Friday, March 5, 2010

Daikin Orchid Ladies Preview, Predictions, Pairings

I wouldn't be surprised if Ai Miyazato's 2-event winning streak comes to an end this week in her 2010 JLPGA debut at the Daikin Orchid Ladies. Not because of fatigue, let-down, the added pressure of playing at home in Okinawa, or the vagaries of 54-hole tournaments. Simply because of the quality of her competition. Consider the players she'll have to beat to extend her worldwide winning streak to 3--not only last season's top players on tour but also the tour's new blood. Actually, I can make this concrete for you by making my picks for the top 12!

1. Ai Miyazato
2. Ji-Yai Shin
3. Momoko Ueda
4. Sakura Yokomine
5. Seon Hwa Lee
6. Shinobu Moromizato
7. Chie Arimura
8. Mi-Jeong Jeon
9. Ji-Hee Lee
10. Bo-Bae Song
11. Sun Ju Ahn
12. Miho Koga

Alts: Inbee Park, Young Kim, Teresa Lu

Yup, I left defending champion Yuko Mitsuka off my list, along with the #1 and #2 players on the JLPGA's career money list, Yuri Fudoh and Akiko Fukushima (not to mention Okinawan Ayako Uehara, who got off to a fast start last season). Among the up-and-comers on tour, I also snubbed rookies Jae Bae and Na Ri Kim, as well as last season's JLPGA Rookie of the Year Rikako Morita. But don't take my word for who ought to contend this week: take a look at the results from 2008 and 2009 to see who's played well in Okinawa in recent years.

As for the pairings, when tour young guns Mayu Hattori, Ah-Reum Hwang, and Kumiko Kaneda are the 3rd group off the 1st tee, you know the field is strong. Here are some of the most intriguing threesomes in the 1st round (all going off the 1st tee):

10:27 am: Ai Miyazato, Sakura Yokomine, amateur Satoko Sawada
10:18 am: Momoko Ueda, Shinobu Moromizato, amateur Haruka Yamaguchi
10:09 am: Ji-Yai Shin, Yuko Mitsuka, amateur Miki Yonaha (who turns 18 today)
9:51 am: Mi-Jeong Jeon, Miho Koga, amateur Masayo Yonamine
9:42 am: Yuri Fudoh, Inbee Park, Rikako Morita
10:00 am: Chie Arimura, Ayako Uehara, amateur Ai Yamazato
9:15 am: Young Kim, Erina Hara, Miki Saiki
9:33 am: Akiko Fukushima, Sun Ju Ahn, Yukari Baba
8:57 am: Seon Hwa Lee, Hiromi Mogi, Asuka Tsujimura
10:45 am: Bo-Bae Song, Nikki Campbell, Riko Higashio

For some reason, Hyun-Ju Shin, Teresa Lu, and Na Ri Kim are buried with much lesser players in 10th-tee starts. Look for them to be on the leaderboard tonight when the action starts!

[Update 1 (7:57 am): Nice survey by Jeff Skinner of how the Americans on the LET are doing this week Down Under. I'm too busy for more than a tournament recap post of them when all is said and done.]

[Update 2 (9:46 am): Here's why Christina Kim, LET rookie, is so cool!]

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