Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Navistar Classic Preview, Predictions, Pairings

The LPGA hits the RTJ Golf Trail once again for the Navistar Classic, where Katherine Hull will try to defend her title and 2007 champion Maria Hjorth will try to make it 2-for-2 in Alabama in 2011.  They'll face stiff competition from the LPGA's super-elite, however, as Amy Yang will be looking to avenge last week's playoff loss, 20 of the 24 Solheim Cuppers will be fine-tuning their games and seeking to build some momentum for next week in Ireland, and Ya Ni Tseng will be striving to win her 2nd event in a row and maybe break the tournament record of 63 at The Senator course that she shares with Hjorth, Lindsey Wright, Amy Hung, Stacy Prammanasudh, and Mika Miyazato.

As Tony Jesselli and Hound Dog have already noted, Miyazato is one of the good number of top golfers not in the field this week, whether from injury (Ji-Yai Shin), a return to Japan (Ai Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, Hee Young Park, Shanshan Feng), an early departure for Killeen Castle (Catriona Matthew, Anna Nordqvist), or some other reason (Karrie Webb, Wright, Kyeong Bae).  Despite their absence, the field still includes 13 of the top 15 players on tour.  And between Hound Dog's Hot 20, Ward Clayton's Stats and Stuff, and's tournament preview and pre-tournament notes and interviews, there's plenty for fans to chew over.  As for me, I'll be paying close attention to the race for the top 50, which will determine who will get to play in this fall's Asian swing--and next winter/spring's.  Here's who I think will best combine length and accuracy off the tee, precision approach shots to the Senator's big greens, and hot putting this week:

1. Tseng
2. Yang
3. Lewis, Stacy
4. Kerr
5. Choi Na Yeon
6. Pettersen
7. Creamer
8. Lincicome
9. Stanford
10. Hjorth
11. Lang
12. Gustafson

Alts: Park Inbee; Nomura; Joh

Here's a baker's dozen of my favorite pairings for the 1st 2 rounds:

10th tee, 11:50 am: Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Na Yeon Choi
10th tee, 12:34 pm: In-Kyung Kim, Stacy Lewis, Azahara Munoz
1st tee, 8:40 am: Ya Ni Tseng, Morgan Pressel, Sandra Gal
10th tee, 12:23 pm: Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Sophie Gustafson
1st tee, 8:51 am: Angela Stanford, Michelle Wie, Juli Inkster
1st tee, 8:18 am: Maria Hjorth, Brittany Lang, Hee-Won Han
10th tee, 8:40 am: Beatriz Recari, Tiffany Joh, Pornanong Phatlum
1st tee, 8:07 am: Ryann O'Toole, Vicky Hurst, Amanda Blumenherst
1st tee, 7:56 am: Jane Park, Belen Mozo, Lexi Thompson
10th tee, 8:07 am: Se Ri Pak, Katherine Hull, Lorie Kane
1st tee, 12:34 pm: Mi Hyun Kim, Jimin Kang, Stacy Prammanasudh
10th tee, 1:18 pm: Jee Young Lee, Harukyo Nomura, Taylor Leon
1st tee, 12:12 pm: Hee Kyung Seo, Mindy Kim, Dewi Claire Schreefel

I'll be rooting for NYer Moira Dunn (1st tee, 1:18 pm), rookie Jennifer Song (1st tee, 7:34 am), and struggling UCLAers Mariajo Uribe (10th tee, 7:34 am) and Charlotte Mayorkas (10th tee, 7:56 am) to take advantage of their last shot (and for Mayorkas, the 1st, as well) on the LPGA this year (unless they do well enough to qualify for the Titleholders).  But I'll be most curious to see who will step up and challenge Tseng this week.

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