With many of the world’s top players sitting the last full field domestic event out, this week’s event could be a big breakthrough for one of the many talented ladies on tour. Some notable names not in the field include #1 on the money list Jiyai Shin, the owner of the longest top 10 streak on tour Ai Miyazato, and Suzann Pettersen who has decided to rest her foot after withdrawing from the final round last week in Danville. So, which player is likely to break through this week?
Could it be world #1 and defending champion Lorena Ochoa who with every winless week is losing grip to Shin as the LPGA’s top performer? Ochoa has been in contention the last two weeks, but has been unable to close the deal on the weekend. On the flip side, she has had top 10s in her last 3 events, and should find herself a 4th straight top 10. Can she get it done is the clutch is the bigger question, which is a strange one to be asking a world #1 and two-time winner in 2009.
Can Michelle Wie finally cash in and take home her first LPGA title. She’s had many strong finishes this year, but hasn’t been in the thick of things late on Sunday. Many expect Wie to become the face of the tour, and getting a win this week could go a long way in that. Wie who will be skipping the mini Asian circuit to continue classes at Stanford is running out of chances to join Shin, Anna Nordqvist, and M.J. Hur as rookie winners in 2009.
Sun Young Yoo is another player seeking her first title, and has a T2 and T3 in her last two events. Yoo looks poised to become another South Korean winner on tour. Yoo showed in her playoff loss to Shin at Arkansas that she can make birdies on the closing holes, but was unable to string them together on the front nine last week at the CVS. Can she prove that she can get the deal done on this week?
With the 2009 Tour Championship qualifying criteria unannounced as of yet, it’s going to be a go big or go home week for many players sitting outside the top 80 and top 100 on the money list. The Tour Championship does feature a field of 120, so perhaps we should be looking at the top 120 on the money list as a cut off point as well.
Time for my weekly picks, and after doing pretty well last week, the pressure is certainly on once again:
18 year old Taiwan native Kai-Chen Chang is ascending the WTA ranks quickly as she continues her first season out of juniors. Chang overshadowed by other juniors like Junior Wimbledon champion Noppwan Lertcheewakarn, KCC has begun to find her form, culminating in a 2R upset of World #1 Dinara Safina this week at the Toray Pan Pacific Open. After her 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5 victory Chang has become the first player from Chinese Taipei to defeat a world #1.
Chang has a strong baseline game, hitting out and aggressively like many players coming up in her generation. She appears to have one key ingredient many of her Asian comrades lack, a fearless killer instinct. In her 2R match against Safina she was on the ropes on many occasions, but never stopped playing her game. She was down a couple set points in the opening set, but fought them off to tough out a tiebreak victory against a struggling Dinara Safina. Then after losing the second, and going down a break in the third she continued her strong fight.
KCC has a killer forehand, and that’s definitely her best asset. She’s a great mover, and a lot taller then the other Asian players on tour. Her serve could use some work, and her net game is atrocious. These are two things she can certainly work on, and should be in the top 100 very, very soon.
KCC has won once on the ITF tour, in 2008 in Kurume a $50K event. She has had her most success in the last few months. In July she made a semifinal of another 50K event in Lexington, then a few weeks later she qualified for her first grand slam main draw at the U.S. Open. In the opening round she beat 25th seed Kaia Kanepi for her then biggest win in her career, before falling in three sets to Magdalena Rybarikova.
She’s followed that up for qualifying in her next three WTA events in Guangzhou, Seoul, and this week in Tokyo. She takes on Iveta Benesova in the 3R.
There is no doubt that web media and web content is a very important thing, and when it comes to the LPGA, there’s skills are a bit lacking. Although their website design and layout are simple, and it’s relatively easy to navigate, there are so many things wrong and inconsistent, that it’s really an embarrassment. 5-6 years ago when they had the atrocious purple website I may have given them a pass, but right now in 2010, it’s time to step it up.
When Na Ri Kim got herself into contention last week, I noticed one big gaffe. She was listed as Priority List Category: R, aka retired! There are a lot of oddities within the player profiles, plus there’s not a lot of information on these particular pages anyway. Questions like why is Angie Oberholser still listed (as non-exempt too, how archaic), is really just one of many you’ll have if you peruse these profiles.
There stat pages could really be overhauled, and I would love to see cooler stats included. It was much talked about earlier in the year how the stats from the international events were not included, and how it skewed all the overall stats. In this day and age, that is really uncalled for!
