The blogs and boards I check out regularly seem all a-buzz today about the LPGA season starting this week, so I’m rushing out my tourney preview a little early to ride that wave. Cowabunga!
The 2008 LPGA season begins with the SBS Open at Turtle Bay. The Arnold Palmer Course at Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, Hawaii will once again be the venue for this fourth annual event. Paula Creamer is the defending champion – a one-shot winner over Julieta Granada. Here is a YouTube clip of Paula’s victory with highlights of her final round. The 54-hole tournament begins Thursday (final round on Saturday) with coverage of all three rounds being provided by Golf Channel.
The Palmer course is a par-72, 6582 yards. In two of the three tournaments played there, the scoring has been tough – last year and in 2005, the average round exceeded 74 strokes. In 2006, the average was only 72.675. The rule-of-thumb for Hawaiian courses is that the scores follow the wind – it was certainly windy last year. There must have been relatively calm conditions in ’06 when Joo Mi Kim beat Lorena Ochoa and Soo Young Moon in a playoff at -10.
Not a bad field to start the season – 22 of my preseason Top 30 are in action, including Creamer, Annika Sorenstam, and Suzann Pettersen. Lorena Ochoa, Mi Hyun Kim and Se Ri Pak are the only Top 10s delaying their 2008 debuts. Every exempt rookie is here, including Mizuno winner Momoko Ueda, as well as all five Futures Tour graduates led by Emily Bastel. As of Monday afternoon, the cutoff point for making the event was non-exempt position #23 – Ashli Bunch got the last available spot and Nina Reis was the first alternate, hoping for a late WD. Other newbies I’ll be paying attention to are LET alum Louise Friberg and Korean phenom Eun-Hee Ji (preseason #23). Among the “Oldies” looking to get the new season off to a good start include 2005 SBS Champ Jennifer Rosales, Q-School graduate Kelli Kuehne and Michelle McGann, who gets in as a Category A Tournament Winners qualifier (page 4 of link). It appears that one slot in each event is reserved for players in this category. I’m still learning how this crap works, and I have no idea how the “Category B Winners” figure into the equation. Note to lpga.com – how about a page describing how tournament fields are filled? Michelle is #36 in line in Category A behind such players as Kathy Whitworth and Nancy Lopez, who apparently used this qualifier to get into the six events she played in 2007. The players on this list who most likely would take the Category A spot ahead of McGann at certain times this year are Lopez, Jan Stephenson, Rosie Jones and Christa Johnson. For grins, I’m going to try to remember to point out the Category A player each week and document her results.
Last week I documented Annika Sorenstam’s recent record in season-opening events. I’m going to stick with history and predict that Annika will start her “comeback” season with a bang and win the SBS Open. Paula Creamer and Stacy Prammanasudh are my CYA picks.