Mizuno Classic Preview & Pairings

With the Constructivist swamped at work, I thought I would keep things moving here with a copy of my Preview of the Mizuno Classic.

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After another exciting finish in Taiwan, the LPGA moves to Japan for the playing of the Mizuno Classic. This will be the 6th and final leg of the Asian swing. This is one of the longest running tournaments on the LPGA. It was first won in 1976 by Donna Caponi. It is also one of the few 54 hole events that remain on the LPGA schedule.

2013 Mizuno Classic Winner Teresa LU

This will be tournament #30 of 32 on the LPGA 2014 schedule.

Here are the Key details:

Course:  Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club
Location:  Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan
Defending Champion:  Teresa Lu (non-LPGA member)
Winning Score:  70-68-64 = 202 (-14)

Final Field:  78 players
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,506
Purse:  $1,200,000

My strength of field rating is just 36.5%, making it the weakest field of the year. The field will include Stacy Lewis, who will be attempting to take back the #1 spot. There will also be several top players from the JLPGA tour teeing it up.

I will post the pairings as soon as they become available.

There is no television coverage of this event.

Here are my Pak Picker Picks for this tournament:
1- Stacy Lewis
2- Chella Choi
3- Na Yeon Choi
4- Sun Ju Ahn
5- Teresa Lu
6- Karrie Webb
7- Mirim Lee
8- Jessica Korda
9- Jiyai Shin
10- Ilhee Lee
11- Ayaka Uehara
12- Bo-Mee Lee
With the 3 weeks left I am currently in 3rd place, but still have an outside chance of coming out on top of our field of 21 players.

Other Tidbits:
Danielle Kang may not have won an LPGA tournament yet in her young career, but she sure is getting good at winning cars. For the second consecutive week she has aced the hole that had an automobile as the prize for doing so. I wonder what the Vegas odds would be for her doing it for a third consecutive time.

Azahara Munoz has become the 9th player this year to pass the 1 million dollar mark in 2014 LPGA earnings.

Stacy Lewis now has six second place finishes this year to go along with her 3 wins.

Since I had pointed out several times earlier in the season how the American players were dominating the first half of the schedule, it is only fair that I now point out that players from South Korea have now won 8 of the last 11 tournaments. They now have nine wins this year, but will need to win the remaining 3 events to tie the Americans.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Amy Yang moves up from #24 to #19, while Pernilla Lindberg jumps up from #108 to #97.

Race to the CME Globe:
Stacy Lewis continues to have a huge lead with 4,783 points. She is followed by Inbee Park with 3,912 and Lydia Ko with 3,313.

Who’s Red Hot:
Inbee Park has now finished in the top ten, eight consecutive tournaments.
Mariajo Uribe very quietly has six top thirteen finishes in her last 8 starts.

Who’s Ice Cold:
I.K. Kim has only 1 top ten finish in her 17 starts this year.
Ai Miyazato has now failed to register a top ten in her last 37 tournaments.

It’s Crunch Time on the LPGA and Symetra Tour This Week!

The Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic and the Symetra Tour Championship this week will have a huge bearing on who keeps or gains solid LPGA status for the 2015 season and who will have to go to Q-School to improve or secure it.

In a nutshell, those who finish in the top 100 on the 2014 LPGA money list will be able to get as many starts as they want in 2015, as will those who finish in the top 10 on the 2014 Symetra Tour money list.  Those between #101 and #125 on this year’s LPGA money list will have a limited number of starts next year, and will probably choose to go to Q-School to improve on their status, while those who finish between #11 and #25 on the Symetra Tour money list will get a free pass into the final stage of Q-School and those who finish outside the top 25 will need to play in Stage II at the end of the month.  With that in mind, let’s review the LPGA and Symetra Tour money lists to see who’s on the edge.

Let’s start with the LPGA:

90. Jaye Marie Green $88.4K
91. Kelly Tan $88.1K [not in Yokohama field]
92. Alison Walshe $85.4K
93. Lindsey Wright $84.7K
94. Kristy McPherson $83.9K
95. Ashleigh Simon $78.3K
96. Yueer Cindy Feng $77.6K
97. Alena Sharp $75.3K
98. Paz Echeverria $75.0K [not in Yokohama field]
99. Jee Young Lee $74.8K
100. Joanna Klatten $72.7K

101. Alejandra Llaneza $66.1K
102. Lisa McCloskey $66.0K
103. Chie Arimura $62.8K
104. Hee-Won Han $61.1K [retired]
105. Paula Reto $58.4K
106. Becky Morgan $57.7K
107. Paola Moreno $57.0K
108. Rebecca Lee-Bentham $51.9K
109. Jennifer Kirby $51.7K
110. Felicity Johnson $50.8K

So let’s say someone wanted to guarantee she passed Echeverria.  A top-25 finish would be good enough for Llaneza or McCloskey, while Lee-Bentham, Kirby, and Johnson would need more like top-10 finishes.  A top-2 finish would be good enough to leapfrog anyone in the field into the top 100 who wasn’t already there, while a top 5 would be good enough for almost everyone.  The only question is how many players from outside the top 100 play well enough to make a move on those near the bottom of it.  To keep their fate in their hands, the most vulnerable players in the top 100–Simon, Feng, Sharp, Lee, and Klatten–need to at least make the cut in Alabama.

