Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Safeway Classic Preview/Predictions

The full LPGA is back in action this week after a long mid-summer vacation. It'll be interesting to see how Karen Stupples and Amy Yang (who duelled on the LET), Momoko Ueda (who won on the JLPGA), Il Mi Chung, Hye Jung Choi, and Inbee Park (who just missed winning on the KLPGA), and sponsor exemption Samantha Richdale (who just won on the Futures Tour)--not to mention the members of the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup team and Team Europe's beaten but unbowed LPGAers--will do on the new site, the par-71 Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, for the 54-hole Safeway Classic. With greenside ponds on 9 and 18, a creek running throughout the course, plenty of trees, bunkers, elevation changes, and elevated, tiered, and huge greens, this one will be a real test of ball-striking, judgment, precision, focus, and nerve. Holes 12 through 18 are all on top of each other, so the leaders will know exactly what everyone else is doing down the stretch on Sunday.

In 2007, Lorena Ochoa made the Safeway her 3rd straight win, while last season Cristie Kerr defeated Sophie Gustafson and Helen Alfredsson in a playoff to break the million-dollar barrier after a rough start to her season, so you know the top women golfers in the world come to Portland ready to play. The only prominent players who won't be joining the party this week are Angela Park, Minea Blomqvist, and Linda Wessberg (the latter 2 are in Helsinki, competing on the LET--Blomqvist is sponsored by the tournament sponsor). So the idea of picking the top 12 in this week's PakPicker is feeling more daunting than ever, particularly when you can throw the historical stats pretty much out the window. For what they're worth, here are my guesses:

1. Shin Ji-Yai
2. Wie
3. Kerr
4. Kim In-Kyung
5. Creamer
6. Miyazato Ai
7. Stanford
8. Ochoa
9. Kim Song-Hee
10. Tseng
11. Ueda
12. Park Inbee

Alts: Stupples, Christina Kim, Wright

It sure hurt not to pick Hee-Won Han, Karrie Webb, Jeong Jang, and Juli Inkster, who have good histories at this event, but I had to go with the players I thought were hottest coming into this week. Very interesting that 2 amateurs, Ayaka Kaneko and Taylore Karle, made it in via Monday qualifying. I'm very curious to see what they make of this opportunity and hoping that Go-Kimmie-Go, who will be posting photos and more from Pumpkin Ridge at Seoul (along with Verdant Garden and other Pacific NW regulars), gets to meet them.

Since it's a Friday start this week, my pairings observations will have to wait for another day. With so few full-field events left on the 2009 schedule (6 counting the closing Tour Championship), the race for the top 50 on the money list (and entry into the Asian swing) is in full force, not to mention for the top 80 (which gives you full status on tour in 2010), top 100 (which gets you decent status on tour and a free pass into the finals of Q-School), and top 125 (which gets you lowly status on tour and a free pass into the finals of Q-School). More on this tomorrow!

[Update 1 (2:30 am): While you wait, be sure to check out Jamie's preview at his new site Jamie in the Rough. Our top 5 picks are the same (if jumbled), but we almost totally disagree on the next 7. I'm sure we both feel we have good reasons for our picks. It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the PakPickers deploy their picks this week!]

[Update 2 (2:43 am): Forgot to mention that the LPGA has set up Ghost Creek as a par 72 by turning the long par 4 9th into a short par 5, so there will be plenty of action as players make the turn on the 3 consecutive par 5s starting on the 8th!]

[Update 3 (4:48 pm): Go to Nice Ballz now for a great preview of Ghost Creek from guys who have played it.]

[Update 4 (4:54 pm): Here's Hound Dog's Hot 20.]

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