This time last year, if you were in a final group paired with world #1 Lorena Ochoa you would be shaking in your boots. The media, fans, and perhaps even yourself would’ve pegged you as a severe underdog, no matter who you were. Ochoa’s rather tepid response to being in the hunt the past two weekends is certainly puzzling, and if the streak continues this week as she defends the Navistar, the aura of Ochoa may be wearing off quicker then I imagined.
The intimidation factor of playing with a top female, or even just being in the final group can be game changing. If you were a young player looking to win, and you were paired in the final group with Annika Sorenstam, the pressure alone may get the best of you.
This is why Ochoa needs to win, and needs to win quick. Yes, three top 10s in a row are great, and back to back top 5 finishes are better. Mustering rounds in the 70s when you’re in contention are not good. With a bunch of players all contending for the top of the money list, and Jiyai Shin looking poised to become the new face of the LPGA tour, Sunday’s round at the CVS and last weekend’s play at the Samsung are potentially diminishing Lorena’s shine.
Where is the #1’s killer instinct? Hopefully we’ll see it this week.
Date Krumm Secures 1st Victory in Comeback, Sugiyama Retires
Wow! Kimiko Date Krumm made the final step in her comeback by securing her first WTA title in 13 years when she defeated 2nd seed Anabel Medina-Garrigues 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the Hansol Korea Open. Date Krumm, who had been unsuccessful in playing in a main draw of WTA events all year, capped off a successful week where she secured her first main draw win since her comeback against Korean wildcard Ye-Ra Lee, and continued the run defeating #30 Alisa Kleybanova, #21 Daniela Hantuchova, #54 Maria Kirilenko, and #23 Anabel Medina-Garrigues. Medina-Garrigues had defeated Date Krumm in the opening round in China last week.
Date Krumm turns 39 tomorrow, and has proven that she is still as fit and ready to compete as she was when she reached world #4 in the early 90s. I always thought when she retired at 26 in 1996 that she did it before her peak, and she’s shown that the 12 years off she has had, has done wonders for her.
She’ll need to show just how fit she is, as there is no rest for the player who has just become the 2nd oldest player to ever win a WTA tour title. She’ll battle Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada in the 1st round of the Toray Pan Pacific on Monday. Wozniak defeated Date Krumm 6-1, 6-1 in the final round of qualifying of this event last year.
In a sad juxtaposition, Date Krumm’s compatriot Ai Sugiyama had her retirement ceremony on the same day as her victory. Sugiyama a former top 10 player herself (and formally #1 in the world in doubles) has announced that the Toray Pan Pacific will be her last tournament of her career. Since Date Krumm’s retirement Sugiyama has been the top player in Japan and she’ll be sorely missed on tour.
The shootout between Sophie & Lorena never came to fruition on Sunday. Gustafson started very quickly going 4-under through her first 5 holes on the day, including an eagle on the par-5 5th hole. The 5th was the site of Lorena’s first birdie of the day, to cut Sophie’s lead to 3 going into the 6th hole. Gustafson, perhaps letting the thought of running away with it get to her, would bogey holes 6 and 8 to open the door for Lorena. Lorena however would not seize any of her opportunities on this Sunday, as she parred through until bogeying the 8th. After sharing birdies on 9th hole Sophie continued to lead the tournament, now by two shots.
A couple groups ahead 2009 rookie Amy Yang was having a birdie bonanza. Birdies at holes 1 and 3 were followed by four in a row in holes 5 through 8 to finish a front nine 31. She continued her run on the back by birding the 10th, to jump to -15 for the tournament, 7-under for the day.
So, as the final group made the turn, you have Sophie Gustafson, possibly battling nerves to capture her first victory in 6 years. Would she falter feeling the pressure? Would the #1 ranked player in the world find that winning form that we’ve seen from her? Could Ochoa string off some birdies to put some pressure on her playing partner to steal victory away, and shine the LPGA spotlight back to her? Or would the unknown South Korean, who has found much more success on the LET and in Australia be able to keep the birdies coming, and completely steal the show? Sounds like a pretty exciting back nine, right?
Well, it wasn’t. I really expected Ochoa to start finding her game, and take this out of Sophie’s hand. Unfortunately Ochoa did nothing on holes 10-14, parring them, and then finally did something on the 15th. Unfortunately for her that something was bogey. Gustafson herself wasn’t running away with it, but wasn’t letting anything go either. She birdied the 13th, as the only mark on her scorecard in that stretch. Amy Yang wasn’t able to find another birdie for the rest of her round after her 10th, and ended up bogeying the 15th hole leading to a final round 7-under 65, Yang’s first top 10 finish of the year.