On the Symetra Tour, it seems to me that if the purse is the same as last year, then everyone from #8 Kendall Dye on up has already secured their card, no matter what happens this week.  (That’s why Yueer Cindy Feng is playing on the LPGA to improve on her #96 position there rather than defending her #6 position on the Symetra Tour money list).  But a top-5 finish from someone fairly far down the money list can have a huge impact on who makes the top 10 and top 25, particularly if those near the edges miss the cut:

9. Mallory Blackwelder $39.5K
10. Veronica Felibert $39.5K

11. Sara-Maude Juneau $36.5K
12. Lee Lopez $36.1K
13. Lindy Duncan $36.1K
14. Brittany Altomare $33.9K
15. Demi Runas $33.2K
16. Emily Talley $32.7K
17. Nicole Vandermade $31.9K
18. Olivia Jordan-Higgins $30.9K
19. Laura Gonzalez-Escallon $29.0K
20. Madison Pressel $27.9K
21. Maude-Aimee Leblanc $25.2K
22. Hye-Min Kim $24.9K
23. Daniela Iacobelli $24.2K
24. Jennie Lee $23.6K
25. Rebecca Artis $23.4K
***
26. Jean Reynolds $22.8K
27. Marta Silva $22.3K
28. Molly Aronsson $22.0K
29. Stephanie Na $21.3K
30. Therese Koelbaek $21.3K
31. Calle Neilson $20.1K
32. Megan McChrystal $20.1K [in Yokohama, not Tour Championship, field]
33. Kim Kaufman $19.6K [LPGA card already secured; fighting to make Asian Swing]
34. Casey Grice $19.5K
35. Caroline Powers $19.0K
36. Samantha Richdale $18.2K
37. Katie Kempter $18.1K
38. Madeleine Sheils $17.5K
39. Ashley Tait $17.3K
40. Garrett Phillips $16.1K

McChrystal has decided she has a better shot at improving dramatically on her #133 position on the LPGA money list ($21.8K) than even a win at the Symetra Tour Championship is worth.  Meanwhile, Cheyenne Woods (#58, $12.0K) and Kelly Shon (#71, $8.6K) basically need to win to skip to Stage III of LPGA Q-School, although Cheyenne might get lucky with a solo 2nd.
So keep an eye on these names this week!

Back to School: Stage I of LPGA Q-School Starts Today

Most Interesting Pairings at the JTBC Founders Cup

The JTBC Founders Cup has a pairing for everyone!

If you want to see the top players in the world of women’s golf duking it out, this tournament has more than you can shake a stick at:

10th tee, 8:00 am: Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, Jessica Korda
10th tee, 8:10 am: Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, Ya Ni Tseng
1st tee, 12:45 pm: Suzann Pettersen, Karrie Webb, Michelle Wie
1st tee, 12:55 pm: Stacy Lewis, Azahara Munoz, Brittany Lincicome

If you want to see golfers fighting to make their country’s team for the International Crown, check out the following groups:

10th tee, 12:55 pm: Angela Stanford, Hee-Won Han, Sun Young Yoo
10th tee, 8:00 am: Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, Jessica Korda
10th tee, 12:25 pm: Na Yeon Choi, Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji
10th tee, 12:45 pmAmy YangMorgan PresselHaeji Kang
1st tee, 12:25 pmIn-Kyung Kim, Catriona Matthew, Hee Kyung Seo
1st tee, 8:10 am: Se Ri Pak, Hee Young Park, Pornanong Phatlum
1st tee, 8:00 am: Chella Choi, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Ilhee Lee
1st tee, 7:00 am: Katherine Kirk, Sarah Jane Smith, Jenny Suh
10th tee, 8:40 am: Thidapa Suwannapura, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Danah Bordner

If you’re interested in following up-and-coming golfers under the age of 22, the tournament organizers have accommodated you:

10th tee, 7:20 am: Vicky Hurst, Mi Hyang Lee, Jaye Marie Green
10th tee, 1:05 pm: Ashleigh Simon, Harukyo Nomura, P.K. Kongkraphan
1st tee, 7:50 am: Pat Hurst, Carlota Ciganda, Jenny Shin
1st tee, 7:20 am: Maria (Hjorth) McBride, Ryann O’Toole, Moriya Jutanugarn
10th tee, 8:40 am: Thidapa Suwannapura, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Danah Bordner
10th tee, 12:15 pm: Ayako Uehara, Mindy Kim, Danielle Kang
10th tee, 8:30 am: Kathleen Ekey, Xi Yu Lin, Kelly Tan

And if you want to follow my favorite golfers for me, pick any of the following groups:

10th tee, 7:50 am: Ai Miyazato, Anna Nordqvist, Gerina Piller
1st tee, 7:40 am: Mika Miyazato, So Yeon Ryu, Jennifer Johnson
10th tee, 11:45 amMoira Dunn, Paz Echeverria, Jacqui Concolino
1st tee, 12:25 pmIn-Kyung Kim, Catriona Matthew, Hee Kyung Seo
10th tee, 12:25 pm: Na Yeon Choi, Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji
10th tee, 7:10 am: Seon Hwa Lee, Sandra Changkija, Paula Reto
10th tee, 12:05 pm: Tiffany Joh, Julieta Granada, Heather Bowie Young
10th tee, 7:40 am: Jeong Jang, Shanshan Feng, Karine Icher
10th tee, 11:55 am: Mina Harigae, Alison Walshe, Brooke Pancake
1st tee, 12:05 pm: Mariajo Uribe, Paula Moreno, Sue Kim

Looking Ahead to Next Week’s JTBC Founders Cup

The field list for the LPGA’s 1st U.S.-based event of 2014, the JTBC Founders Cup, has been released, and since I’m snowed in and needing a break from grading, I thought I’d look ahead to next Thursday before turning to this week’s JLPGA and LET events.

The most exciting thing about the field in Phoenix for me is the return to competitive golf of In-Kyung Kim, who’s hanging on to the last spot on Team Korea for the LPGA’s new team event, the International Crown, by the edge of her fingernails.  With Ha Na Jang of the KLPGA, Ji-Yai Shin of the JLPGA (playing this week, btw), and Amy Yang, Hee Young Park, and Chella Choi right on her tail, Inky will need to start the season strong to stay on the team.

As a fan of Japanese golfers in general and Ai Miyazato and Mika Miyazato in particular, I’ll be paying close attention to see if they can start playing like they’re capable of.  I’m also rooting for Chie Arimura and Ayako Uehara to continue making progress in their adjustment to the level of competition on the LPGA.  Harukyo Nomura, #137 on the LPGA priority status list, is the 1st alternate, so I’m hopeful she’ll make it into this very strong field.

How strong?  Well, consider that in addition to Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen renewing their rivalry, and in addition to #5 So Yeon Ryu and #7 Shanshan Feng, who competed with them last week in China, #3 Stacy Lewis, #4 Lydia Ko (who’s making her U.S. debut as an LPGA member), #6 Karrie Webb, #8 Paula Creamer, #9 Na Yeon Choi, and #10 Lexi Thompson will get to join in the fun.  That’s right, the entire top 10 in the world of women’s golf will be facing off 2 Thursdays from today!  And everyone in the top 20 but Jang and Shin.  And everyone in the next 10 except the KLPGA’s Hyo-Joo Kim.  In fact, every 2014 winner of a major women’s tour event will be playing in Phoenix, including sponsor exemption Cheyenne Woods, except for the JLPGA’s Onnarin Sattayabanphot–and the woman she displaced from the #4 position on Team Thailand for the International Crown, Thidapa Suwannapura, will be teeing it up.

And of course there are plenty of players I’m following who haven’t yet proven they belong (again) among the best on the planet:  Moira Dunn, Seon Hwa Lee, Mina Harigae, Jennifer Song, Jeong Jang, and Ya Ni Tseng.  I’m sure others will have their own lists of favorite players!  Who are you excited to follow (in person or virtually) next week on the LPGA?

Honda LPGA Thailand Pairings Feature LPGA’s Big 3 Going Head-to-Head-to-Head for 1st Time in 2014

So the pairings for the Honda LPGA Thailand are out and every single one of them is interesting for one reason or another, given how strong this limited field is.  Here are the most interesting ones to me:

Race to the Top
1st tee, 11:51 am:  Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Lewis

Teen Queens
1st tee, 11:29 am:  Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Ariya Jutanugarn

Hall of Famer(s-to-Be?)
1st tee, 11:40 am:  Karrie Webb, Ai Miyazato, So Yeon Ryu

Sleepers
1st tee, 10:34 am:  Shanshan Feng, Anna Nordqvist, Carlota Ciganda

Dark Horses
1st tee, 10:29 am:  Hee Young Park, Gerina Piller, Pornanong Phatlum

Something to Prove
10th tee, 11:07 am:  Na Yeon Choi, Michelle Wie, Jennifer Johnson

We’re Going Off How Early?!
10th tee, 10:12 am:  Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Ilhee Lee

Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid
10th tee, 10:34 am:  Chella Choi, Lizette Salas, Mamiko Higa

Rabbits
1st tee, 9:50 am:  Ayako Uehara, Mariajo Uribe
10th tee, 9:50 am:  Brittany Lang, Meena Lee

How about you?

By the way, I’d appreciate it if you wished the Full Metal Archivist otanjobi omedetou in comments.  Yep, it’s her birthday!

Prime-Time Pairings at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic

I’ll be lucky enough to watch the 1st round of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic on Golf Channel at my parents’ home before I head out to Albany in the afternoon.  From the brief description of the Ocean Club on LPGA.com, it seems the players will have plenty of chances to dissolve the rust on their games in sea water.  As low as everyone went over 36 near-flooded holes last year, I’d be surprised if we had all that many all that far under par this week.

Here are my guesses as to who will prevail against the prevailing winds.  And here are my favorite pairings for today’s opening round!

10th tee, 12:20 pm:  Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, Jessica Korda
1st tee, 7:20 am:  Moira Dunn, Jaclyn Sweeney, Erica Popson
10th tee, 12:30 pm:  Morgan Pressel, Lexi Thompson, Gerina Piller
1st tee, 8:10 am:  Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, Beatriz Recari
1st tee, 8:20 am:  Na Yeon Choi, Michelle Wie, Sandra Gal
1st tee, 12:10 pm:  Angela Stanford, Pornanong Phatlum, Pernilla Lindberg
1st tee, 12:00 pm:  Hee Young Park, Ayako Uehara, Dewi Claire Schreefel
10th tee, 8:00 am:  Jeong Jang, Meena Lee, Danielle Kang
10th tee, 12:10 pm:  Juli Inkster, Brittany Lincicome, Lizette Salas
1st tee, 12:30 pm:  Pat Hurst, Amy Yang, Chella Choi

Who are your favorites?  Who would you be following if you could be at Paradise Island instead of wherever you are?  (For me, the temperature dropped from 9 to -2 during yesterday’s drive from Hamburg to Clinton….  Gotta love finally getting a real winter around here!)

Shanshan Feng, Ji-Yai Shin, Mika Miyazato, Momoko Ueda Join JLPGA’s Finest in Chiba

The pairings for the 1st round of the Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Weider Ladies have been released and the visitors from the LPGA have some tough competition ahead of them.  Ji-Yai Shin and Momoko Ueda play with JLPGA living legend Yuri Fudoh, Mika Miyazato plays with perennial powerhouses Sakura Yokomine and Mi-Jeong Jeon, while Shanshan Feng has the comparatively easier task of playing with young guns Natsuka Hori and Asako Fujimoto.

