Wednesday, June 23, 2010

LPGA Championship Preview, Predictions, Pairings

The LPGA Championship is at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, NY, this year, the site of what used to be--and what will most likely become again--the regular-season Wegmans event. As a tune-up site for the U.S. Women's Open, Locust Hill has always featured narrow fairways, thick rough, and small, well-protected, and tricky greens, but everything's been upgraded this year. Several holes have been lengthened, many fairways have been narrowed even further, and the greens are expected to be rolling between 11 and a half and 12 on the Stimpmeter. I walked the course Monday and Tuesday, so I'll pass along what I noticed in a separate post. Suffice to say it's going to take a lot of accuracy off the tee, good judgement on approach shots, excellent recovery shots and putting, and, above all, great patience and persistence to win the LPGA's 2nd major of 2010. With the thunderstorms that rolled through the Rochester area yesterday not projected to be the only ones to visit Locust Hill this week, dealing with volatile weather conditions, delays, soft fairways, wet rough, and greens that may dry out at different rates are also likely to be on the agenda.

I've already commented on the ways that some in the local media have framed the event, so I'll simply recommend previews by Hound Dog and For more on the tournament history in Rochester, see Golf Observer and Pre-tournament interviews with world #1 Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, and Michelle Wie are already up at

To me, the biggest question of the week is who in the amazing field will step up their game to keep pace with Ai Miyazato's spectacular start to the season. Will it be former world #1 Ji-Yai Shin, who dominated in Rochester last year but is coming off an emergency appendectomy only 2 weeks ago? Will it be another past champion at Locust Hill, such as Karrie Webb, Laura Davies, Jeong Jang, or Eun-Hee Ji (not to mention long shots like Rachel Hetherington and Meg Mallon)? Will it be the defending champion of the '09 LPGA Championship, Anna Nordqvist? Will it be a player who's been knocking on the door all season like Song-Hee Kim or Suzann Pettersen or Na Yeon Choi? Will Ya Ni Tseng keep her Grand Slam hopes alive this week? Or will Ai-sama herself follow in the footsteps of Hisako Higuchi (who won the LPGA Championship in 1977), Ayako Okamoto (who won here in 1983), and her good friend Lorena Ochoa (who won in the Wegmans in 2005 and 2007)? Here are my guesses:

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Pressel
3. Tseng Ya Ni
4. Kim Song-Hee
5. Park Inbee
6. Kerr
7. Choi Na Yeon
8. Pettersen
9. Webb
10. Hur
11. Nordqvist
12. Lee Seon Hwa

Alts: Lewis, Han Hee-Won, Jang

Because Thursday is onechan's last day of school and the girls and I will be meeting my parents at the clubhouse Friday morning, I'm less interested in those days' pairings than I'd normally be. I won't be able to really follow anyone on the course until Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, nor will I be able to watch any golf on tv. But for those who can, here are the prime-time quadrants, starting with the late morning front-side starters:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Catriona Matthew
Lorie Kane
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Katherine Hull
Brandie Burton
Mi Hyun Kim

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Jee Young Lee
Nancy Lopez
Laura Diaz

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Azahara Munoz
Natalie Gulbis
Laura Davies

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Juli Inkster
Ji-Yai Shin
Paula Creamer

Start Time : 9:27 AM
Ai Miyazato
Morgan Pressel
Michelle Wie

Yup, Ji-Yai Shin was true to her word, coming back only 2 weeks after surgery. I didn't pick her or Creamer this week because I think the rough will just be too thick for them. Fan favorite and Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez will probably garner crowds as large as the final pairing's in this quadrant. Speaking of star power, the early-afternoon back-9 quadrant has plenty of it:

Start Time: 12:15 PM
Pat Hurst
Maria Hjorth
Momoko Ueda

Start Time: 12:26 PM
Haeji Kang
Kristy McPherson
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 12:37 PM
Anna Nordqvist
Helen Alfredsson
In-Kyung Kim

Start Time: 12:48 PM
Ya Ni Tseng
Se Ri Pak
Brittany Lincicome

Start Time: 12:59 PM
Meg Mallon
Karrie Webb
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 1:10 PM
Cristie Kerr
Suzann Pettersen
Amanda Blumenherst

