It's hard to believe this is my 4th preview of the Evian Masters, but of course it's the one I'm most excited about, as my favorite golfer, Ai Miyazato, is the defending champion and once again the top-ranked player in the Rolex Rankings.
It'll be tougher for Ai-sama to get her repeat victory this time around, as the field has been expanded to 111 players, including 23 who have membership on the JLPGA (and 11 of the top 12 players on their money list). Certainly the most imposing challengers to Ai-sama's continuing reign are the LPGA's ultra-elite, but watch out for repeat JLPGA winners in '10 Sun-Ju Ahn, Mi-Jeong Jeon, and Yuri Fudoh--and never count out Sakura Yokomine and Hee Kyung Seo, the top golfers from the JLPGA and from the KLPGA, respectively. So who do I think will conquer the hilly, tricky layout at Evian?
1. Miyazato Ai
2. Choi Na Yeon
4. Shin Ji-Yai
5. Kim In-Kyung
7. Park Inbee
8. Kim Song-Hee
11. Lee Meena
Alts: Munoz; Lewis; Kim, Christina
The tournament organizers have helpfully highlighted their favorite pairings for Thursday. Some of the most intriguing to me include:
Start Time: 9:09 AM
Start Time: 9:20 AM
Start Time: 11:28 AM
Jee Young Lee
Start Time: 8:07 AM
Ya Ni Tseng
Start Time: 1:03 PM
Start Time: 7:45 AM
Start Time: 10:26 AM
And that's just for starters! Check them out for yourself and let me know which ones you'd be most interested in following.
[Update 1 (7:18 am): Here's Golf Girl's preview--with photos and video!]
[Update 2 (7:27 am): And who could forget this classic from Ai-sama's biggest fan on youtube?
[Update 3 (7:48 am): Great story on Kristie Smith, but it would have been even better if it mentioned she's leading the LET Rookie of the Year race!]
[Update 4 (7:54 am): Tom Abbott sounds inspired! Hope to catch some of the GC coverage!]
[Update 5 (3:06 pm): For those who don't have Golf Channel, check out Evian Masters Live TV starting at 6:50 am tomorrow.]
[Update 6 (3:15 pm): I'm not on facebook, so I'm no help there, but we all have access to the Evian Masters flickr account. You may want to look at Hugh Grant in the pro-am with Paula Creamer. BTW, Michelle Wie WDed from it due to heat exhaustion; she's expected to play tomorrow.]
[Update 7 (3:50 pm): This video will give you a sense of why the players love the Evian Masters so much:
Evian Masters TV - A 2010 foretaste
Uploaded by evianmasters. - More professional, college and classic sports videos.]
[Update 8 (4:46 pm): Here are the pre-tournament notes and interviews from LPGA.com.]
[Update 9 (7/22/10, 1:45 pm): I was slow to find Mike Southern's preview.]
[Update 10 (7/25/10, 10:27 pm): Nice profile by Susanne Kemper of Mariajo Uribe, Maria Verchenova, and Simi Mehra, on and off the course.]