Sybase Match Play Championship
Hamilton Farm Golf Club
May 16, 2012
The Sybase Match Play Championship returns to Hamilton Farms Golf Club for the third year with a field of 64 players. First-round play begins Thursday with the LPGA's top players competing for a purse of $1.5 million.
Here are previews for the first-round matches:
Patty Berg Bracket
Yani Tseng of Taiwan vs. Jeong Jang of South Korea
With already three LPGA Tour victories under her belt this season, Tseng goes into the match the heavy favorite. This year alone Tseng has finished no worse than tied for 10th. Tseng also holds an impressive record in match play events reaching the quarter-finals of the Sybase Match Play Championship the previous two years and as an amateur she won the 2005 Women's Amateur Public Links and 2005 North and South Women's Amateur Golf Championship. In her first season back since having a baby, Jang has only made two out of five cuts this year and recorded a season-best tied for 15th finish at the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2012.
Chella Choi of South Korea vs. Katie Futcher of Texas
Look for this match to be a head-to-head battle as Chella Choi is ranked No. 60 in the Rolex Rankings and Futcher No. 62. Both players got their start on the Symetra Tour where they combined to record six top-10 finishes. While both players rank in the top-28 in greens in regulation look for Choi to hold a slight advantage on the green. Choi currently ranks 65th in putting average while Futcher sits at 93rd.
Catriona Matthew of Scotland vs. Candie Kung of Taiwan
While Matthew might seem to hold a slight advantage over Kung on paper, both players boast an equally impressive resume in match play. Matthew reached the quarterfinals of the 2010 Sybase Match Play Championship and Kung won the 2001 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. Matthew ranks slightly above Kung in several categories including greens in regulation and driving average.
Caroline Hedwall of Sweden vs. Haeji Kang of South Korea
Haeji Kang will have her hands full with Caroline Hedwall in the first round. Hedwall was a member of the winning 2011 European Solheim Cup Team where she boasted an impressive 2-1-1 record. Hedwall might be seeded higher than Kang but don't count out this South Korean who finished tied for fifth at the 2010 Sybase Match Play Championship. This season Hedwall has only finished outside the top-20 once and has recorded two top-10 finishes. Kang has finished in the top-20 three times and recorded a season-best tie for 12th at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic.
Paula Creamer of California vs. Jennifer Johnson of California
Look for experience to provide Paula Creamer the extra advantage she needs over Jennifer Johnson. Creamer has extensive match play experience under her belt ranging back to junior and amateur golf. Creamer was a member of the victorious 2004 U.S. Curtis Cup Team and represented the United States at the 2002 and 2003 PING Junior Solheim Cup matches. In addition, Creamer has been a member of the US Solheim Cup Team four times and holds an 11-3-5 record. Looking to record her first LPGA Tour victory, Johnson recorded a season-best tied for 25th at the Kia Classic.
Hee Young Park of South Korea vs. Karine Icher of France
With both players coming off impressive finishes at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, look for this match to be a back-and-forth battle. Icher finished tied for ninth at the 2010 Sybase Match Play Championship while Park finished tied for tied for 17th in 2010 and tied for 33rd in 2011. Look for Park to hold a slight advantage on the green as she ranks 22nd in putting average while Icher is ranked 113th.
Brittany Lincicome of Florida vs. Ryann O'Toole of California
This match features two 2011 U.S. Solheim Cup teammates. While O'Toole will put up a solid fight, look for Lincicome to have a slight edge as she won the 2006 HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship played at this week's Hamilton Farms Golf Club. The wide open Hamilton Farms Golf Club provides Lincicome, who leads the LPGA Tour in driving distance, an opportunity to truly grip it and rip it.
Brittany Lang of Texas vs. Julieta Granada of Paraguay
Known as one of the longest hitters on tour, look for Lang's distance off the tee to give her a slight advantage over Granada. But don't count out Granada as she ranks 22nd in putting average while Lang ranks 55th. Lang has appeared on two U.S. Solheim Cup Teams and holds a 2-3-2 record. Both Lang and Granada finished tied for ninth at last year's Sybase Match Play Championship.