I'm very interested to see how Momoko Ueda's knee problems affect her game. Speaking of injuries, I keep thinking Jeong Jang is due to regain her form after coming back from wrist surgery. Her right hand and wrist is still heavily taped and she didn't look all that comfortable in the Tuesday pro-am the few times I saw her. Be that as it may, she's in the lead group in the back-9 late morning prime-time quadrant:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Jeong Jang
Ji Young Oh
Inbee Park

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Eun-Hee Ji
Katie Futcher
Stacy Lewis

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Gwladys Nocera
Seon Hwa Lee
Wendy Ward

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Sherri Steinhauer
Sophie Gustafson
Karen Stupples

Start Time: 9:16 AM
M.J. Hur
Meena Lee
Brittany Lang

Start Time: 9:27 AM
Amy Hung
Rachel Hetherington
Liselotte Neumann

That leaves the early afternoon prime-timers going off the 1st tee:

Start Time : 12:15 PM
Jimin Kang
Song-Hee Kim
Candie Kung

Start Time : 12:26 PM
Hee-Won Han
Mika Miyazato
Hee Young Park

Start Time : 12:37 PM
Michele Redman
Shanshan Feng
Sun Young Yoo

Start Time : 12:48 PM
Amy Yang
Eunjung Yi
Kyeong Bae

Start Time : 12:59 PM
Louise Friberg
Grace Park
Na On Min

Start Time : 1:10 PM
Vicky Hurst
Karine Icher
Leta Lindley

I had never realized how tiny (smaller than JJ and Peanut) Na On Min is, but, man, what a great swing she has! Candie Kung literally spent hours at the putting green on Monday, grinding away at what seemed to be the same cup every time I checked her out. She's definitely gearing up for major season. I'm curious to see if Shanshan Feng, Sun Young Yoo, and Amy Yang can keep up their good play over the last month or so at Locust Hill this week, and if Vicky Hurst can turn it around from her recent troubles. More on Mika Miyazato (whom I was able to interview) soon. I'm putting imoto in day care so I can catch up on my writing from all I gathered yesterday and the day before on-course.

[Update 1 (9:53 am): Here's Mike Southern on Ai Miyazato's swing and ChicagoDuffer asking whether we'll ever see an American #1 in women's golf again.]

[Update 2 (1:04 pm): Here's Alan Shipnuck's new hot list. Check out #4!]

[Update 3 (8:46 pm): Here's Beth Ann Baldry's preview, with a focus on Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen. Don't even get me started on her take on Ai-sama.]

[Update 4 (8:50 pm): The AP offers a better preview than Baldry's, with a focus on Paula Creamer and Anna Nordqvist.]

[Update 5 (6/24/10, 5:02 am): Here are more previews, from Mike Southern, Jeff Skinner, and Armchair Golfer. Please forgive the corrections in comments, guys!]

[Update 6 (6/24/10, 5:11 am): Here's Sal Maiorana's preview.]

[Update 7 (8:48 asm): Randall Mell is in da house! Check out his blogging all week--he's one of the best at it in the golfy media!]

[Update 8 (8:54 am): Seoul stalwart and Grace Park fan IceCat is on the prowl at Locust Hill and he's got the video to show for it!]

[Update 9 (10:03 am): Note to all of Jay Busbee's regulars who made it all the way down here: I was at Locust Hill Monday and Tuesday and have been blogging about what I observed and heard there. Here are links to my take on Ai Miyazato's career to date, my progress report on 20-year-olds Mina Harigae and Mika Miyazato, my hitchhiker's guide to Locust Hill, and a funny story from the media tent--and there's more coming just from those 2 days on the course. I'll be back with my family Friday through Sunday, so watch for more!]


courtgolf said...

Two weeks after an emergency appendectomy, and she can play Tour level golf. That's amazing. I know they do it by laproscopy these days...three small incisions, a snip, a tug, and a seal...but I still remember my dad's appendectomy when I was a kid and he was laid out from his desk job for a month. Amazing.

The Constructivist said...

Totally! I heard that Shin's trainer worried about tightness he felt in her midsection when he was giving her a massage and warned her to contact him if she felt pain there. Because she took his advice early the next morning, she was able to get it checked out and removed before it ruptured. Like you said, it's as non-invasive as possible, but I'll tell you, she must be as tough as they come to even be thinking about playing this week. She claimed she felt pretty much fine after the pro-am. But I can't help but think if there are any doubts tomorrow, she'll pull a DNS. She has such a long and great career ahead of her, there's no point in jeopardizing her recovery, even for a major.