The only player to light it up on the back nine was Sun Young Yoo. She was even par on her day through 10 holes, but birdied the 11th, and holes 15-17, to finish with a 68, good to tie Amy Yang for third at -14. This is Yoo’s second straight top 10 finish after losing in a playoff in Arkansas two weeks ago.
Lorena Ochoa must be kicking herself for really not being able to put any pressure on Sophie on the back nine. This is very similar to her result from last week, when coming into the weekend T3, she shot 72-71, and was unable to contend. This week she did better on Saturday, but really didn’t do anything remotely Lorena-like on this back nine. Something must be going on in that head of hers, and it’s looking all the more likely that Lorena will be departing from the #1 rank in the Rolex Rankings very soon.
2000 Rookie of the Year Dorothy Delasin missed her 16th straight cut on tour (all 14 in 2009 and her last two in 2008) after posting a birdie free 81 in the second round of the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge.
It’s been a crashing fall for the four time winner on tour who claimed impressive victories at the 2001 Samsung World Championship, and her last win, the 2003 Tournament of Champions.
Her best finish since her win in 2003 has been a 5th place, last doing so in 2008 at the SemGroup Championship, after posting her season best round of 68.
Dorothy has only broken 60 once this season. Save from a really strong finish at next week’s Navistar Classic, it appears Delasin will be headed to Q-School. It’ll be interesting to see what she chooses to do, if she does fail to earn status for the 2010 season on the LPGA.
In contrast, fellow rookie in 2000 Jennifer Rosales (who paired with Delasin to capture the 2008 World Cup of Golf for the Philippines) has turned her season around, by making her last four cuts (after missing 6 of her first 9). Rosales sits at 50th after two rounds of the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge after a disappointing 75 in the secound round to sit at even par for the tournament. Rosales struggled at the start of the day, tripling her second hole of the round (the par 5, 11th), and two others, before finishing with two birdies on the front side. Jennifer could use a solid finish in hopes of securing at least Category 11 status for 2010.
Jennifer has won two times on the LPGA Tour, winning in 2004 & 2005.
Soon to be 39 year old Kimiko Date-Krumm has continued her impressive run at the Hansol Korean Open by getting all the way to the final round after defeating defending champion Maria Kirilenko in the semifinals on Saturday. Date-Krumm coming off a rough opening set came through with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, her third straight three setter in this event.
Yesterday she outdid her win over Kleybanova by knocking out the tournament’s top seed Daniela Hantuchova to get into the match with Kirilenko. Kimiko was the last player on the entry list, and she entered as an MDO (main draw only, meaning if her ranking was not high enough to enter the main draw she would not be entered into qualifying). The right number of withdrawls happened earning her a spot here, and now a trip to the finals.
She will meet the winner of the other semifinal featuring, big hitting German Anna-Lena Groenfeld and Spaniard Anabel Medina-Garrigues. Anabel defeated Kimiko in the opening round last week, in three sets.
By July 2008 no one expected anything from an unknown player from mainland China (the first exempt player from China following in the footsteps of Li Ying Le). In her first 15 events on the LPGA tour Feng Shanshan had only managed to make 4 cuts, with T39 being her shining result in a season full of disappointment. Then seemingly out of nowhere she exploded.
It was certainly a tale of two seasons, after her 4th place finish at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic set off a chain reaction within her. She snagged a second straight top 5 finish the following week (T4, State Farm) and three other top 10s for the season, out of nowhere finishing 2008 as the 38th ranked money earner on the year.
So much was expected of Shanshan after her strong play at the end of 2008, and watching her unable to break the top 20 in 2009 has been more then puzzling. Perhaps it’s the pressure of being the only Chinese woman on the LPGA tour, and being one of the few faces breaking ground internationally in a sport that has a good chance in becoming an Olympic sport.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese National Team performance was incredible. It is no secret the Chinese Federation puts a lot money and time into their young athletes, leading to a life of all sport and no play. We’ve seen the stories from Chinese gymnasts, divers, swimmers, plucked away from obscurity, taken away from their families, all to chase a dream that only so few will have a chance to pursue.
Now that golf will likely be an Olympic sport, it’ll be interesting to see just how the most populous country in the world tries to gain footing in a sport that they have almost no history in. Will we see an influx of Chinese players on the LPGA tour, much like the South Koreans? Will they stay on their budding national tour? Will they need Shanshan to break through a la Se Ri Pak, or will this migration of players happen because of this Olympic addition?
