Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Navistar Classic Preview, Predictions, Pairings

LPGA.com has a clever promo for this year's Navistar Classic (don't miss the youtube clips at the end!), but their focus on Ai Miyazato and Cristie Kerr is in part a function of the decision by Ji-Yai Shin, Ya Ni Tseng, Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie, Song-Hee Kim, Inbee Park, Catriona Matthew, and Momoko Ueda to skip the event. Don't get me wrong--the Navistar field is still strong--but now the tournament's biggest story is Miyazato and Kerr's chance to pass the absent Shin on the money list and the absent Tseng in the Player of the Year race as they vie for #1 in the Rolex Rankings, rather than a showdown between the top 6 female golfers on the planet. Whereas last week's Japan Women's Open featured 4 of the RR's top 10, 8 of the top 20, 11 of the top 30, 15 of the top 40, and 20 of the top 50, the Navistar's corresponding numbers are 5, 10, 15, 23, and 27. Both events feature 4 of the 10 hottest golfers on Hound Dog's hot list. Still, with JWO champion Mika Miyazato coming off her 1st professional victory last week, Na Yeon Choi off a top 5, and Ai Miyazato, Hee Young Park, and Eun-Hee Ji off top 10s, there are plenty of golfers coming to Alabama with some pretty good momentum (and pretty big jet lag) this week. LPGA.com's preview rightly focuses on In-Kyung Kim, Kristy McPherson, and Maria Hernandez among their players to watch this week, as well.

So will the hot but tired or the cool but rested golfers excel this week? With my lead in Seoul Sisters.com's season-long PakPicker competition at stake, I'm going to have to go with my hunch that Robert Trent Jones courses tend to favor the longer hitters who are blessed with solid ballstriking this week. With bombers dominating last year's leaderboard and Maria Hjorth (2007) and Lorena Ochoa (2008 and 2009) as past champions, I'm going with the following line-up at the 2010 Navistar:

1. Kerr
2. Lee Jee Young
3. Kim In-Kyung
4. Stanford
5. Lincicome
6. McPherson
7. Choi Na Yeon
8. Miyazato Ai
9. Lang
10. Kim, Christina
11. Pressel
12. Hull

Alts: Yang, Amy; Hurst, Vicky; Creamer

More on the pairings when they're posted! I'll be focusing on the players Hound Dog featured in his annual "Quest for the Card" feature....

[Update 1 (7:09 pm): But first, here's Hound Dog's preview!]

[Update 2 (10/6/10, 3:41 am): Oh, and here's LPGA.com's run-down of all the season-long races on tour.]

[Update 3 (4:18 am): OK, now here's my run-down of the pairings, starting with the primest of prime-time quadrants, the early-morning groups going off the 10th tee:

Start Time: 8:07 AM
Mi Hyun Kim
Leta Lindley
Jee Young Lee

Start Time: 8:18 AM
Angela Stanford
Kristy McPherson
Anna Nordqvist

Start Time: 8:29 AM
Ai Miyazato
Na Yeon Choi
Karrie Webb

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Mika Miyazato
Katherine Hull
Morgan Pressel

Start Time: 8:51 AM
Hee Young Park
Shanshan Feng
Se Ri Pak

Yeesh, no rest for the Miyazatos or Choi and Park, eh? I think it's great that Mi Hyun Kim and Leta Lindley, who are fighting for the top 80 and top 100 on the money list, respectively (although Lindley's '08 win ensures she'll have full status next season), get to play in this quadrant as relatively recent winners on tour. With all the pot bunkers out there and challenges of the wind, they could put themselves in contention through their accuracy.

Next up is the early-afternoon 1st-tee quadrant:

Start Time: 11:45 AM
Eun-Hee Ji
Azahara Munoz
Seon Hwa Lee

Start Time: 11:56 AM
Amanda Blumenherst
Natalie Gulbis
Laura Davies

Start Time: 12:07 PM
Brittany Lincicome
Cristie Kerr
Sophie Gustafson

Start Time: 12:18 PM
Hee-Won Han
Christina Kim
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 12:29 PM
Laura Diaz
Brittany Lang
Lindsey Wright

I'll tell you what--I would love to see Davies, Gustafson, and/or Diaz shine this week! Other players are looking to rekindle their LPGA magic after injuries (Creamer, Gulbis), motherhood (Han), or just plain disappointing seasons (Ji, Lee, Blumenherst, Kim, Lang, Wright), but it would be something special for Davies to get one step closer to the Hall, Gustafson to remind everyone she was the Head LETer in Charge last year, and Diaz to rescue her career. It's odd that of everyone in this quadrant, probably only Kerr, Munoz, and Lincicome are feeling really good about their seasons, but that's golf.

Next up is the early-afternoon 10th-tee quadrant:

Start Time: 11:45 AM
In-Kyung Kim
Haeji Kang
Stacy Lewis

Start Time: 11:56 AM
Gwladys Nocera
Jimin Kang
Michele Redman

Start Time: 12:07 PM
Pat Hurst
Na On Min
Alena Sharp

Start Time: 12:18 PM
Ji Young Oh
Meaghan Francella
Vicky Hurst

Start Time: 12:29 PM
Karine Icher
Amy Hung
Karen Stupples

At #91 on the money list, Michele Redman is the player with the most motivation in this quadrant, but it's been a mixed bag for pretty much everyone else here this season, with ups (Kim, Lewis, Icher, Hung, Francella, Kangs) and downs (Hursts, Stupples, Oh, Nocera) for all. This can be a defining tournament for many players in this quadrant who are fighting to get or stay into the top 50 on the money list and earn their tickets into the Asian Swing.

That leaves the early-morning 1st-tee quadrant to round out our prime-time pairings:

Start Time: 8:07 AM
Brandie Burton
Wendy Ward
Maria Hjorth

Start Time: 8:18 AM
Lorie Kane
Candie Kung
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 8:29 AM
Sun Young Yoo
Sherri Steinhauer
Shi Hyun Ahn

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Meena Lee
Jeong Jang
Katie Futcher

Start Time: 8:51 AM
M.J. Hur
Louise Friberg
Amy Yang

By my count, Yang and Futcher are the only players in this quadrant without an LPGA win to their names, so it only stands to reason that they'll put themselves in contention this week, eh? I'm rooting for Lorie Kane (#82 on the money list) to build on her success at the Canadian Women's Open and extend her LPGA career another year, Maria Hjorth to start playing like she's capable of again at a site she's won at, and Louise Friberg to make a late-season move. I'd also love to see Jeong Jang, Candie Kung, and Meena Lee put themselves back in contention more often.

So what about the players outside the prime-time quadrants? I think it's pretty cool that Moira Dunn gets to play with youngsters Cindy LaCrosse and Jessica Shepley, although the early tee time (7:34 am off #10) may not be that cool for them. Speaking of early tee times, I'm hoping Pernilla Lindberg (6:50 am off #10), Mariajo Uribe (7:34 am off #1), and Aree Song ((7:23 am off #10) get off to hot starts. Among those who get to sleep in, I'm particularly interested in Jane Park (1:02 pm off #1), Mina Harigae (12:40 pm off #10), and Chella Choi (1:35 pm off #10), but it's interesting to see how many European sojourners are back on the LPGA this week.]

No comments: