The 1st-round pairings have been released for the Honda LPGA Thailand kickoff event of the season. So which are the most intriguing? Here are my top 15:
11:48 am: Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen. Ai-sama chased down Pettersen last year with a 63 on Sunday from a couple of groups ahead of her. Now they get to go head-to-head to see who can get 1st her 2nd win in Thailand.
11:40 am: Ya Ni Tseng and Paula Creamer. The hottest golfer in 2011 is looking to make it 3 wins in 3 weeks and extend her hold on the top position in the Rolex Rankings, while the biggest question mark in women's golf is looking to make a statement to start her comeback season.
12:20 pm: Na Yeon Choi and Michelle Wie. It's a battle of contrasting styles, as Choi looks to build on her money-list title and Vare Trophy from last year while Wie looks to prove you can enjoy college life and belong among the elites in the women's game.
11:32 am: Ji-Yai Shin and Cristie Kerr. They both got closed out of end-of-season awards on the LPGA at the very, uh, end of last season. Can these former Rolex #1's regain the throne? It's the classic precision player vs. the classic straight shooter!
9:44 am: Mika Miyazato and Jennifer Song. 2 new pros, both among the most heralded amateurs in their respective countries, Japan for Miyazato and US/Korea for Song. Jason Sobel picked Mikan to make the top 10 on the LPGA this season, while I'm picking Song for 2011 Rookie of the Year. No pressure, ladies!
10:44 am: Song-Hee Kim and Natalie Gulbis: The latter is coming back from back injuries while the former is coming back from the psychological fallout of regularly contending but not yet winning on the LPGA.
9:56 am: Momoko Ueda and Shanshan Feng. 2 great young Asian golfers, the latter coming out of a long slump and the former in the midst of one. Will they continue moving in opposite directions in 2011?
8:28 am: Morgan Pressel and Christina Kim. A couple of Solheim Cup stalwarts and 2-time winners on the LPGA, both are looking to take their games to the next level in 2011.
8:20 am: In-Kyung Kim and Kristy McPherson. A pair of precision players, the former one of the hottest golfers in the world in the 2nd half of 2010 and the latter a favorite to make the Solheim Cup despite having off-season elbow surgery.
10:04 am: Anna Nordqvist and Amy Yang. A pair of young pros who have been doing this long enough to break through into the game's elite.
8:44 am: Karrie Webb and Maria Hjorth. A couple of veterans with the games to go super-low, but both are known for their ups and downs on the course, particularly with their putters.
10:28 am: Karen Stupples and Candie Kung. Another couple of veterans who have been at the top of the women's game and are looking to get back there.
11:56 am: Catriona Matthew and Brittany Lang. Both are looking to bounce back from disappointing 2010s. Can they get 2011 off on the right foot?
10:52 am: Hee Young Park and Amanda Blumenherst. A young Korean and a young American who haven't yet met the sky-high expectations heaped on them. Park opened with a 79 here in 2009 and was hospitalized with heat exhaustion afterwards, but bounced back with rounds of 64 and 65 to finish 3 shots behind Lorena Ochoa. Blumenherst, for her part, closed with a 65 last Sunday in Australia. Are either of them ready to contend this week in Thailand?
9:40 am: Inbee Park and Sophie Gustafson. Both played better off the LPGA (the JLPGA for Park, the LET for Gustafson) last season, but both have the talent to win multiple times on the big tour. Can they stay out of trouble on the Pattaya Old Course?