Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Women's British Open Preview, Predictions, Pairings

There's certainly a lot at stake in the Women's British Open's return to Royal Birkdale this week. Given the way the Rolex Rankings work, the WBO will have a huge influence on who ends the season #1 in the world of women's golf. And when the hottest players on tour are in the thick of the key races to end the season atop the money list, as Player of the Year, and with the lowest scoring average, the competition this week should be incredible. Ron Sirak points out how important this week is for the Tour's profile, as well, and does a great job catching people who haven't been following the LPGA regularly up on what's been happening this season.

But as usual, Sirak's not so reliable when it comes to identifying favorites at Royal Birkdale. He ignores most of the top players who have not yet won a major on the LPGA as well as several others whose games are well-suited for Birkdale's links golf. You'll learn a lot more from Hound Dog's preview, as well as LPGA.com's preview, tournament history, and stats pages. The most relevant leaderboard to look at is from 2005, when the Birkdale last hosted the WBO, but Golf Observer has a handy-dandy chart that's worth consulting to get a sense of longer-term trends. The bottom line is that even without Lexi Thompson, who should've stayed an amateur if she wanted to use her Curtis Cup exemption into the WBO, the field is incredibly packed. Without further ado, then, here are my entries in this week's PakPicker at Seoul Sisters.com:

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Shin
3. Choi Na Yeon
4. Kim Song-Hee
5. Park Inbee
6. Kerr
7. Webb
8. Pettersen
9. Creamer
10. Tseng
11. Kim In-Kyung
12. Pressel

Alts: Jang, Gulbis, Han

I'll be curious to see how top JLPGAers Sun-Ju Ahn, Sakura Yokomine, Chie Arimura, and Akane Iijima do relative to LPGA regulars Ai and Mika Miyazato and Momoko Ueda and top KLPGAer Hee Kyung Seo, how the LPGA's Rookie of the Year race will play out with Azahara Munoz, Amanda Blumenherst, Gwladys Nocera, Beatriz Recari, Marianne Skarpnord, and Mariajo Uribe in the field, and the implications for the LET Rookie of the Year race, which now looks like this:

1. Kristie Smith (10 events) €80.6K
2. Maria Hernandez (3) €58.0K
3. Azahara Munoz (4) €55.8K
4. Pernilla Lindberg (4) €32.4K
5. Caroline Masson (8) €32.0K
6. Mollie Fankhauser (8) €30.6K
7. Ai Miyazato (1) €30.3K
8. Rebecca Flood (10) €23.7K [not in field]
9. Jeehae Lee (7) €19.4K [not in field]
10. Kim Welch (8) €14.3K [not in field]
11. Mariajo Uribe (1) €14.3K
12. In-Kyung Kim (1) €11.4K
24. Christina Kim (3) €2.7K

That's right: a good finish would put Munoz atop both the LPGA and LET ROY races, which could lead to an interesting schedule from this week out.... But she has to outdo Ai-sama and Inky to accomplish that!

The pairings for the 1st 2 rounds are pretty amazing, when you consider how loaded the 1st few groups are with top LPGA and LET players:

Start Time: 6:30 AM
Lee-Anne Pace
Angela Stanford
Song-Hee Kim

Start Time: 6:41 AM
Juli Inkster
Kristie Smith
Jeong Jang

Start Time: 6:52 AM
Ji-Yai Shin
Anna Nordqvist
Becky Brewerton

Start Time: 7:03 AM
Laura Davies
Morgan Pressel
Mika Miyazato

Start Time: 7:14 AM
Catriona Matthew
Florentyna Parker
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 7:25 AM
Ai Miyazato
Melissa Reid
Karrie Webb

Start Time: 7:36 AM
Vicki Laing
Karen Lunn
Inbee Park

Start Time: 7:47 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Danielle McVeigh
Chie Arimura

Start Time: 7:58 AM
Amanda Blumenherst
Caroline Afonso
Maria Hjorth

Tomorrow's opening pairings have just as much star power:

Start Time: 6:30 AM
Iben Tinning
Amy Yang
Janice Moodie

Start Time: 6:41 AM
Karen Stupples
Kelly Tidy
Sherri Steinhauer

Start Time: 6:52 AM
Christina Kim
Sophie Gustafson
Akane Iijima

Start Time: 7:03 AM
Michelle Wie
Suzann Pettersen
Rui Kitada

Start Time: 7:14 AM
Cristie Kerr
Brittany Lincicome
Helen Alfredsson

Start Time: 7:25 AM
Momoko Ueda
Natalie Gulbis
Azahara Munoz

Start Time: 7:36 AM
Ya Ni Tseng
Ashleigh Simon
Krystle Caithness

Start Time: 7:47 AM
Anja Monke
Gwladys Nocera
Sakura Yokomine

I'd love to see Moira Dunn (3:06 pm Th-10:21 am F), Libby Smith (1:38-8:53), Jane Park (1:05-8:20), Na On Min (10:43-3:28), and Chella Choi (10:43-3:28) play great this week! Hoping to catch some action on ESPN while I'm at ther Futures Tour event this week in Syracuse.

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