Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge Preview, Predictions, Pairings

Since I wrote enough yesterday on the reasons for the relative weakness of the field in this week's CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge, let me focus instead on the spotlight that it can put on golfers not named Cristie Kerr or Paula Creamer. Even though Blackhawk is a relatively short course, its elevation changes put a premium on club selection and execution with approach shots in particular. With Monday qualifiers Alison Walshe and Libby Smith shooting a 68 and a 69, respectively, that's a pretty good indication the course is vulnerable to some really low numbers this week. Who will take advantage?

Among the LPGA's 2-time winners, I'd keep an eye on last week's winner Katherine Hull, but think that Morgan Pressel has an even better chance of winning this week and that Christina Kim and Karen Stupples are good dark-horse picks. I don't have a great feeling about any of the 1-time winners, although perhaps someone like Natalie Gulbis or Moira Dunn could get hot. I'm much higher on the chances of someone who hasn't won yet breaking through this week--maybe someone like Stacy Lewis or Lindsey Wright, who are healthier than Kristy McPherson (I just read that she'll need back surgery in the offseason) and Jane Park and whose games might be better suited to Blackhawk than Brittany Lang, Vicky Hurst, and Azahara Munoz (although Lang has a good history here). But wouldn't it be great if a Californian like Park or Mina Harigae were to get her 1st win in her home state?

If you're going with the odds, however, you'd stack your picks with lots of players with 3 to 6 wins on tour. Brittany Lincicome is probably the hottest player on this list right now, but Seon Hwa Lee is showing signs of life, Angela Stanford is always a threat, Maria Hjorth has a great history at Blackhawk, and Sophie Gustafson is the defending champion. There aren't that many players with 7 or more wins in the field, but with names like Kerr, Creamer, Inkster, Webb, Davies, and Kim among them, you'd be foolish not to pick at least some of them.

So, with Golf Observer's stats (for the last 4 years, in particular) in mind, here are my entries in this week's PakPicker at Seoul Sisters.com:

1. Creamer
2. Pressel
3. Hull
4. Kerr
5. Wright
6. Stanford
7. Webb
8. Lewis
9. Lincicome
10. Lang
11. Park, Jane
12. Gulbis

Alts: Hurst, Vicky; Gustafson; Hjorth

I got skunked last week and dropped to #2 in the season-long competition. Let's see if I can get back in the saddle this week.

So much to talk about with the pairings for tomorrow's 1st round. Let's start with the prime-time quadrants. Here's the early-afternoon front-nine group:

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Alena Sharp
Laura Diaz
Stacy Lewis

Start Time: 11:50 AM
Natalie Gulbis
Amanda Blumenherst
Karrie Webb

Start Time: 12:00 PM
Juli Inkster
Christina Kim
Azahara Munoz

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Paula Creamer
Katherine Hull
M.J. Hur

Next on tap is the early-morning back-nine group:

Start Time: 8:20 AM
Karen Stupples
Mi Hyun Kim
Jimin Kang

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Brittany Lincicome
Meaghan Francella
Morgan Pressel

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Laura Davies
Angela Stanford
Cristie Kerr

Start Time: 8:50 AM
Shanshan Feng
Vicky Hurst
Kristy McPherson

Here is the early-morning front-nine group:

Start Time: 8:20 AM
Candie Kung
Hee-Won Han
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Lindsey Wright
Ji Young Oh
Sophie Gustafson

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Seon Hwa Lee
Michele Redman
Karine Icher

Start Time: 8:50 AM
Pat Hurst
Brittany Lang
Liselotte Neumann

And last but not least here is the early-afternoon back-nine group:

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Haeji Kang
Meena Lee
Louise Friberg

Start Time: 11:50 AM
Gwladys Nocera
Sherri Steinhauer
Brandie Burton

Start Time: 12:00 PM
Wendy Ward
Na On Min
Amy Hung

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Maria Hjorth
Lorie Kane
Leta Lindley

Monday qualifier Alison Walshe, who moved up to #98 on the money list after her great finish last week in only her 5th LPGA start of the season, is going 1st off the 1st with Gloria Park (#100) and Silvia Cavalleri (#110). Remember, the magic number to avoid Q-School is 100th on the money list! Simultaneously, players in a dogfight to secure their spots in the top 80--Sarah Jane Smith (#65), Karin Sjodin (#74), and Mina Harigae (#78)--lead those going off the 10th tee. Keep an eye on rookies Maria Hernandez (#68), Beatriz Recari (#90), and Pernilla Lindberg (#112) a few groups later--and Marianne Skarpnord (#127) and Katie Kempter (#145) right before them. Similarly, at the end of the day, rookies Mariajo Uribe (#84) and Cindy LaCrosse (#126) are looking to bring it on the back (although LaCrosse at least has the security of having won her 2011 card via her record-breaking year on the Futures Tour). The depth of the rookie class of 2010 will be put to the test this week. All it takes is 4 good rounds for an entire season to be turned around.

That's equally true of veterans like Lorie Kane (#85), Laura Diaz (#96), Moira Dunn (#75), and Jennifer Rosales (#72), prime-time players like Karin Sjodin (#74), Julieta Granada (#107) and Sarah Lee (#115), and young pros like Irene Cho (#76), Paige Mackenzie (#87), and Angela Park (#143). Even without most of the hottest golfers on the LPGA in the field, then, there will still be plenty of drama in Danville this week.

[Update 1 (4:54 pm): Hound Dog looks at the various races for cards much more systematically than me! Worth a read!]

3 comments:

courtgolf said...

Certainly looks like a much stronger field than the JLPGA major a couple of weeks back.

And what's going on with the world's greatest golfer ? Is she on detention for skipping too many classes at Stanford ? :-) The football team has a week off - so she's not missing her campus life there.

The Constructivist said...

Maybe so, maybe so. HD noted this tournament and the '08 Mizuno got the same "strength of field" rating in his system, so most likely he'd rate the '10 JWO lower than both. But the '10 JWO had more from the RR top 50 in it than this event does.

Don't know why Wie's skipping this! Wish she weren't. But then I could say the same thing about a dozen other golfers!

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