Honda LPGA Thailand – 72 Holes
Siam Country Club, Pattaya, Old Course
21-24 Feb 2013
Introduction & Course
The LPGA Tour makes its 2nd stop on an early-season Asian swing in Thailand, at the Siam Country Club which lies in the hills behind Pattaya.
This year, as in 2007 & 2010-2012, the tournament will be played on the Old Course in an event limited to 60 top Tour players, plus a small group in invitees and sponsor exemptions, making up a field of just 70 players.
The Old Course is a short (6,500yds; 6,000 metres) and narrow par72, but one that is easily overpowered by the longer hitters. I’m therefore expecting some exceptionally low rounds (63-64) and a winning total of 18-20 under par.
Betting History & Strategy
The past four winners on the Old Course (YaniTseng twice, SuzannPettersen & Ai Miyazato) were all well inside the Top10 in pre-tournament betting markets, so my recommended betting strategy here is to back either one or two favourites to win outright.
However, if you are the type of gambler who simply refuses to back those shorter prices then you should either skip this event or scroll down to check my ‘Best Longer Shots’ below for a bit of potential each way or place value.
A Quick Overview of the Top 10 Players in the Market
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, the world’s best female player for the past three years, has won this event for the past two years, and was third in 2010. After starting 2012 with a bang, and three wins, she went into an uncharacteristic slump and has not won since March 2012. As a result, she’s under heavy media scrutiny and in danger of losing the world #1 ranking that she’s held for the past 107 weeks. Nonetheless, she played solidly in Australia last week in her first 2013 outing, has to be given a winning chance here and is our 2nd pick.
World #2 Korea’s Na-Yeon Choi perhaps looms as Yani’s heir to the World #1 rank following her US Open victory in July 2012 and a season culminating in consecutive wins in Nov / Dec. However, Na-Yeon has not competed since early December, lacks distance off the tee and has finished no better than 13th in three starts here, so I’m discounting her chances.
Korea’s In-Bee Park, the World #4, was the most consistent golfer in the world in 2012 with 3 wins and a staggering 9 runners-up. She actually had one stretch of 16xTop10’s in 17 events! However, her failure to convert multiple opportunities into more wins, added to a best finish of 22nd in 4 starts here and it being her first outing of the year, causes me to discount her winning chances.
World #3 Stacy Lewis (USA) was the LPGA player of the year in 2012 with 4 wins, albeit no Majors. Despite her relatively small stature she hits it a mile and with her course form trend matching her career rise she has to be given a winning chance here. She looked rusty, especially during a 2nd round 74, in Australia last week but played solidly thereafter and is my top selection here.
Sweet-swinging, and sweet-smiling, Korean Se-Yeon Ryu is the World #6 and finished off 2012 with ten consecutive Top10’s in a year that contained one LPGA victory and another in Korea. She has started 2013 in the same consistent manner but, like Park, she lacks either the nerve or killer instinct too often when in contention so I can’t recommend her.
World #8, Korea’s introspective Jiyai Shin, has a 3rd here and has already competed twice in 2013 for a 33rd & a win in Australia. Her 2012 season yielded two wins, including her 2nd British Open, but she was otherwise inconsistent and patchy in top company and thus cannot be recommended.
Norway’s late-developing Suzann Pettersen is the World #7 and has been arguably the most unfulfilled and frustrating (also frustrated!) talent on the LPGA Tour since her lone Major victory in the 2007 PGA. However, she won twice in each of 2011 & 2012, drives it long and has a win and a 2nd here so has to be given a winning chance in this. She’s my #3 pick.
Australia’s seemingly ageless Karrie Webb looked a spent force during most of a winless 2012, dropping out of the world Top10. She started her 2013 season well in familiar Aussie surroundings and has finished 4th, 3rd & 9th the past three years here so is a solid place chance but, at age 38, is now outside my ‘age recommendation limit’ for female golfers.
Big, bouncy and fast-developing Chinese #1, and World #5, Shanshan Feng was the world’s most improved female player in a 2012 that yielded 6 wins, albeit only one (a Major) on the LPGA Tour. She has a little course form and should finish Top10 here but can’t be recommended for the win in her first start of 2013.
The world’s best amateur, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko (who only turns 16 on 24 April), is the reigning US Amateur champion and was the stroke play medalist at the 2012 Esperito Santo. In pro events she’s already won the LPGA Tour’s 2012 Canadian Open as well as the recent NZ Open & the 2012 NSW Open. Only her lack of competitive exposure to Asian playing conditions causes me to oppose her here.
In summary, I’m (perhaps dangerously!) opposing all the Koreans as well as the Korean-born Ko in recommending Stacy Lewis for the win; Yani or Suzann if you decide you can afford a backup at the short prices.
Best Longer Shots
Korea’s Amy Yang hasn’t won anything of significance since the 2006 ANZ Ladies Masters but has racked up 21xTop10’s since, playing in the best company. She also hasn’t finished outside the Top10 here in 3 starts and is given a big Top5 place chance at a nice price.
The Jutanugarn sisters will be well-supported by the Thai locals once again.
I prefer 17-y-o Ariya who played this in event in 2007 (51st) as a precociously gifted 11-y-o and improved to finish 30th, 8th & 12th the past three years. Ariya secured Top4 places in both the strokeplay and matchplay sections of the 2012 US Amateur, was ranked globally as an amateur only behind Lydia Ko in 2012. In December she won the LET (Ladies European Tour) QSchool tournament. A Top5-10 chance here.
Interestingly, her older sister, Moriya, recently won the LPGA QSchool and played very well in last week’s Australian Open where she finished 4th. Moriya has already played in three Majors, making the cut in the 2011 US Open, but in two starts here has a best finish of only 38th. Put her in your blackbook!
Back one of the favourites to win: Stacy Lewis 14.00 is my top pick from Yani Tseng 8.00 & Suzann Pettersen 20.00
Each way or place-only value: Amy Yang 41.00 to win (10.00 or so the place) & Ariya Jutanugarn up to 80.00 to win with some bookies.
Good luck with your golf punting!
© Copyright Mike J Miller: 21 February 2013