Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Preview, Predictions, Pairings

Ya Ni Tseng and Na Yeon Choi have traded wins the last couple of weeks of head-to-head battles on the LPGA's fall Asian swing, so even though Tseng has already clinched the  Player of the Year race, don't look for either one of them to back down this week on her home turf at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship

Thanks to Tony Jesselli and Hound Dog, who have helped set the stage for the latest showdown on tour, we know that the field is among the thinnest on tour without Karrie Webb, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Michelle Wie, Juli Inkster, Catriona Matthew, the Masters GC-bound Paula Creamer and (as Jamie Belyea pointed out in comments) Teresa Lu (who has clearly decided to focus virtually exclusively on the JLPGA this year, even to the point of not seeking a sponsor exemption for an LPGA event on her home soil), and Shanshan Feng (who's not trying to improve her #9 position on the JLPGA money list this week, either).  But there are still plenty of players who can keep pace with Tseng and Choi at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club, which features big ponds near 5 greens, down 1 fairway, and off 2 tees, lots of strategically-placed bunkers, relatively short par 5s (although the 2 on the back are guarded by ponds), and no par 4s over 400 yards.  The finishing holes--a short par 3 over water, the longest par 4 on the course, and a 521-yard par 5 that will tempt long hitters to flirt with the greenside pond (which will put pressure even on those who choose to lay up on their 2nd shots)--should produce plenty of drama and be a great test of nerves.  Who will excel on it?  Here are my guesses for the Seoul PakPicker:

1. Choi Na Yeon
2. Tseng
3. Yang
4. Shin Ji-Yai
5. Lang
6. Pettersen
7. Lewis
8. Miyazato Ai
9. Park Inbee
10. Kim In-Kyung
11. Pressel
12. Miyazato Mika

Alts: Yoo; Pak Se Ri; Kerr

I'm looking forward most particularly to the following pairings:

10th tee, 8:00 am: Ai Miyazato, In-Kyung Kim, Candie Kung
1st tee, 11:30 am: Na Yeon Choi, Suzann Pettersen, Azahara Munoz
1st tee, 11:40 am: Ya Ni Tseng, Brittany Lang, Anna Nordqvist
10th tee, 7:50 am: Ji-Yai Shin, Stacy Lewis, Maria Hjorth
1st tee, 7:40 am: Mika Miyazato, Ryann O'Toole, Chella Choi
10th tee, 11:20 am: Amy Yang, Tiffany Joh, Mindy Kim
1st tee, 11:50 am: Se Ri Pak, Cristie Kerr, Sophie Gustafson
10th tee, 11:50 am: Hee Kyung Seo, Hee Young Park, Sun Young Yoo
1st tee, 10:50 am: Seon Hwa Lee, Jenny Shin, Jessica Korda
1st tee, 7:50 am: Grace Park, Karen Stupples, Eun-Hee Ji
1st tee, 7:30 am: Belen Mozo, Cindy LaCrosse, Pei-Ying Tsai

With Jennifer Johnson going 1st off the 1st tee, I'm also curious to see if she'll set the pace for the 8 other rookies in the field trying to put some heat on ROY race leader Seo this week.  One of them will need to win to do it--a tall order, even in this relatively depleted field.

[Update 1 (6:14 am):  bangkokbobby has the video of the POY award presentation.  He also has video of Pettersen's challenge to Tseng.]

[Update 2 (6:30 am):  IceCat at Seoul notes that the race for Category 1 is on in a big way this week--Jennifer Song will be fighting to retain her spot at #80 on the money list (and move up it!).]

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