Other interesting pairings include the trio of money-list leader Rikako Morita, last year’s money-list runner-up Bo-Mee Lee, and young gun Megumi Kido, former money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn with tough veterans Miki Saiki and Yukari Baba, and up-and-comers Erika Kikuchi/Yuki Ichinose/Erina Hara, Mamiko Higa/Misuzu Narita/Yumiko Yoshida, and Ritsuko Ryu/Mayu Hattori/Rui Kitada.

Mi-Jeong Jeon is defending champion and a 3-time winner of this tournament honoring Asia’s 1st female winner of an LPGA major, but she’s not the only big name on the list of past champions.  Ai Miyazato, Akiko Fukushima, Chie Arimura, Miho Koga, Rikako Morita, and Mayu Hattori have all won in Chiba in the past decade, while Annika Sorenstam won in 1997.

Can’t wait to see who the 2013 winner will be!

It’s a Big Week in Women’s Golf!

Even in an off-week for the LPGA, there’s a lot going on in the world of women’s golf, not least the news that the LPGA will kick off the 2014 season in the Bahamas and may soon be closing deals for new domestic tournaments in other “destination” locations.

Probably the most important tournament of the week starts tomorrow in Miyagi, Japan, the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open.  Consider the way in which their prime-time pairings bring together “rising generation” Japanese players with established Japanese stars:  JLPGA money-list leader Rikako Morita tees it up with Ai Miyazato and Chie Arimura; rising stars Mamiko Higa and Yumiko Yoshida join Sakura Yokomine; Yukari Baba and Asako Fujimoto have the privilege of playing with Yuri Fudoh; rising stars Natsuka Hori and Misuzu Narita play with Momoko Ueda; Kumiko Kaneda and Erina Hara start alongside Shiho Oyama; Miki Saiki and Megumi Kido get to test themselves against Ayako Uehara; and Kaori Ohe and Miki Sakai share the stage with Shinobu Moromizato.  Next generation Japanese hopefuls also tee it up early, including 19-year-old Ayaka Watanabe, 23-year-old Misae Yanagisawa, and 25-year-old Lala Anai leading off on the 1st tee, followed by 20-year-old amateur Seira Oki and 20-year-old pros Miho Mori and Mami Fukuda.  That should help make up for the fact that most of the top Korean players on tour like Mi-Jeong Jeon, Sun-Ju Ahn, Bo-Mee Lee, and Ji-Hee Lee (along with Okinawa’s own Mika Miyazato) are taking the week off in advance of next week’s major and most prestigious event on the JLPGA’s schedule, the Japan Women’s Open (which has also drawn Ji-Yai Shin and In-Kyung Kim into its field).

There’s plenty of star power in Korea, as well, where Se Ri Pak defends her KDB Daewoo Securities Classic title against Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi, So Yeon Ryu, and Chella Choi.

Over in Europe, the Lacoste Ladies Open de France kicks off today and features the star pairings of Gwladys Nocera/Carlota Ciganda/Charley Hull and Lee-Anne Pace/Azahara Munoz/Karine Icher.

And last but certainly not least, the Symetra Tour heads over to Daytona Beach for the 72-hole, $125,000 Symetra Tour Championship, where my faves Hannah Yun (last week’s winner!) and Mitsuki Katahira are trying like everyone else to come away with a 2014 LPGA card in hand at the conclusion of this season-ending event–or at least win an exemption into the final stage of LPGA Q-School in December.  Although the tournament organizers decided to tamp down the drama a little by not pairing everyone based on their position on the money list, expect plenty of fireworks, as everyone in the top 33 still has a chance to end up in the top 10 (LPGA card) and even more golfers can play their way into the next 10 (LPGA Q-School Stage III).

Evian Championship Questions

The LPGA’s 5th and final major of 2013 is here:  the Evian Championship.  Tony Jesselli provides his usual high-quality preview, but a few questions have occurred to me and I’d love to hear what you think!

  • It appears that the field of 120 is made up entirely of LPGA and LET members (plus Lydia Ko).  Do you think the tournament organizers should have reserved spots for the top KLPGA and JLPGA golfers to round out the field?  Or is exempting the top 40 from the Rolex Rankings as of 3 September 2013 enough?
  • This year’s tournament has been scheduled opposite majors on both the KLPGA and JLPGA.  Do you think that the tournament organizers should seek to avoid such conflicts in the future, particularly if they want top golfers from those tours to make the trip to Evian-les-Bains?
  • Check out the course description at LPGA.com and the course overview and course map at the Evian site.  The course has been renovated and some holes have been redesigned or created from scratch–for details, see the press kit.  The most dramatic change to me is that the 18th hole has gone from being a short par 5 to the longest par 4 on the course.  What do you think of that?  I’m willing to be convinced it’s a good idea.  I love the way anything can happen on short closing par 5s, so I’m fairly skeptical.
  • Does this feel like a major to you yet?  Is 1.5 hours on network TV enough for a major?
[Update 1 (9/11/13, 5:55 am):  Check out Ruthless Mike‘s thoughtful answers to my questions!]

[Update 2 (4:35 pm):  Fantastic yes to my 4th question from Brent Kelley!]

Recommended Reading: CN Canadian Women’s Open Previews

Tony Jesselli and bangkokbobby ably set up the CN Canadian Women’s Open.  For more (much more), check out LPGA.com’s pre-tournament notes and interviews.

