The Tour visits Clifton, New Jersey (just outside of NYC) this week for the Sybase Classic Presented by ShopRite. Upper Montclair Country Club hosts the event for the second time – it was played 17 times from 1990 to 2006 at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, New York. Lorena Ochoa is the two-time defending champion, winning last year by three strokes over Sarah Lee. The 72-hole event begins Thursday with TV coverage starting Friday on ESPN2.
UMCC is 6433 yards long and plays to par of 72. As The Constructivist points out in his preview, the course isn’t overly long and puts a premium on keeping the ball in the fairway. The average score during last year’s event was 73.81, more than half a shot higher than the 2007 norm. Aside from Ochoa and Lee, nobody was able to break 70 more than twice and most couldn’t do it at all.
I’ve gotten to where I can get a general idea of the field’s strength just by looking at the list of alternates on the Official Field page at lpga.com. The first player in line as of Tuesday morning is Beth Allen, who is Conditional Player #13. By comparison, the first player left out at the Michelob Ultra was Irene Cho – Non-exempt Player #19. That barometer tells me that 25 players who teed it up at Kingsmill aren’t at Sybase. The missing include Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Jeong Jang, Mi Hyun Kim, Angela Stanford, Maria Hjorth, Se Ri Pak, Laura Diaz and Juli Inkster. Makes sense to me – counting Sybase, there are four weeks left in this 11-week March-to-June marathon. Skip this one and you play three in a row, ending with the LPGA Championship. Without consulting anyone’s official website to confirm, I’ll wager that Ochoa, Sorenstam, Seon Hwa Lee, Pressel, JY Lee and Stacy P all skip next week’s Corning Classic.
Now if I can only get that confident about my weekly picks. Since Annika had never finished better than sixth and had missed the cut there in 2006, OF COURSE she won the Michelob Ultra after I played a hunch and snubbed her. Even worse, Lorena snapped her Top 10 streak so I got shutout completely – no winner and no Top 10s from any of the three players I chose (they did all finish Top 20, but…). It starts to get embarrassing after a while.
Ochoa has won here twice in a row. Sorenstam won Sybase in 2000 and has finished Top 10 all three times she’s played it since, although all of those events were at Wykagyl. I’m going with Annika to win her third straight event, with Lorena and Jee Young Lee as CYAs.
Stats: Winners 5-11 (7-11 with CYAs), Top Tens 15-33.