
Carin Koch
Pat Hurst

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Kyeong Bae
Candie Kung
Katherine Hull

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Maria Hjorth
Silvia Cavalleri
Seon Hwa Lee

I'm wondering if Hjorth can keep her Solheim Cup momentum going or whether fatigue will bring down the new mom this week, and whether playing partner Seon Hwa Lee, who's having the worst season of her impressive career, can make a late-season charge like Cristie Kerr did last year.

So there's lots to follow in Portland this week at Pumpkin Ridge. Looking forward to reading all about it!

[Update 1 (4:10 pm): And following Go-Kimmie-Go's photoblog!]


Anonymous said...

Do you think someone at the pairings desk has a sense of humor - pairing Paula Creamer with Suzanne Pettersen for the first two days ? :-)

And will anybody notice after they tee off because the galleries will all be sucked to the group directly behind them - Cristie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa, and Michelle Wie.

The Constructivist said...

Nice catch, CG! I missed Alfredsson-Castrale, too. But why not the rest of the SCers, I wonder?