Kathy Whitworth Bracket
Ai Miyazato of Japan vs. Mariajo Uribe of Colombia
Rolex Rankings No. 4 Ai Miyazato is on a mission with five top-10s, including two runner-ups and a win to her credit this season. Miyazato's putting has played a huge role in her success this season as she is leading the Tour in putts per GIR and putting averages. Mariajo Uribe is seeking her first official LPGA win, and this week's match-play format may be exactly what she needs to pull it off. Uribe's momentum seems to have taken off after securing a win at the HSBC Brasil Cup last season. She recorded a season-best finish at the LPGA LOTTE Championship with a tie for seventh.
Song-Hee Kim of South Korea vs. Katherine Hull of Australia
Both Song-Hee Kim and Katherine Hull enter this week desperately seeking an LPGA victory, for different reasons. In six seasons, Kim has managed to post 6 runner ups but has yet to record a victory since joining the Tour. It's been two years since we've seen Hull hoist an LGPA trophy in the air, but a tie for 20th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship could give her the confidence she needs grab another win.
So Yeon Ryu of South Korea vs. Karin Sjodin of Sweden
In this LPGA veteran vs. rookie match-up, look for a battle of the irons. Sjodin leads the Tour in greens in regulation with Ryu capping off the top-10 in the same category. Sjodin gained some attention after posting a career-best tie for fourth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and has gained the confidence she needs to stay in contention. Ryu currently leads the Louis Suggs Rookie of the Year race by over hundred points and being the only rookie in the field this week, all eyes will be on her. She has three top-5 finishes this year including a tie for second at the season opener in Australia. Both are searching for their first LPGA victory this week.
Michelle Wie of Hawaii vs. Mina Harigae of California
Wie comes to Hamilton Farm Golf Club with a college degree in hand and ready to take her golf career to a whole new level. Wie enters the match after missing three cuts in her last five appearances. As she transitions from full-time student to full-time golfer, we'll be looking to see if she can shift from her missed cuts and get in the winner's circle. While Wie has one of the longest drives on Tour, Harigae places in the top-20 in sand saves. She recorded her career-best tie for sixth at the Mizuno Classic last year and has placed in the top-20 at two events this season. This is Harigae's first appearance at Sybase Match Play, so if it comes down to experience, Wie might have the advantaged was she has two career titles to her name.
Cristie Kerr of Florida vs. Belen Mozo of Spain
Ranked No. 5 in the Rolex Rankings Women's World Golf Rankings, Kerr is hoping to piggy back on her successful 2011 season. Her match-play record is strong, although she fell short of victory at last year's event when she took Suzann Pettersen to the 18th hole. It's been two years since Kerr has finished in the winner's circle but she has consistently recorded double-digit top-10s almost every year. She'll be searching for her 15th LPGA victory this week. Last year, Mozo kicked off her rookie season with a tie for 17th at the Sybase Match Play Championship. Mozo recorded her first top-10 finish on Tour at the 2011 Wal-Mart NW Arkansas Classic Presented by P&G with a tie for fifth. Both Kerr and Mozo have had success in match-play events, so this will be one to watch.
Meena Lee of South Korean vs. Vicky Hurst of Maryland
With seemingly identical LPGA resumes, this match-up could be an interesting one. Both have recorded at least one top-10 finish each season since their debut on Tour and have placed in the top-20 at tournaments this season. Lee holds a slight edge in this match-up as she has two LPGA titles to her name, but it's been nearly 6 years since she's been in the winner's circle.
Angela Stanford of Texas vs. Wendy Ward of Texas
This shoot-out features two Texans who are looking to put their names back in the spotlight again. Stanford has a slight edge in this competition as she displays a certain mental toughness in her game. She came out on top of a four-way playoff at the HSBC Women's Championship this season, notching her fifth LPGA victory. She also competed on her fourth Solheim Cup Team. But Ward is a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour. It's been nearly seven years since Ward has hoisted an LPGA trophy.
Maria Hjorth of Sweden vs. Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea
Hjorth and Ji enter this match-up with two different styles of golf. While Ji leans heavily on her flatstick boasting a place in the top-20 in putts per green, Hjorth keeps it down straight down the middle, ranking in the top-20 for average driving distance at 269 yards. Hjorth has posted a victory in back-to-back seasons and competed on her fifth European Solheim Cup Team last year. Hjorth's match-play experience could give her a slight edge in this competition.
