Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Longs Drugs Challenge Preview

Danville, California is the site of this week’s LPGA event, the Longs Drugs Challenge. Nicole Perrot is the defending champion, but her defense will be on a different course as the tournament moves to Blackhawk Country Club.

Perrot’s win (by one shot over Hee-Won Han) is the only one of her young career. It hasn’t been a springboard for her, as she has endured a dismal 2006. Looking at the field, you would think this was a major – 13 of the top 14 players in my latest rankings are here (only Michelle Wie is absent). With four of the next five events being held either in Mexico or Asia, Longs and the Samsung might be the only really strong fields we see until the ADT Championship.

According to Larry Smich of “Caddy Corner” (link is on the right-hand side of my home page), the course at Blackhawk Country Club is on mountainous terrain where many shots will be played severely up or downhill. Some areas will be off-limits to spectators due to the steep inclines, and carts will be used to move players, caddies and officials between some holes. I expect more “interesting” comments about the course from Larry as the week unfolds (it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t like it), and will keep my ears open during TGC coverage for any comments about the layout. Par is 72, with the yardage on the short side at 6212. Of course elevation changes can make club selection tough even on relatively short holes.

As I mentioned, the field is as strong as you’ll ever see. So for this week picks, I’ll go with who has been hot lately. Which means I’ll be picking the same threesome I did last time, since that worked out pretty well! I say Annika Sorenstam will win, with Cristie Kerr and Lorena Ochoa as CYAs. Current stats: Winners 1-7 (4-7 with CYAs), Top 10s 15-22.