Tuesday, February 26, 2008

HSBC Women’s Champions Preview

The LPGA makes its first-ever official tour stop in Singapore this week at the HSBC Women’s Champions. Tanah Merah Country Club, the site for the 2005 and 2006 Lexus Cup competitions, will be the venue for this inaugural event. Unlike the previous HSBC tournament, this event will be stroke-play over four rounds, beginning Thursday (late Wednesday in the U.S. – Singapore is 13 hours ahead of EST). Golf Channel’s schedule indicates it will air four one-hour (presumably) highlight shows, the first one at 3pm EST on Thursday.

Tanah Merah is a par-72 6547-yard layout with water in play on over half the holes. The two par-5s on the back nine (13 and 15) both exceed 500 yards. The fun hole might be 16 – at 269 yards, this par-4 might see several players drive the green. It looks like a hot, muggy weekend – temps in the mid-80s with scattered thunderstorms predicted every day.

This is a limited-field event in the mold of the Evian Masters – 78 international players
who qualified in a myriad of ways. Making their 2008 LPGA debuts at the HSBC are 2007 Player of the Year Lorena Ochoa, HD and Rolex Top 10’er Mi Hyun Kim, as well as Top 30 members Shi Hyun Ahn, Catriona Matthew, Karrie Webb, Laura Davies and Juli Inkster. The field at lpga.com includes 17 players listed as alternates, including TC favorite Moira Dunn at Alternate #9. I gotta ask – would a player in Moira’s position actually shell out the bucks to fly to Singapore on the off-chance that nine players would drop out of the field? I doubt it, but what should Carin Koch or Ji-Young Oh have done? By the way, Hee-Won Han’s status as an alternate in this tournament is a snub of major proportions. Nothing against Virada Nirapathpongporn or Siew-Ai Lim, but one of those sponsor’s exemptions should have gone to the player who was in the world’s Top 10 when she went on maternity leave last March. I hear Han is pretty popular in Asia too, guys. Stupid HSBC.

If you include CYA picks (and believe me, I do!), I’ve hit on my last four predictions going back to the Mitchell TOC in November. Of those who played in Hawaii, Annika Sorenstam is coming in on the biggest roll. Something about that final-nine rollercoaster at Fields makes me hesitate to pull the trigger on her – never mind, I’ll do it. Annika to win, Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer are the CYAs.

Stats: Winners 1-2 (2-2 with CYAs), Top Tens 3-6.