Mickey Wright Bracket
Na Yeon Choi of South Korea vs. Grace Park of South Korea
Ranked No. 2 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, Na Yeon Choi is a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour and certainly a player to watch in this year's Sybase Match Play Championship. Choi made it to the semifinals last year, losing to eventual champion Suzann Pettersen, and could be a force to reckon with again at this year's event. Choi already has three top-10 finishes in seven events this season and is coming off a T20 at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. Grace Park has struggled this season, missing the cut in each of her first five tournament starts. But Park has plenty of experience to bring to this match. The six-time LPGA winner and former U.S. Women's Amateur champion is still averaging nearly 260 yards off the tee deep into her career, so she can keep up with Choi in the fairways. Despite the disparity in recent results for the two players, this match could turn out to be a tight one.
Jenny Shin of South Korea vs. Jimin Kang of South Korea
In this battle between South Koreans, it's a matchup of youth vs. experience. Both Shin, 19, and Kang, a 10-year veteran of the LPGA Tour, got off to strong starts in 2012. Now the question is which one of them can find that hot streak again. Shin, who is in her second year on the LPGA Tour, has three top-10 finishes in eight events but all three of those came in the first three events of the season. Kang's best finish this season came in a T5 at the Honda LPGA Thailand 2012 but she's missed the cut in two of her last three events. Kang ranks 24th in putts per green in regulation so the key for her this week will likely be her approach shots. Shin on the other hand ranks 6th on Tour in greens in regulation this season so a lot will depend on her ability to make putts in this match.
Morgan Pressel of Florida vs. Mindy Kim of South Korea
A two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Pressel captured her first career victory at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship and became the youngest major champion at 18 years, 10 months, 9 days. She's certainly no stranger to match play situations, having competed on three U.S. Solheim Cup teams which included her posting an impressive 4-0-0 record at the 2011 Solheim Cup. Mindy Kim is still seeking that elusive victory. With one top-10 finish in 8 events so far this year, the three-time Symetra Tour winner hopes to secure her first victory at the next level this week. Neither player made it past the first round at last year's event so perhaps the winner of this match can build on the momentum of victory in Round 1.
Inbee Park of South Korea vs. Hee-Won Han of South Korea
Inbee Park enters this week looking for some momentum and a top-10 finish. The 2008 U.S. Women's Open champion brings a history of success in match play, including a win at the U.S. Girls Junior Championship. Park is averaging 258 yards off the tee, which could work to her advantage if the course plays long this week. Han, a 6-time winner on the LPGA Tour, has been gaining momentum as this season has gone along. After finishing no better than a T47 in the first three oversea events of the year, Han has recorded back-to-back top-30 finishes in her last two tournaments. The strength of Han's game has been her iron play and she ranks 20th in greens in regulation. So the key for both players this week could be who gets hot with the flat stick.
Jiyai Shin of South Korea vs. Jennifer Song of Florida
It's been awhile since we've seen former Rolex Rankings No.1 Jiyai Shin in the winner's circle, as her last LPGA Tour victory came at the 2010 Mizuno Classic. Despite the victory drought, Shin is still a player to watch this week. She hits a lot of greens and fairways in regulation, which is the kind of steadiness players need in match play. Shin placed third at the 2010 Sybase Match Play but was knocked out by Meena Lee during the first round of last year's events. This will be Jennifer Song's first time playing at the Sybase Match Play but she is certainly experienced in the format, having won both the 2009 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship and the 2009 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. Song also was a member of the winning 2010 Curtis Cup team.
Anna Nordqvist of Sweden vs. Beatriz Recari of Spain
These two Europeans are no strangers to the match play format. Nordqvist is a two-time member of the European Solheim Cup team while Recari grew accustomed to it during her amateur years in Europe. Both Nordqvist and Recari burst onto the scene in their rookie years with Nordqvist recording two victories in 2009 and Recari becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner in 2010. Now both are looking to get back in the winner's circle. There could be plenty of low numbers in this match as Nordqvist is 15th in birdies this year but for Recari, the key will be making putts as she's in the top 20 in driving accuracy and greens in regulation.