In the tennis world the Chinese National Team holds a firm hold on their players, choosing their sponsor, where they play, and who they play with. It wasn’t until players like Li Na & Zheng Jie broke through into the top of the women’s game that they finally released these players and allowed them hire private coaching, pick their tournaments, pursue their own contracts. These players still have to repay a portion of their earnings back to the federation, but their portion of prize money has only increased as they have gotten more successful. Here, at about the 2:45 mark, in Li Na’s post-match interview after her quarterfinal loss to Kim Clijsters she talks about who here favorite player was growing up: Andre Agassi.
Why was he her favorite player, his freedom. His freedom to wear what he wanted, say what he wanted, and go where he wanted, something that Li Na was not afforded until just recently.
Feng Shanshan is independent, she is playing her own way, where she wants, as China had no had a major focus on this sport in previous years. With this Olympic addition, it’ll be interesting if we’ll see if new players from China will be like Feng, or Zhang Na (on the JLPGA) continue to play as they wish, or will it be more organized, and planned through the larger federation, or will the majority of the Chinese talent be playing only on the Chinese National Tour? Will a player like Feng or Zhang be considered for an Olympic team if they are not part of a bigger Chinese federation (assuming one is governing the Chinese golf team like in other sport)? The growth of golf China will certainly be an interesting one to watch in the years to come.
Can someone tell the Golf Channel that Solheim is over?
I recently moved to a house near my university campus, and we had not had the luxury of cable or internet for three weeks. While I was able to access the internet via campus, and the center of town, I was unable to catch any of the action of the Samsung last week, nor the opening round of the CVS/pharmacy Classic this week. So, when I decided to come home to my parent’s house for the weekend I was very excited for the live second round coverage to start.
To my dismay (but definitely expected) the Golf Channel’s coverage focused incredibly heavily on the Americans and European players (with the addition of Hall of Famer Karrie Webb). There was so much Pettersen vs. Creamer back and forth I thought we were in the middle of Sunday singles all over again! Sun Young Yoo, who was playing a blazing round, and the best golf on the course, wasn’t shown until she reached the 9th, her last hole. Which she three putted, and bogeyed.
Now, I was a bit tired from the 2 hr ride, and am battling a sinus infection, so I sort of fell asleep through the coverage, but I do believe that was the only shot of Yoo, and the rest of the coverage focused on Pettersen, Stanford, Creamer, Pressel, and the like. While I understand they were all in the thick of things, but they still had some good players on the course of other ethnic varieties to show!
I’ll give them the benefit and say that the majority of the cameras are probably situated on the back nine, so the players who finished on the front today (like Yoo and Feng Shanshan) were just out of reach. Either way it’s still a disappointment.
It’s no wonder that so many of these talented South Koreans are unknown to the public. They are only shown when they are in the thick of things (or winning!) on the weekend. Going up to that, you get little to no coverage, so when they win, of course it’s a huge surprise, we don’t get to see them play otherwise!
A big step in alleviating this so called problem of South Korean dominance, is too actually give them a voice, and air time even when they aren’t in contention. That’ll build that familiarity, and really show that these ladies are more then just wonderful technicians on the golf course.
Sophie Gustafson continued to lead by one at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge after shooting a second round 69 to be the sole player in double digits under par at -10, holding a bare one shot lead over Maria Hjorth, Lorena Ochoa, and Shanshan Feng.
Sophie struggled with her putter on Friday, but played well enough to keep going in the right direction. She must not miss her opportunities this weekend if she hopes to win her first title in six years.
Hoping to stop her quest for victory include Maria Hjorth, last time a winner in 2007. Hjorth and Gustafson were Solheim Cup teammates this year, and both have lost in playoffs recently; Hjorth last year to Yani Tseng at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship, and Gustafson earlier this season to Ai Miyazato at the Evian Masters. Maria had a pretty exciting day Friday, with one eagle, 7 birdies, and 3 bogeys in her round of 66.
Lorena’s victory drought has been much talked about, and it’ll be interesting to see how she fares on this weekend of play. Last week at the Samsung Lorena found herself in this exact position, tied for second & one stroke off the lead, and only managed 72-71 notching a T4, but not finding herself in contention at any point on the weekend. We’ll see if she can find the inner tenacity that we expect from the #1 ranked lady in the world.
