Wednesday, August 29, 2007

State Farm Classic Preview

Springfield, Illinois is the locale for this week’s tournament, the 32nd annual State Farm Classic. For the first time however, the venue will be Panther Creek Country Club. Annika Sorenstam fired a 62 on Sunday to win last year at The Rail Golf Course by two shots over Cristie Kerr. The event begins Thursday and all four rounds will televised live by The Golf Channel.

Panther Creek is a par-72 6608-yard layout. That’s just a few yards shorter than The Rail but is still a prodigious total. Despite the length, The Rail played as one of the easier courses in 2006 – only four tournaments had lower scoring averages than its 71.557 and only two of those (Atlanta and ShopRite) were full-field events. Even though the Caddy Corner reports that “this panther has no fangs”, I expect the cut to be a least a shot or two higher than last year’s -1.

The field is a rather weak one. Counting Lorena Ochoa, six of my top eight and eight of my top twelve are skipping it. Of course that opens the door for a lot of other folks to grab a victory. In case you’ve forgotten, the State Farm was where Annika Sorenstam won her 69th career event last Labor Day weekend and she hasn’t broken through since. Do I dare predict a return to the winner’s circle for the newly-engaged Haughty Swede?

Hell no. Top 10? Maybe. The recently-streaky Shi Hyun Ahn comes in with back-to-back Top 10s, so I’m gonna pick her for the first time to win. Speaking of first-timers, Catriona Matthew and Sophie Gustafson are my CYAs. Now we’ll see how I can do when Ochoa, Creamer, Kerr and Pak are all out the same week!

Stats: Winners 6-21 (8-21 with CYAs), Top Tens 32-61.

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