Ricoh Women’s British Open Storylines

The Ricoh Women’s British Open is always a huge event in the world of women’s golf, but it’s even bigger when it’s at St. Andrews–and when Inbee Park has a great chance to make history there, well, it’s probably the biggest deal since I’ve started blogging.  Tony Jesselli, formerly with this blog and now with his own, is in Scotland with limited internet access and is sending his readers over here for WBO coverage.  So let’s kick it off with a look at the top storylines heading into the most important week in women’s golf in a very long time.

Making History?  Inbee Park is going for her 4th major in a row…she’s trying to become the 1st golfer in history to do it in the same season…where Lorena Ochoa won at the 1st WBO ever played in St. Andrews.  No pressure!

Best Shot for Spoiler Status?  Karrie Webb is coming off a big come-from-behind win at the Ladies European Masters and has already won on the LPGA this season.  Ashleigh Simon came within a shot of a playoff, notching her 2nd top 5 in as many weeks.  Caroline Masson, Sandra Gal, and Christina Kim also had very good weeks.  On the LPGA, Beatriz Recari won 2 weeks ago at the Marathon over Paula Creamer, Hee Young Park 3 weeks ago at the Manulife over Angela Stanford.  So Yeon Ryu and Catriona Matthew have a silver and a bronze each among their last 4 starts.  Angela Stanford has 3 top 5s in a row and counting.  Paula Creamer and Jodi Ewart Shadoff have 2 top 5s in their last 3 starts.  Meena Lee has 2 top 10s in a row and counting.  Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, and Paula Creamer have 3 top 10s in their last 4 starts.  Ai Miyazato has a 5-event top-20 streak.  In-Kyung Kim and Haeji Kang have 4-event top-20 runs going.  Chie Arimura has 3 top 10s in her last 6 starts.  Lexi Thompson has 4 top 20s in her last 7 starts, including a T3 2 weeks ago in Toledo.  Chella Choi has 3 top 25s in a row and counting.

Solheim Cup Decision Time.  Jennifer Johnson, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, and Gerina Piller are racing for the last three spots on Team USA; Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Sandra Gal, Gwladys Nocera, Charley Hull, and Giulia Sergas are duelling to get onto Team Euro.  It’s going to come down to captain’s picks….

Back on Track?  Can former #1s Stacy Lewis, Ya Ni Tseng, Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, and Cristie Kerr get back in the passing lane?  (Tseng and Shin have 4 of the last 5 WBOs between them, but Shin missed the cut in her last start and Tseng has missed 3 in a row for the 1st time in her career.)  Can Paula Creamer or Na Yeon Choi end their victory droughts this week?

Rookie of the Year Race Tightening Up.  Moriya Jutanugarn has cooled off a bit of late, and Chie Arimura, Caroline Masson, and Ayako Uehara have been closing the gap on her.  They’re all in the field this week, along with Austin Ernst, Lisa McCloskey, and Katie Burnett.  (There’s a chance others might make it in via Monday qualifying.)

Tops from Other Tours.  Rikako Morita is the JLPGA money-list leader.  Lee-Anne Pace leads the LET Order of Merit.  Others high on those lists include Miki Saiki, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Mamiko Higa, Sakura Yokomine, Gwladys Nocera, Charley Hull, and Carlota Ciganda.  Ariya Jutanugarn, who got off to a great start in her LET rookie season, required shoulder surgery to deal with an injury she sustained at the Wegman LPGA Championship, so she had to withdraw from the field.  (Speaking of who’s not there, I don’t see any KLPGAers on the field list.)

Lydia Ko Watch.  She’s playing pretty good golf this year and went low in a recent practice round at St. Andrews.  Can she bring it when the starting bell rings?

[Update 1 (3:10 pm):  Mechelle Voepel has a good spoiler threat piece at espnw!]

[Update 2 (3:11 pm):  She also has a good Inbee Park piece!]

[Update 3 (7/30/13, 11:08 pm):  Here’s Ruthless Mike’s preview!]

Recommended Reading: Tony Jesselli on the Kingsmill Championship

Hey all, it’s a crazy week here in Constructivist-land, so I’ll rely (as usual) on Tony Jesselli’s fine preview of the Kingsmill Championship!  I’ll share my picks tomorrow!

HSBC Women’s Championship Preview & Pairings

Before I get to this week’s topic, let me say that if you missed this past weekend’s tournament, you missed one of the strangest finishes I have ever seen. I don’t think that I have ever seen a player on the final hole needing a six to win, taking an eight. The fact that it happened to a 17 year old, certainly made it harder to watch. Last year when I.K. Kim missed that 12-18 inch putt to blow the Kraft Nabisco, that terrible feeling we had watching her bury her face in her caddy’s chest won’t be forgotten for a long time. I didn’t think we would have to see something that heart wrenching again so soon. Seeing Moriya wiping the tears from her younger sister’s eyes by the 18th green, is another picture that will not be forgotten for some time. I hope she can shake this off, and it will not cause any long term career problems.

The LPGA Tour moves to Singapore this week, for the playing of the HSBC Women’s Championship. The tour will then come home to the United States, after a one week break.

This will be tournament #3 of 28 this year.

Just like last week’s tournament, in spite of the limited field (just 63 players), it will be one of the strongest fields of the year. Fifty-six of the top 60 on the LPGA Priority List, and 18 of the top 20 ladies on this week’s Rolex Rankings, will be teeing it up. The only star player missing will be So Yeon Ryu. My strength of field rating is 78.5%.
Here are the key details:

Course:  Sentosa Golf Club, The Serapong
Location:  Singapore
Defending Champion:  Angela Stanford
Winning Score: 66-70-71-71 = 278 (-10)

Final Field:  63 Players
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,600 Yards
Purse:  $1,400,000

This week’s sponsor exemptions are Michelle Wie & Ariya Jutanugarn.