Awaking from her season long coma, and one of my surprise picks for the top 12, China’s Shanshan Feng showed some of the game that piqued our interest last season with a 5-under 67 which also had her tied for second. Shanshan has only used 49 putts this week so far, which is an amazing number for any player, and especially true for a player who is currently ranked T97 in putting at 1.85 putts per round. Compare that with the current leader Sophie Gustafson, who has used 63 putts in her first two rounds. Shanshan could use a good week as she has only notched one top 20 finish this season, and it was a T20 on the dot at the Michelob ULTRA Open.
The foursome that are tied for 5th are just as dangerous. Angela Stanford finished her round with four birdies after being +2 after 6 holes for her 70. Suzann Pettersen had four birdies of her own on the back nine to finish at 4-under for the day, and -8 overall. Joo Mi Kim had a 68 on Friday, which was only her 6th round in the 60s all season (her 5th coming in the first round). After bogeying holes 3 & 4, Joo Mi had six birdies coming home.
The last player in this group also had the round of the day, Sun Young Yoo shot a 29 on the par 35 back nine (her first 9 holes of the day), and shot an 8-under 64 jumping up from T64 to T5. She could’ve tied the course record (or broken it) if it were not for a three putt bogey on the par 5 9th, her last hole of the day. Yoo is continuing where she left off, her last result being a T2 losing in a playoff to Jiyai Shin a couple weeks ago.
A duo of young Americans Vicky Hurst & Paula Creamer round out the top 10, at -6. There are a lot of other surprising names near the top of the leaderboard this week, all looking to cement their priority for 2010. Reilley Rankin, Mikaela Parmlid, Amy Yang and Monday qualifier Sophia Sheridan are all T11 (with Natalie Gulbis & Yani Tseng). Minea Blomqvist, Haeji Kang, Kris Tamulis, and Anna Grzberian are also in the top 20, one stroke worse at -4, T17.
Na Ri Kim seemed to be on her way to solidify her opening round 67 when she player the back nine (her first nine) in 2 under with two birdies and no bogeys. Coming back to the front the wheels fell off, and she went bogey-triple on holes 4-5, and doubles the 8th for a disappointing 76, that dropped her all the way back to T39.
The rising heat reeked havoc on #1 on the money list Jiyai Shin. Shin had been feeling ill all week, and withdrew midway through the second round. She carried an umbrella with her on Friday to stay cool, but after bogeying holes 2 & 5 she decided that she did not have enough to finish.
After an injury plagued season at Pepperdine University last year, where she was only able to start in one tournament, Ayaka Kaneko will turn pro just before the start of the final round of Q-School in December. Although this article mainly focuses on Lehua Wise, another qualifier from sectionals, that little tidbit on Kaneko is very interesting to me.
Ayaka made the finals of 2007 U.S. Girls Junior, before falling to then 14-year old Kristen Park.
Gloria Park, who has been out all season on maternity leave, seems to have a lot of similarities to fellow two time LPGA winner Ji Young Oh. I compare their first three years on tour here:
2000: Gloria Park , after gaining exempt status at Q-School, Gloria struggled throughout her entire rookie campaign. In a rookie class that featured future major champions, and countrywoman Grace Park & Jeong Jang, and a year that Mi Hyun Kim leapfrogged over Se Ri Pak to become the top ranked Korean on tour, it certainly wasn’t easy even in 2000 to stand out as a top South Korean on tour. She only made 10 of 25 cuts, had no top 10s (best finish T12), and finished 134th on the money list.
2007: Ji Young Oh , As an amateur Oh also garnered exempt status at Q-School, and competed in 22 events, also struggling through her freshman season. At Q-School In-Kyung Kim was the low amateur, tying medalist honors with H.J. Choi. Also earning exempt status with Ji Young were 2007 Rookie of the Year Angela Park, and Katherine Hull. No one would’ve expected Oh to be the first of these players to reach the winner’s circle. Although that maiden victory would not happen in her rookie year, as she like Gloria, only made 10 cuts, and had only one top-10. She still managed to secure an exempt card for 2008 by finishing 72nd on the money list.
2001: Gloria Park , Gloria Park became one of the biggest surprise winners of 2001 (probably only upended by Tina Fischer & Kate Golden for this honor) when she won the Williams Championship. This was only 3 weeks after her first ever top 10 on the LPGA in Canada, and was her only other top 10 of the season. The win helped her finish 35th on the money list, but there was no evidence she’d be able to pull off such a feat again.
