Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Honda LPGA Thailand Preview, Predictions, Pairings

I've already commented on how packed the field is for the Honda LPGA Thailand event that kicks off the LPGA's 2010 season. And Hound Dog has quantified its quality in his 1st tournament preview of 2010. If you've been following LPGAers on twitter, you'll know a lot about what it takes to fly halfway or so around the world for a golf tournament. If you haven't, check out Christina Kim's blog post--sounds like Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lang, Natalie Gulbis, and Meaghan Francella had a great time hanging with her (when they were actually conscious).

With past champions Hee-Won Han, Suzann Pettersen, and Lorena Ochoa all returning, the odds are pretty good of 1 of them repeating this time around. The Plantation Old Course at the Siam Country Club definitely seems to favor the longer hitters on tour, both in the late fall as it was played in 2006 and 2007 and in the late winter as it was played in 2009 back when it was played there in late fall 2007 [they just switched tracks--and I'm correcting mistakes in my original post]. But I'm going to go against the odds a little and predict that the hottest players at the end of last season will keep their momentum going as they start this one:

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Kim In-Kyung
3. Choi Na Yeon
4. Shin Ji-Yai
5. Wie, Michelle
6. Ochoa, Lorena
7. Pettersen, Suzann
8. Kerr, Cristie
9. Lang, Brittany
10. Creamer, Paula
11. Tseng Ya Ni
12. Ueda Momoko

Alts: Hull, Katherine; Stanford, Angela; Miyazato Mika

As for the pairings, one of the nicest things about a limited-field event is that they literally are pairings, from the 1st round to the last. There's something interesting about every single one of them, but here are a few to watch particularly carefully:

  • 9:15 am: 2009 Open Champions Eun-Hee Ji (U.S.) and Catriona Matthew (British) can see who gets off to a better start in 2010.
  • 10:03 am: Vicky Hurst and Jee Young Lee can have long-drive contests all day.
  • 10:27 am: Song-Hee Kim and Brittany Lang can race to see who will be the 1st to end her victory drought.
  • 10:43 am: Ditto for Sun Young Yoo and Kristy McPherson.
  • 12:03 pm: Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie can establish themselves as the top 2 Americans on tour right out the gate.
  • 12:11 pm: Lorena Ochoa and Ai Miyazato can establish themselves as the top 2 players on tour, period.
Honda is doing a lot to showcase Thai golfers in the 1st round. The last 3 pairings of the day--Shinobu Moromizato and Russy Gulyanamitta, Momoko Ueda and Virada Nirapathpongporn, and Mika Miyazato and Thidapa Suwannapura--will get lots of face time on Japanese tv. Plus, Thai fans can follow Nontaya Srisawang and Ariya Jutanugarn (10:19 am) for 9 holes before deciding whether to stay with them for 9 more or move back to the 1st tee to catch other local favorites. Looks like the field will be reshuffled after every round, so there'll be lots of other great pairings every day. Which ones stand out to you?

[Update 1 (7:03 am): More goodies...Beth Ann Baldry on Paula Creamer's thumb and backswing, Farrell Evans e-interviews Christina Kim, and Ryan Ballengee video interviews Wendy Ward:

Ward says the fairways are soft and the greens are hard--don't expect scores in the -20s this year.]

[Update 2 (11:13 am): Here are's notes and interviews.]

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