Here are the pairings for the first round.
Here are the television times:

Feb 28 – GC 12:30 PM-2:30 PM EST
Mar 1 – GC 12:30 PM-2:30 PM EST
Mar 2 – GC 6:30 PM-9:30 PM EST
Mar 3 – GC 7:00 PM-9:30 PM EST
For the last time I will remind everyone planning on watching the telecast, that because of the time difference each round will be long over before it is televised. Be careful not to visit websites that will post results or other spoilers. No spoilers will be posted here. As stated before the tour will be in the United States starting next week eliminating this problem in the future.
Titleholders Update:
Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, and Beatriz Recari are the latest additions.
Rolex Movers of the week:
Some nice moves this week: Beatriz Recari moves from #53 to #40, Ariya Jutanugarn from #171 to #57, Lizette Salas from #82 to #63, and Gerina Piller from #91 to #79.
Other Tidbits:
On the Semetra Tour, Jaclyn Sweeney won the VisitMesa.com Gateway Classic by 2 strokes over current LPGA member Alena Sharp. Future LPGA star Jaye Marie Greene made her professional debut with a very impressive 5th place finish. Emily Talley made her successful debut a 12th place finish.

Almost going unnoticed, Beatriz Recari has finished T4th and T3rd in her 2 tournaments this year.

My picks for this week’s tournament:
1- Na Yeon Choi
2- Yani Tseng
3- Inbee Park
4- Stacy Lewis
5- Ariya Jutanugarn
6- I.K. Kim
7- Danielle Kang
8- Lexi Thompson
9- Jessica Korda
10-Paula Creamer
11-Jiyai Shin
12-Shanshan Feng

Honda LPGA Thailand Preview & Pairings

Congratulations goes out to Jiyai Shin for winning the first tournament of the 2013 season. Jiyai held off a charging Yani Tseng to capture the ISPS Women’s Australian Open. The Constructivist’s full recap can be found here.

The tour moves to Thailand this week for the playing of the Honda LPGA Thailand.

This will be tournament #2 of 28 this year.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is a limited field event. This will be one of the strongest fields you will see all year for a non-major event, 18 of the top 20 ladies on this week’s Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. Even more impressive than that, 56 of the top 60 ladies on the LPGA Priority List will be in attendance. My strength of field rating is 80%. Way up from last week’s 49.5%.

Here are the key details:

Course:  Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course
Location:  Chonburi, Thailand
Defending 2X Champion: Yani Tseng
Winning 2012 Score:  73-65-65-66 = 269 (-19)

Final Field:  70 players
Par:  36/36=72
Yardage:  6,469 Yards
Purse:  $1,500,000

Here are the television times:
Feb 21 – GC 9:00 AM-12:30 PM EST
Feb 22 – GC 9:00 AM-1:30 PM EST
Feb 23 – GC 2:00 PM-6:00 PM EST
Feb 24 – GC 1:30 PM-6:00 PM EST

Included among this week’s sponsors exemptions will be: Michelle Wie, Cheyenne Woods, Lydia Ko, and both Jutanugarn sisters.

Once again I will remind everyone planning to watch the telecast that Thailand is 12 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time, so be careful of spoilers on other websites. The tournament will be long over, and the results posted before the telecast is shown. I will not post any spoilers here.

Here are the pairings for \round one..
Getting Married Hasn’t Helped
Apparently marriage hasn’t helped Amanda Blumenherst’s game. Amanda, who had an awful second half last season, missed the cut this week by 12 strokes.
The Pancake Mix
Former University of Alabama star Brooke Pancake made her debut as a LPGA member this past week with mixed results. The good news is that she made the cut and finished in red figures. The bad news was she faded down the stretch and finished at 3 under par, good for 55th place.
Hard to Believe Fact of the Week:
Maude-Aimee Leblanc, was disqualified after the first round for signing an incorrect scorecard. She signed for a 3 on the 9th hole, when in fact she took a 4. 
Titleholders Update:
Jiyai Shin, Yani Tseng, and Moriya Jutanugarn, were the first three players to qualify.
Rolex Movers of the Week:
Jiyai Shin moved from #8 to #6. Beatriz Recari’s 4th place finish was good enough to move her from #58 to #53. Carlotta Ciganda moved from #48 to #42.

ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open Preview & Pairings

The wait is over. After a  three month break the LPGA season will kick off this week with the playing of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The long layoff it seems, wasn’t long enough for most of the LPGA stars. Either that or Commissioner Michael Whan forgot to inform his players that there is a tournament this week.The following players will not be playing in this event:

Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato, Suzann Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Mika Miyazato, Amy Yang, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Sun Young Yoo, Hee Kyung Seo, Sandra Gal, I.K. Kim, Candie Kung, Se Ri Pak, Hee Young Park, Julie Inkster, Meena Lee, Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, and Momoko Ueda.

This will be good news for the players who are way down on the Priority List, as they will be able to get into a tournament very early in the season. Cheyenne Woods and Lydia Ko, are two of this week’s sponsor exemptions.

This is the first of 28 tournaments this season. Here are some of the key details:

Course:  Royal Canberra Golf Club
Location:  Yarralumla, Australia
Defending Champion:  Jessica Korda (won a 6 player playoff)
Winning Score:  72-70-73-74=289 (-3)

Final Field: 156 players
Par 36/37=73 (Yes this is a par 73)
Yardage:  6,679 yards
Purse:  $1,200,000

Here are the television times:

Feb 14 – GC 12:30 PM-2:30 PM EST
Feb 15 – GC 12:30 PM-2:30 PM EST
Feb 16 – GC 3:00 PM-6:00 PM EST
Feb 17 – GC 3:00 PM-6:30 PM EST

For anyone planning on watching the telecast, I would advise you not to visit the LPGA website. Australia is 16 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time, and the results will be posted long before we get to watch the telecast. I will not post any spoilers on my blog until after the completion of the final telecast.