2008: Ji Young Oh , Coming into the LPGA State Farm Classic Ji Young had added to her top-10 tally by 2, and was looking to have a successful, but unremarkable season. Back-to-back 66s to start the State Farm Classic proved too much for the field, as Oh also captured her first victory of her career. She’d snag another top 10 by the time the year was done, and became one of the most surprising players to finish in the top 30 of the money list at 26. Yet, 5 top 10s in two years may not have been the most promising sign that more wins were to come.
2002: Gloria Park , Shining through as the only first time winner of 2001 to win again, Park continued an upward trend with her third year on tour. She captured her second victory at the Sybase beating compatriot Hee-Won Han in a playoff. Notching 5 top 10s on the year Park finished just outside the top 20 on the money list at 21st when the season was through.
2009: Ji Young Oh , Notching her second top 10 in Mexico was Oh’s only triumph through the beginning of the 2009 season. Where she missed one cut and was unable to finish in the top 35 in her other 6 events. Coincidentally at the Sybase, Ji Young again opened with a 66, and parlayed that for her second LPGA victory. Sitting in the top 30 of the money list currently, these have been Ji Young’s only top 10s of the 2009 season thus far.
Pretty similar career paths so far right? Gloria has not found the winner circle sicne 2002, but did finish a career high 9th on the money list in 2005 when she finished in the top 10, 10 times. We’ll have to wait and see if Ji Young can continue her trend of surprising wins, or if she will topple out the same way Gloria has.
Former JLPGA standout, and LPGA rookie Shiho Oyama writes in her rookie blog about her withdrawl from the Konica Minolta Cup, and her uncertainties for the rest of the season.
She is not in the field this week, nor is she in the field for next week’s Navistar, but she may be in the field for the 2009 Japan Women’s Open, where Ai Miyazato will be playing next week.
We’ll get to know the seriousness of her injury if she is unable to tee it up at one of the JLPGA’s best events. Oyama sits at 69th on the money list, so she should have a full card for next season, even if she is unable to play again this season. She has a rough season otherwise, only notching one top 10, a 6th at the now defunct Michelob ULTRA Open, and only one addition top 25 finish. She has missed 9 of 16 cuts this season.
Speaking of Comebacks.. Date-Krumm UPSETS Kleybanova
After what felt like countless three set losses to top-30 players, Kimiko Date-Krumm finally came full circle today, upsetting 5th seed and 30th ranked Alisa Kleybanova in the 2nd round of the Hansol Korean Open earlier Thursday. Kimiko had to fight off a match point in the second set to Kleybanova at 5-3, to overcome the big babe Russian, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 to advance to her first tour quarterfinal in nearly 13 years.
Date-Krumm had won her first WTA main draw match since her comeback began last year, when she beat Korean wildcard Ye-Ra Lee in the opening round 6-3, 6-4. Lee, a former top 200 player who rarely plays outside of Korea, had been battling injury problems this year, and has dropped outside the top 500.
None the less Date-Krumm has a lot to be proud of. She has suffered some heartbreaking three set losses this year to Kaia Kanepi, Sabine Lisicki, Caroline Wozniacki, and to Anabel Medina-Garrigues last week.
It’s going to bet only tougher in the next round as she takes on top seeded Daniela Hantuchova who dispatched Chanelle Scheepers 6-1, 6-1 today.
I had a feeling Date-Krumm might tough it out against Kleybanova, a huge hitter, with her slower shots, and super flat game. Alisa is a tall girl, and getting down to her low balls is not her strength. Her blowing another lead is certainly troubling for a player who has gone downhill since her SF loss to Sharapova (where she lead midway through the 3rd set).
In-Kyung Kim returns to Danville, CA to defend her maiden title at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge. Although suffering from a disappointing week last week Inky still finds herself in the top 5 on the LPGA Official Money List. Despite that she is still a whopping $500K behind Jiyai Shin who sits atop the money list. Shin has gone W-3rd in her last two events, and if history has proven us anything (winning her three events in such a short span last year) she can win in bunches, and if she continues to strike the ball well, she’ll be very difficult to beat.
Angela Stanford came into the 2008 final round just one stroke behind In-Kyung Kim, many thought she’d utilize her experience (and the phenomenal run she was having last Fall) and catch In-Kyung. Inky certainly opened the door for Angela, as she only managed a +1, 73 in the final round. Stanford struggled worse with her own overpar +3, 75. Angela has overcome a lot this season to be back in the thick of things, and if she’s in contention expect the Golf Channel to be all over it.