Amy Yang of South Korea vs. Amy Hung of Taiwan
If there is a breakthrough winner this week, it might very well come from this match. Both Yang and Hung are still seeking their first career victory and it seems just a matter of time before either one of them is hoisting a trophy. Yang has two top-5 finishes so far this season, including a T4 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and her swing has been labelled by some as one of the best on Tour. Hung is coming off a runner-up finish at the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup, an unofficial event, and credited her success to some tweaks she made to her clubs. Could that lead to a few more birdies for Hung this week? Don't be surprised for this showdown to go to extra holes to determine the winner.
Mika Miyazato of Japan vs. Natalie Gulbis of Nevada
The 2012 season has been a resurgent one for Natalie Gulbis. She has two top-10 finishes in her last three events, which are her first top-10 finishes since the 2009 season. Gulbis is healthy again after battling some injuries in recent years and she's credited that with her recent success. Gulbis, who is ranked in the top 10 in greens in regulation and putting average this season, is no stranger to match play as a three-time member of the U.S. Solheim Cup team. But while Gulbis has surged recently, Miyazato is looking to turn things around after 3 straight missed cuts. The Okinawa, Japan native certainly knows how to perform on big stages as she recorded three of her four top-10 finishes in majors last season. But this event hasn't suited Miyazato in the past; she has bowed out in the first round of the Sybase Match Play in each of the last two years.
Annika Sorenstam Bracket
Suzann Pettersen of Norway vs. Jodi Ewart of England
Defending champion Suzann Pettersen has her work cut out for her to repeat this against a formidable field in 2012. The six-time European Solheim Cup Team member has plenty of experience in match play and knows what it takes to win at Hamilton Farm. The Norwegian had a bit of a slow start to the season, registering her first top-10 finish at the seventh event on the schedule, the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf, where she tied for sixth. She's hitting 73 percent of her greens in regulation, good for eighth on Tour, and will look to sharpen up her play on the greens to outduel her opponent, Jodi Ewart. The England native will have to control some nerves going head-to-head with one of the more intimidating players on Tour in Pettersen. Ewart, who is in her second year on Tour, recorded a career-best T7 finish at the Kia Classic this year,
Sophie Gustafson of Sweden vs. Karen Stupples of England
In a matchup between European Solheim Cup teammates, Tour veterans Sophie Gustafson and Karen Stupples will be playing off of their match play experience to get through the opening round. Gustafson has the upper hand in years under her belt as an eight-time European Solheim Cup Team member and knows how to handle the pressure packed rounds of match play. The Swede is coming off a perfect 4-0-0 record at the 2011 Solheim Cup and has five LPGA Tour victories to her name. She has two top-20 finishes on Tour in 2012, both T18 at the Honda LPGA Thailand and LGPA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Stupples, a 14-year Tour member, has two years of Solheim Cup experience (2005, 2011) and two LPGA Tour victories. She one-ups Gustafson in the major wins category, as she won the 2004 Weetabix Women's British Open. The England native has recorded two top-15 finishes in 2012, a T10 at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf and a T15 at the HSBC Women's Champions.
Karrie Webb of Australia vs. Tiffany Joh of California
This match has a David and Goliath type feel to it with 38-time LPGA Tour winner Karrie Webb taking on second-year pro Tiffany Joh. Webb, a World Golf and LPGA Tour Halls of Famer, has six major victories on her resume but has limited match play experience and didn't make it past the second round at the Sybase Match Play in 2010 or 2011. The Aussie is playing solid golf so far this season, recording five top-15 finishes and is coming off a season-best T4 at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. Joh will have to rely on a ‘nothing to lose' attitude to take down one of the game's all-time greats in the first round. The California native has seen success in match play and was a member of the victorious 2008 U.S. Curtis Cup team, posting a 2-1-1 record, including a 6 & 5 singles match win. Joh is off to a shaky start in 2012, recording a season-best T44 at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf, but has proven in the past that she can play with the best after a runner-up finish last season at the Navistar LPGA Classic.
Azahara Munoz of Spain vs. Lindsey Wright of Australia
Munoz is on the brink of a break through, having played consistent high-level golf in the last four events. The Spaniard posted four-consecutive top-15 finishes and two top-four in her last two events which included tying her career-best T2 finish at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. She has quality match play experience, losing in the finals of the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur to Amanda Blumenherst, and was a three-time European PING Junior Solheim Cup team member (2002, 2003, 2005). Munoz also competed on her first European Solheim Cup team in 2011, posting a 2-1-1 record. But Munoz will have something to prove while looking for her first-career victory at Hamilton Farm as she has not made it past the second round at the Sybase Match Play the past two years. Wright, who at one point reached the No. 12 ranking in the world, is in the midst of a rebound this season. After battling anxiety and depression in recent years, Wright is back feeling like herself again and it's shown in her results. Wright won the ISPS Handa NZ Women's Open back in February and is coming off a T9 finish at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. So could this be the time that the 9-year LPGA veteran finally breaks through for her first win?