Here are the Pairings for the first 2 rounds:

My strength of field rating (which is based on the participation of top players on both the LPGA Priority List and the Rolex Rankings), is just 49.5%. This could very well remain the weakest field the entire season. Only 20 of the top 50 players on the Rolex Rankings, and 6 of the top 15 players on the LPGA Priority list will be teeing it up.

Other Tidbits:
Fifteen year old Lydia Ko has done it again. It seems that she wins every time she tees it up. Lydia who won last year on the LPGA tour, now adds an L.E.T. trophy to her collection. She also has a win on the ALPG. Lydia won the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open (with a score of -10), by one shot over Amelia Lewis. This was even more impressive when you consider Angela Stanford (+7), Anna Nordqvist (+5), and Sophie Gustufson (+4) all missed the cut.

Rolex Movers of the week:
Lydia Ko moves from #38 to #30 in the world rankings.

CME Group Titleholders Preview & Pairings

A big congratulations goes out to Cristie Kerr for winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Cristie finished one stroke ahead of Inbee Park and Angela Stanford, to win for the first time since 2010.

This week the tour moves back to the United States for the playing of the CME Titleholders Championship.
This tournament is very unique as its field is made up of the 3 highest finishers (not already qualified), from the first 26 events of the year.

This is the 27th and final tournament of the year. Here are some key details:

Course:  The Twin Eagles Club
Location:  Naples, Florida
Defending Champion:  Hee Young Park
Winning Score:  71-69-69-70 = (-9)

Final Field:    73 players
Par: 36/36=72
Yardage:  Not currently available
Purse:  $1,5000,000

Here are the first round pairings.
In spite of the limited field, this will be one of the strongest fields of the season. The top 26 players on the LPGA Priority List, and 18 of the top 20 players in the world will be teeing it up.

Here are the television times:

Nov 15 – GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM EST
Nov 16 – GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM EST
Nov 17 – GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM EST
Nov 18 – GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM EST
Other Tidbits:
Yani Tseng’s lead over number two player in the world Stacy Lewis, is now just 2.92 points. It was 9.47 in April.
Titleholders Update:
Lorena Ochoa (yes she is still an LPGA member), Kristy McPherson, and Tanya Dergal are the final players to qualify. Some of the bigger named players who failed to qualify are: Sophie Gustafson, Julie Inkster, Karen Stupples, Mindy Kim, Jimin Kang, Ryann O’Toole, and Amanda Blumenherst.
Rolex Ranking Mover of the Week:
Cristie Kerr moves from #15 to #11.
Who’s Hot:
Beatriz Recari has five consecutive top 20 finishes.
Who’s Not:
After a fast start, Eun-Hee Ji, has failed to finish in the top 10 in fourteen consecutive tournaments.

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Preview & Pairings

It has been quite a week here in New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy has really done quite a bit of damage. I was not able to give you pairings or updates on last week’s tournament as we were without power for quite a few days. Getting gasoline to fill our automobiles has also been one big challenge.

Congratulations goes out to Stacy Lewis for winning the Mizuno Classic. Stacy made a remarkable comeback as she was seven shots down at the start of the final round. This was her fourth win of the year. Stacy has now just about wrapped up the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Award. Inbee Park would have to win the two remaining tournaments while Stacy finishes out of the top ten in both, for Inbee to steal the trophy away. That is a scenario that is very highly unlikely. The winner also receives a Hall of Fame point. The last American to win the award was Beth Daniel in 1994.

The other big race is for the Vare Trophy, which also carries a Hall of Fame point. With Jiyai Shin not eligible because she does not meet the minimum rounds criteria, it has come down to a race between Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park. Currently Inbee leads with a 70.30 per round average. Stacy Lewis is second at 70.32. How close is that? Stacy just has to make up 2 strokes in the final 8 rounds of the season to win this also.

The tour moves to Mexico this week for the playing of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Lorena will actually be teeing it up herself this week.

This is tournament #26 of 27 this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  Guadalajara Country Club
Location:  Guadalajara, Mexico
Defending Champion:  Catriona Matthew
Winning Score:  69-68-68-71=276 (-12)

Final Field:  36 players
Par:  36/36=72
Yardage:  6,644 yards
Purse:  $1,000,000

Here are the round 1 pairings.

In spite of the very small field, most of the top players will be teeing it up. Among the missing this week are: Jiyai Shin, Na Yeon Choi, Amy Yang, Mika Miyazato, and Hee Young Park.

There will be no television broadcast in the United States for this event.

Other Tidbits:
It seems like just yesterday that we thought nobody was going to catch Yani Tseng for the number one ranking in the world for a very long time. Well things are changing much more quickly than anyone could have anticipated. In April, Yani had a 9.47 lead over Na Yeon Choi who was in second place. Currently her lead is only 3.14 over Stacy Lewis.

Titleholders Update:
Pornanong Phatlum, Jennifer Song, and Alison Walsh are the latest to qualify. Sophie Gustafson remains the highest ranked player who has not yet qualified. She is not playing this week so she will not get in.

Rolex Mover of the Week:
There are no big numerical moves this week, but as mentioned above, Stacy Lewis is closing in on that number one position.

Who’s Hot:
Although Yani Tseng has not won since March, she has three consecutive top 5 finishes.