With the hottest player on the LPGA Ai Miyazato is back in Japan prepping for the biggest tournament on the JLPGA schedule, last week’s winner Na Yeon Choi has taken a week off to collect herself, and Cristie Kerr taking her first week off since Solheim, it’s certainly missing some marquee names, but it’s never looking to bad when you have Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng, Suzann Pettersen and many others of the LPGAs best joining Shin & Kim in the event.
A bit of pressure on the picks this week after the relatively easy 12 out of 20 Samsung, but here are my thoughts:
Sun Young Yoo
Angela Park, who’s had many struggles in the latter half of this season, is taking another week off, after failing to make a cut in her first two events back since her European layoff.
Amanda Blumenhurst, fresh off medalist honors at the first sectional LPGA Qualifying tournament has been awarded a sponsors exemption along with former Big Break contestant Kim Welch.
Kristy McPhereson, currently #14 on the money list, had to Monday qualify for this event last year (shooting a blazing 65), and finished T5 after doing so. This year Kristy qualified for the Solheim Cup, and just participated in the ultra exclusive Samsung World Championship. Sophia Sheridan and 13 year-old amateur Casie Cathrea have earned qualifying honors for this year. Casie made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links this summer before running into the buzzsaw that was Jennifer Song. To learn a bit more about Casie, check out this link from the WAPL Website.
There’s no better way to win a golf tournament. Standing on the tee at the 18th with a birdie putt for the championship. When Na Yeon Choi nailed hers on Sunday to win her maiden title on the LPGA Tour she became the 4th player this year to avoid a playoff and win by birding (or eagling) the last hole in regulation. Let’s take a look at the other three players who’ve managed to complete this feat this season, and see if they’ve taken the confidence of birding the final hole into a great season.
March 22, 2009 - Pat Hurst, Mastercard Classic
Pat Hurst’s 10 footer for birdie on the 54th hole capped off a tremendous week for many different reasons. The 16 year veteran won her first event in 3 years (sixth of her career), and utilized birdies on 17 and 18 during the final round to avoid a playoff with Lorena Ochoa, the hometown superstar who birdied 17 and 18 herself to get to -9, and Yani Tseng, the 2008 Rookie of the Year who bogeyed the 18th to open the door. The two birdies got Hurst the win, and a finish at -10, a number she got to during the previous round, before she badly faltered on holes 16-18 on Saturday by going double-bogey-bogey.
Two questions emerged after this event. Would this be a career revival for Hurst who seemed to be well past her prime, and would Yani get over her runner-upitis and finally notch a second victory? Hurst’s $195,000 winners check accounts for nearly 2/3rds of her season’s earnings, and was her first of only two top 10s for the year (the other being a couple weeks later at the Kraft Nabisco). She has gone on to miss 6 of her next 18 cuts, and failed to make the Solheim Cup. A rather disappointing finish for such a promising start.
Tseng of course got her second victory at the Corning Classic after Soo-Yun Kang repeated Tseng’s mistake on this day. She bogeyed the 18th, allowing Tseng her second career victory, and first win in regulation.
April 5, 2009 - Brittany Lincicome, Kraft Nabisco Championship
Perhaps the only thing better then winning a title by birding the final hole in regulation, is by eagling it. That is exactly what Brittany Lincicome famously did on Sunday at Mission Hills Country Club, getting her out of a worrisome slump, and earning her her first major championship. Yes, it was quite a site to be hold to see the long hitting American in the middle of the fairway on Sunday on the 18th, and ever so calmly hit her hybrid to four feet. The eagle putt, never a doubt, she nailed it, turning a one shot deficit to Cristie Kerr & Kristy McPherson, to a one shot victory. Not too shabby for a player who had not finished in the top 10 since the 2008 Jamie Farr Owens Classic in July.
While not being a shining barometer of consistency since claiming her third career victory, Brittany has snagged 3 top 10s since, including one a T6 at the Sybase, which helped to erase some thoughts of the Kraft being a total choke, as the two weeks inbetween she missed the cut, and finished T62. The Kraft Nabisco $300,000 payout still accounts for nearly half of her winnings in 2009, but she’d still be ranked in the top 40 without it.
McPherson who held a one shot lead entering the final round, is still seeking her first victory. She does have another runner-up finish in 2009, and four other top 10s (two of which came at majors), but hasn’t been able to close the deal yet. Cristie Kerr blew a Sunday lead herself at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open which we’ll get to now.
