Sports Outside the Beltway

The 2009 LPGA season begins today

The US Women’s professional golf circuit tees it up for the first time at the SBS Open in Hawaii. The 2008 event was won by Annika Sorenstam who has since stepped away from the game. Also not in the field is World #1 ranked player Lorena Ochoa. The SBS field is strong however with Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, and Ji-Yai Shin. Shin who won the final LPGA event of 2008, the ADT Championship, looks to begin where she left off.

So another LPGA season is about to underway. A slimmer one than the 2008 schedule, with the loss of quite a few tournaments. The 2010 schedule is looking rough already, with the SBS Open already down as history.

Some off the course news, the LPGA signed a 10-year deal with the Golf Channel. This is great news for the tour.

As much that news sounds interesting, I prefer talking about what goes on during tournaments than all off the course distractions. Here are my predictions for 2009

Player of the Year- Ji Yai Shin. Shin is ranked #5 in the world and has 26 professional wins at age 20. Last year she won 3 LPGA titles, including a major championship. She has a unflappable personality on course, and I personally think she’ll top Ochoa this year. Golf blogger Mulligan Stu is on board the Shin Express also.

Ochoa won’t lose the money title by much and will retain #1 ranking in the world.

Rookie of the Year- Shin. The 2009 LPGA rookie class is incredible with Shin, Vicki Hurst, Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, and a few more could have immediate impact. Shin however is going to win the ROY title in a runaway.

Comeback of the Year- Brittany Lincicome. If she is healthy, I see her returning to her 2007 form.

The come out of nowhere award- Amy Yang. She shouldn’t really be a contender for this, but even my LPGA golf buddies Hound Dog, The Contstructivist, and Ryan are not paying any attention to this golfer’s chances in 2009, so why would the golf media. Yang won twice on the LET last year and I’ll go out on a limb by putting her in the top 5 players for 2009. More on that later.

1st time winners for 2009- Wie, V Hurst, Yang, Angela Park

How many times will naturalized US citizen Angela Park be mislabeled as South Korean by the golf media in 2009- At least two times

The 2009 Solheim Cup matches- US wins 16-12

The 2009 US Solheim Cup qualifiers- Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Wie, Hurst, Christina Kim, Morgan Pressel, Nicole Castrale, Brittany Lang, and Stacy Prammanasudh

Beth Daniel’s Captain’s selections- Two potted plants Juli Inkster and Natalie Gulbis. Any Asian American golfer if they want to play in the matches, should only plan on making it via the points list. As I pointed out two years ago, the team’s Captains have done great gymnastic work in order to avoid selecting Asian golfers for the team, even if the criteria they used is in conflict with what they or past Captains have said or done.

So Wie, Hurst, Kim, Prammanasudh, Jane Park will have to make the team by performance. Daniel will pick potted plants for the US squad before choosing any of those talented ladies.

How many tournaments will the South Koreans win in 2009- Ten. Five by Shin. Plus at least two more from Wie, C Kim, and half Korean V Hurst.

How many members of the media will bemoan the Asian invasion- Three.

How many times will I say Carolyn Bivens should be fired before she gets fired the 2009 season ends- Three

How many LPGA writing related Knucklehead awards will I give out in 2009- Five, starting with this guy.

How many times I will be a credentialed member of the LPGA media in 2009- Zero

How many times will I apply- Zero because the LPGA has left the building so far as Florida goes.

2009 Major Champions- I hate picking way in advance, but I’ll go out on a limb. Shin(US), Ochoa(Kraft Nabisco), Creamer(LPGA), and someone else. Ok, that’s 3 out of 4. My crystal ball is not working too well at the moment. Put me down for Hee Won Han at the British Open.

Miscellaneous predictions-

Katherine Hull will take over as Australia’s #1 golfer from Karrie Webb
Se Ri Pak will win the Jamie Farr Classic for a record breaking sixth time
The Korean LPGA tour stop curse aka No winner of the tournament since 2003 has won a LPGA event afterwards, will finally be broken with Suzann Pettersen taking home a LPGA win in 2009

Now for my my top 30, I’ll put it beneath the fold

1 Shin JY
2 Ochoa
3 Yang
4 Creamer
5 SH Lee
6 Hull
7 Tseng
8 V Hurst
9 Pettersen
10 Wie
11 Han
12 Jang
13 Kerr
14 A Park
15 Stanford
16 Webb
17 JY Lee
18 EH Ji
19 Feng
20 Castrale
21 Lewis
22 IK Kim
23 Prammanasudh
24 Pak
25 Pressel
26 C Kim
27 MH Kim
28 Stupples
29 NY Choi
30 Lincicome

We’ll come back at the end of the year and see how I did.

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