Twenty of the best players in the world will square off at the Samsung World Championship. The Canyon Course at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, California (near Palm Springs and next door to Rancho Mirage, the home of the Kraft Nabisco) is the setting for this “All-Star” event. Lorena Ochoa won the 2006 tournament by two strokes over Annika Sorenstam. TV coverage will be provided by TGC on Thursday and Friday (7:30 EDT both days) and by NBC over the weekend.
I’ve touched on the qualifying rules for the Samsung before, but will recap in case you missed it: The players automatically in the field have either won a major this year (Pressel, Pettersen, Kerr, Ochoa), lead the LET money list (Bettina Hauert) or receive a sponsor’s exemption (Wie). The remaining 14 spots are filled according to the LPGA money list through the Navistar Classic (Creamer, MH Kim, SH Lee, JY Lee, Angela Park, Lincicome, Jang, Castrale, Prammanasudh, Miyazato, Hjorth, Pak, Stanford, Sarah Lee).
I’ll devote one more paragraph to the aborted Annika HOF exemption and then I’ll leave it alone. Samsung revealed their actual agenda after Annika declined their invitation – if the “Hall-of-Fame exemption” was sincere, they would have then offered it to Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster or Nancy Lopez. Since Samsung didn’t do that, then the offer wasn’t an HOF exemption at all – it was purely a second sponsor’s exemption. I don’t ever expect corporate types to be completely sincere but I have grown to expect them to be a little less obvious in their shenanigans.
Bighorn plays to par of 72 and measures 6462 yards. The average score was a half-stroke under par last year (71.55) but still played tougher than in 2005, when the entire field played par or better. The average should be lower with this elite field playing – you leave Riko Higoshio, Jenna Daniels and Hilary Lunke at home, your average scores are bound to be better.
So, who’s gonna win? With only twenty players to choose from, you would expect prognosticating to be easier and in a way, it is. What makes it tougher is, aside from Hauert, Wie and maybe the struggling Miyazato, none of the players would totally shock us by winning. I have to continue with recent logic and pick Lorena Ochoa to win. She’s the defending champion and, amazingly, has finished in the Top 3 in her last six tournaments (and eight of her last nine). Stacy Prammanasudh and Suzann Pettersen are my CYAs.
Stats: Winners 6-24 (9-24 with CYAs), Top Tens 37-70.