Stacy Lewis of Texas vs. Pat Hurst of Arizona
Two past Kraft Nabisco Championship winners headline this matchup, featuring rising star Stacy Lewis and 18-year veteran Pat Hurst. Lewis, a fourth-year Tour pro and in the prime of her career, is coming off her second career win at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. This week she will rely on her ability to get on the green and convert with her putter this to make it win No. 3. She ranks fifth on Tour in both greens in regulation and putts per green. The Woodlands, Texas native brings plenty of match play experience and success in head-to-head competition to Hamilton Farm. She was a member of the victorious 2008 U.S. Curtis Cup team, becoming the first player to go 5-0 in Curtis Cup history. Last year, she played on her first U.S. Solheim Cup Team, posting 1-3-0 record and was ousted in the third round of the Sybase Match Play by eventual champ, Suzann Pettersen a year ago. Hurst could be referred to as the LPGA's fountain of youth and is in the midst of her 18th year on Tour. She's coming off of two missed cuts and has only posted a season-best T43. But Hurst has the veteran experience from five U.S. Solheim Cup teams (overall record 10-7-3) and could surprise some by putting together a solid round to get past Round 1.
Sandra Gal of Germany vs. Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand
In what could be one of the biggest toss-up matches of the first round, 2011 Kia Classic winner Sandra Gal will try to take down Pornanong Phatlum, who is coming off her first career win at the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2012 earlier this month. But Gal is off to a shaky start in 2012, recording her only top-20 finish at the HSBC Women's Champions 2012 where she tied for 15th and missed the cut at her last event. The German native had a so-so showing at her first Solheim Cup last year, posting a 0-2-1 record for the Europeans. Phatlum will try to play off the momentum of her first LPGA victory at the unofficial event in Brazil just two weeks ago and has been on an upswing, having recorded a T12 finish in her last official LPGA event, the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. She has limited experience in match play and will be playing in her first Sybase Match Play.
Sun Young Yoo of South Korea vs. Amanda Blumenherst of Arizona
Sun Young Yoo had her coming out party at Hamilton Farm Golf Club two years ago when she became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the inaugural 2010 Sybase Match Play Championship and never looked back. The sixth-year pro has recorded four top-20 finishes in her last four events this season, including her first major victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The South Korean has shown she can be clutch down the stretch and knows how to win in match play. She ranks second in greens in regulation and 13th in driving accuracy. Blumenherst, in her third year on Tour and still seeking her first LPGA win, returns to New Jersey with hopes of delivering a breakthrough of her own. The three-time NCAA Player of the Year has missed three of eight cuts this season and posted her only top-30 finish at the second event of the year, a T5 at the Honda LPGA Thailand 2012. She has plenty of quality match play experience with wins at the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship and key roles on two U.S. Curtis Cup teams. Maybe match play is just what she needs to kick her performance to a higher level.
Hee Kyung Seo of South Korea vs. Jessica Korda of Florida
This ‘second-year showdown' features two players both with one year of Tour experience under their belts and who haven't taken much time to make splashes on the big stage. Hee Kyung Seo, the reigning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, has three top-10 finishes this year including a T4 at the season's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The Korean is ranked 16th in putting average this year and will need to get her putter rolling to beat out the long-driving Korda. The American teenager has shown her ability to close out tournaments and manage pressure situations when she opened the 2012 season in a big way, becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner at the ISPS Handa Australian Open. Korda was a part of a six-player, sudden-death playoff in which she sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the second hole to close out the victory. She's trying to get her swagger back after missing two-consecutive cuts following her win and finishing outside of the top-50 in two of her last four events. The Bradenton, Fla. native has success in match play and was a member of the 2010 U.S. Curtis Cup team and 2009 USA Junior Solheim Cup team. She won the 2010 South Atlantic Amateur Championship and finished runner-up to Danielle Kang at the 2010 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship.