Thursday, June 17, 2010

ShopRite Classic Preview, Predictions, Pairings

The 54-hole ShopRite Classic starts tomorrow and the field is packed. Sure, Ji-Yai Shin is still recovering from her emergency appendectomy and Momoko Ueda is still on the JLPGA resting her injured knee, but guess who's coming back to the LPGA this week? None other than the Pink Panther, Paula Creamer! Along with Alexis Thompson's pro debut and the continuing comebacks of Minea Blomqvist (from maternity leave) and Rachel Hetherington (from a broken ankle), there should be a decent amount of media attention, at least on the other end of the country from Pebble Beach.

Even though the tournament dropped out of the LPGA schedule during most of the Bivens era, it has a rich history. Annika Sorenstam and Betsy King each have 3 wins in it, while Juli Inkster has 2 (both coming in the mid-'80s). Seon Hwa Lee is the defending defending champion, having won in 2006, while Cristie Kerr won in 2004, Angela Stanford in 2003, Janice Moodie in 2000, and Se Ri Pak in 1999.

The par-71 Bay Course is a precision players' delight, clocking in at barely 6100 yards, requiring accuracy with its pot bunkers and small greens, and demanding good judgment in the winds of the Atlantic City area. My memories of playing it with my folks early last decade are not good. I was driving the ball great that day, but doing absolutely nothing with my approach shots and having trouble with my short game. In the end, my dad came back to beat me. This experience leads me to believe that those precision players coming into this week playing well and who know the course well will have a bit of an advantage. I figure you're going to have to break 200 to be in contention (-14) and have a feeling that Sorenstam's tournament record (-17) is in danger. Just about everyone in Hound Dog's hot 20 for the week is capable of challenging it. With all that in mind, here are my entries in this week's PakPicker:

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Choi Na Yeon
3. Kim Song-Hee
4. Kerr
5. Nordqvist
6. Pressel
7. Park Inbee
8. Yoo
9. Lee Seon Hwa
10. Kim Mi Hyun
11. Jang
12. Miyazato Mika

Alts: Min; Lewis; Dunn

The pairings are a lot of fun. Take, for instance, the big names, both established and up-and-coming, all lined up on the 1st tee in the early afternoon, timed perfectly for Golf Channel coverage:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Mi Hyun Kim
Brandie Burton
Se Ri Pak

Start Time : 12:20 PM
Gwladys Nocera
Leta Lindley
Maria Hjorth

Start Time: 12:30 PM
Cristie Kerr
Laura Davies
Juli Inkster

Start Time: 12:40 PM
Morgan Pressel
Karrie Webb
Michelle Wie

Start Time: 12:50 PM
Paula Creamer
Suzann Pettersen
Azahara Munoz

Start Time: 1:00 PM
Pernilla Lindberg
Alexis Thompson
Christina Kim

Yeah, I added that last pairing, even though prime-time quadrants usually consist of only 5 of 'em. 2 guesses as to why. Playing in Golf Central prime-time coverage on Saturday but going off the back tomorrow in the late morning are a bunch of players who ought to be in contention when their turn before the cameras comes:

Start Time: 8:35 AM
Rachel Hetherington
Ai Miyazato
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 8:45 AM
Lorie Kane
Na Yeon Choi
Na On Min

Start Time: 8:55 AM
Anna Nordqvist
Amanda Blumenherst
Brittany Lang

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Song-Hee Kim
Sun Young Yoo
Pat Hurst

Start Time: 9:15 AM
Natalie Gulbis
M.J. Hur
Sophie Gustafson

Of course, there are plenty of good players in the remaining quadrants, but to get on tv, they'll need to play themselves into contention on Sunday. Let's start with the late morning groups going off the 1st tee...

Start Time: 8:35 AM
Karine Icher
Jeong Jang
Vicky Hurst

Start Time: 8:45 AM
Eunjung Yi
Ji Young Oh
Grace Park

Start Time: 8:55 AM
Candie Kung
Angela Stanford
Hee Young Park

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Karen Stupples
Sherri Steinhauer
Helen Alfredsson

Start Time: 9:15 AM
Inbee Park
Jee Young Lee
Seon Hwa Lee

...and finish with the early afternoon groups going off the 10th tee tomorrow:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Liselotte Neumann
Katie Futcher
Eun-Hee Ji

Start Time: 12:20 PM
Laura Diaz
Michele Redman
Stacy Lewis

Start Time: 12:30 PM
Wendy Ward
Brittany Lincicome
Amy Yang

Start Time: 12:40 PM
Meg Mallon
Louise Friberg
Shanshan Feng

Start Time: 12:50 PM
Katherine Hull
Hee-Won Han
Catriona Matthew

I'm very curious to see who among the bombers and straight shooters will bring their A-games to AC! And to see who among the precision players who haven't been playing well yet this season will get it going this week (I'm rooting for Angela Park and Mina Harigae, in particular).

Judging by my twitter feed, many ladies have been enjoying themselves in NYC. And, no, I won't link to the before/after pics of Moira Dunn's 'do!

[Update 1 (6/18/10, 5:03 am): Nice review of Creamer's health problems, focusing on her hand/thumb/wrist, over at Even Par.]

[Update 2 (6:31 am): Golf Girl's at Seaview. Check out her posts from the course when you get a chance!]

[Update 3 (6:34 am): Ryan Ballengee and Golf Girl have great Paula Creamer stories, too.]

[Update 4 (7:12 am): Nice entrance for Thompson at Seaview (in a NASCAR vehicle, no less), but also some good details in these articles on her plans to not even try for full-time play for two years.]

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