Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hana Bank/KOLON Championship Preview/Predictions

Wow, I step away from LPGA blogging for a day or so and miss the biggest news from off the course since the early exit of Carolyn Bivens as LPGA commissioner. Fortunately, the internet never sleeps. Welcome to Michael Whan and good luck!

OK, back to the golf--finally! With the Hana Bank/KOLON Championship and Mizuno Classic making up the slimmed-down Asian Swing this season, let's take a look at the two fields together, as who's playing in them will have a huge impact on all the LPGA's pennant races (for Player of the Year, money list title, and Vare Trophy). Lo and behold, only Ji-Yai Shin and Lorena Ochoa are playing both events. That's good for Shin: she has home-country advantage this week and is defending champion the next, in a country where she's won 3 times in the past year and change. Ai Miyazato is skipping Korea; Cristie Kerr is skipping Japan; Karrie Webb is skipping Korea; Paula Creamer is skipping Japan; Suzann Pettersen is skipping both (resting her stress fracture in her foot); Angela Stanford is skipping both (probably to spend more time with her mom, who's fighting cancer). That leaves In-Kyung Kim, Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Eun-Hee Ji, and Song-Hee Kim with a great chance to make some noise the next 2 weeks and put themselves in contention for all the year-end titles.

To do that, though, they'll have to get past the cream of the KLPGA and JLPGA. In Korea, top gun Hee Kyung Seo will be looking to avenge last year's T17 finish, but So Yeon Ryu, Sun Ju Ahn, Hye Yong Choi, Ha Neul Kim, and Bo Mi (or Mee,as the LPGA has it) Lee are legitimate threats to contend. Probably about three times that number of the JLPGA's finest could walk away with a win the following week, ranging from Shinobu Moromizato, Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, and Chie Arimura (who have all won over $1M on the JLPGA this season) to Yuri Fudoh, Akiko Fukushima, Miho Koga, and Ji-Hee Lee to Yuko Mitsuka, Bo-Bae Song, Ayako Uehara, and Miki Saiki, and beyond. It's a shame that of them all, only Mitsuka will be trying out LPGA Q-School in December. We'll find out earlier in the week of the Mizuno which LPGA and KLPGA players will have decided to try to qualify for JLPGA. The latter number (taking into account those exempt into later stages) is already known to be much larger than the former.

Be that as it may, with both Shin and Seo coming off huge wins last week, and Ochoa having won the last event she competed in, how do I see things playing out this week?

1. Seo Hee Kyung
2. Shin Ji-Yai
3. Ochoa, Lorena
4. Tseng Ya Ni
5. Kerr, Cristie
6. Choi Na Yeon
7. Ryu So Yeon
8. Kim In-Kyung
9. Kim Song-Hee
10. Creamer, Paula
11. Yoo Sun Young
12. Lewis, Stacy

Alts: Song, Jennifer; Lee Seon Hwa; Miyazato Mika

Just a shot in the dark really! Maybe Candie Kung will defend her title? Or Jee Young Lee will get her 2nd win in the event and 1st as an LPGA member? With so many players coming off long breaks and those who played in Korea or Japan recently not really lighting it up, it's really hard to say who's going to come out swinging. More on the pairings tomorrow!

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