Who’s Not:
Shanshan Feng, who had been scorching hot all summer, has not finished in the top 15 in her last 6 tournaments.
Momoko Ueda has teed it up 20 times this year without having a single top ten finish.
Jimin Kang’s best finish in her last 8 tournaments is a T50.

Hard to Believe Fact of the Week:
Besides the previously mentioned 4 wins, Stacy Lewis has 11 top five finishes, and 15 top tens.

Mizuno Classic Preview & Pairings

Let me start off by giving a big congratulations to Suzann Pettersen for winning the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. This was Suzann’s second consecutive victory on the LPGA Tour. Suzann held off challenges from Inbee Park and Yani Tseng to win by 3 strokes.

The tour moves to Japan this week for the playing of the Mizuno Classic. It is the final stop on the current four-stop Asian swing.

This is tournament number 25 of 27 this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  Kintetsu Kashikojimo Country Club
Location:  Shima-shi, Mie, Japan
Defending Champion:  Momoko Ueda
Winning Score:  67-64-69=200 (-16)

Final Field:  78 players
Par 36/36=72
Yardage:  6506 yards
Purse:  $1,200,000

This tournament is only 54 holes.

I will post the pairings as soon as they become available.

My strength of field rating is 53%, making it the eighth most weakest field of the year. Most Americans and Europeans have chosen to skip this event. Some of the bigger names missing include: Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome, Ai Miyazato, Catriona Matthew, Michelle Wie, Sandra Gal, Azahara Munoz, Sun Young Yoo, Meena Lee, Mindy Kim, Natalie Gulbis, Katherine Hull, So Yeon Ryu, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and Katie Futcher.

With that many players missing, you may be wondering why the field rating isn’t lower. It is because so many highly ranked non LPGA players are playing in this event. These highly Rolex ranked players include: Sun Ju Ahn, Chie Arimura, Yukari Baba, Mayu Hattori, Sakura Yokomine, Miki Saiki, Rikako Morita, and Ritsuko Ryu.

There is no television broadcast in the United States for this event.

Other Tidbits:
Inbee Park’s second place finish earned her 12 player of the year points. Stacy Lewis’s lead, for that very importatnt Hall of Fame point, has been cut to 28 points. A first place finish is worth 30 points.

Jiyai Shin who did not play, is also skipping next week’s tournament in Mexico. This will eliminate her from winning the Vare Trophy for the tour’s lowest scoring average. It now will be a 3 way race between, InbeePark (70.27), Stacy Lewis (70.39), and So Yeon Ryu (70.42). A Hall of Fame point will be awarded to the winner.

Rolex Mover of the Week:
LPGA rookie Carlotta Ciganda, won for the second time this year on the Ladies European Tour. She jumps from #84 to #58 in the world.

Titleholders Update:
Belen Mozo, Mariajo Uribe, and Mo Martin are the latest to qualify.

Who’s Hot: 
Catriona Matthew has now finished in the top ten in five consecutive tournaments.

Who’s Not:
Sophie Gustafson has finished no better than 55th in her last eighth tournaments.

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Preview & Pairings

Now that we have completed another exciting tournament, let me congratulate Suzann Pettersen for her win at the HanaBank Championship. Suzann came out victorious, defeating Catriona Matthew on the third playoff hole. It was Suzanne’s first win of the 2012 season.

The tour moves to Taiwan this week for the playing of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. It is stop number three on the current four-stop Asian swing. It will conclude next week in Japan.

This is tournament number 24 of 27 this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  Sunrise Golf & Country Club
Where:  Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Defending Champion:  Yani Tseng
Winning Score:  68-71-67-66=272 (-16)

Final Field:   78 players
Par:  36/36=72
Yardage:  6,390 yards
Purse:  $2,000,000

I will post the pairings as soon as they become available.

My strength of field rating is just 48% which makes it one of the weakest fields of the year.
Some of the stars sitting it out this week include: Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Angela Stanford, Amy Yang, I.K. Kim, Karrie Webb, Brittany Lang, Hee Kyung Seo, Mika Miyazato, Sun Young Yoo, Shanshan Feng, and Hee Won Han. Natalie Gulbis and Morgan Pressel have recently pulled out due to injuries.

Here are the television times:

Oct 25 – GC 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST
Oct 26 – GC 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST
Oct 27 – GC 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST
Oct 28 – GC 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST
Once again because of the 12 hour time difference, this will be shown on tape delay. At least this week it is being shown at a decent hour.
Other Tidbits:
Inbee Park’s consecutive top ten streak came to a halt this past weekend. She finished tied for 15th.
Yani Tseng finished in the top ten for the first time in twelve tournaments.
Beatriz Recari is the only member of the LPGA to play in every round this year. She has played in every tournament, and made every cut.
Titleholders Update:
Karen Sjodin, Jennifer Johnson, and Nicole Castrale are the latest to qualify. Sophie Gusufson remains the highest ranked player on the priority list yet to qualify. It seems to me to be a little unfair that a player like Nicole Castrale can get in with a 45th place finish this week, while a player like Jimin Kang who had a 5th place finish early in the year is not in. I guess no system is perfect.

Who is hot:
Catriona Matthew has finished in the top ten in each of her last four tournaments.
Se Ri Pak, in spite of only teeing it up 9 times this year (she had to withdraw on two other occasions because of injuries), has not finished outside the top 25 all year. She has 5 top tens in those nine starts.

Who is not:
Hee Kyung Seo has failed to finish in the top 25 in her last six tournaments.
Sun Young Yoo has failed to finish in the top 10 in her last 13 tournaments.