July 12, 2009 - Eun-Hee Ji, U.S. Womens Open
When 23 year old Eun-Hee Ji sank her 12 foot putt on the 72nd hole at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open to finish at even par to hold off Candie Kung by one stroke, the big shock wasn’t Ji holing her putt (something we saw her do countless times against Suzann Pettersen when she won her first title at the 2008 Wegmans), it was watching Cristie Kerr come up lame throughout the final round’s proceedings. Ji battled back very strong on the back 9, finding three birdies over the course of her final 7 holes, creeping through the tiny crack that Kung left her when she bogeyed the 17th hole. A crack that was created when Kerr, the 54 hole leader by 2, only found one birdie on the day which resulted her in a +4 75, and T3 finish with In-Kyung Kim.
Ji, who once again showed amazing poise under pressure, has not found much success since winning the biggest event on the LPGA. Her best finish since has been a T17 at the Safeway Classic, and her struggles continued to show last week when she finished last in the field of 20 at the Samsung World Championship. Kerr who had famously failed at the U.S. Women’s Open before, is still looking to add to her one major victory, and her struggles on another Sunday at a major was quite alarming. It’s not all so bad for Kerr, who finished in the top 10 in 3 of the 4 majors this season, and is currently #3 on the LPGA Official Money List.
Candie Kung who capped off her resurgence with a win in 2008, has not done anything to speak of since the U.S. Open, with only one top 20, two finishes in the +60s, and two missed cuts. Despite this, Candie could still improve on her 16th money list standing from 2008. She is currently 18th.
It was supposed to be so easy, and about half a round ago it was. Na Yeon Choi was cruising through the Samsung World Championship, eagling the par-5 6th giving her a whopping 7 stroke lead with only 12 holes to play. You knew Miss Choi was nervous, but there was no way she could blow this lead could she?
She was supposed to steal the show. The Japanese star Ai Miyazato, who was seemingly transformed to a bonafide week-in and week-out contender. Riding a 6 week top 10 streak, she got hot as Choi choked. As Choi found four bogeys over the next 11 holes, the pint sized Japanese player struck gold with four birdies. As she ascended to the top of the leaderboard miraculously changing a 7 stroke deficit to a 1 stroke lead. Miyazato, now a certified winner on tour, couldn’t bogey the 18th hole could she?
There was supposed to be a playoff. Sure the par-5 18th was reachable, but when you’re attempting to win for the first time on tour, knowing in your mind that you’ve just blown a 7-shot lead is not an easy thing to overcome. So, when you’re putt from off the green for eagle landed 5 feet short, no one expected you to make it. No way, no how. You’ve missed putts with no pressure from that length today, could you really sink this putt now?
The playoff would’ve been an interesting story line, Miyazato who won her first title at the 2009 Evian vs. Choi who lost her first playoff at the 2008 Evian…
…but Choi did the unthinkable. She shook off the demons, the doubt, the fear, the nervousness, and sunk her putt for birdie at the 18th to do what her countrywoman Song-Hee Kim could not do last week, win her maiden LPGA title. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty, but Choi did it, and I think I am more relieved for her then she is! I can’t imagine how damaging losing a lead like this can be on a player’s psyche. 7 shots.
Miyazato’s decision to go for the green in 2 on the 18th is the real head scratcher. Miyazato may have only won once so far in the states, but we all know she’s a proven winner. That play seemed to be more of a shot choice from a youngster trying to force their first win, rather then a vet playing it cool under pressure. Many say that when you’re in the lead you should keep playing your own game, which is all well and good at the start of the round. With one hole to play, and the possible danger, and an opponent is faltering, going big in this instance seemed insane.
Of course that’s how we all felt when we saw the ball trickle into the hazard. Had Miyazato cleared it, and perhaps landed with ease, we all would be praising her for sticking to her guns, being aggressive and slamming the door shut. Still, she got her 7th straight top-10, and does not look to be slowing down anytime soon. Jiyai Shin, who never got anything going on Sunday, now only holds a slim lead over Miyazato, which is a testament to Ai’s consistency this season, considering Shin leads the win tally 3-1.
More alarming then Ai’s bogey on the 18th, or Choi’s bogeys down the stretch was the fact that World #1 Lorena Ochoa was unable to find any sort of groove on the weekend. After she finished Friday’s round tied for 2nd, it appeared that Ochoa might be able to shut everyone up and join Shin as the only 3-time winner of the season. Unfortunately Lorena came up lame on the weekend shooting a 1-under 72-71 combo. Her T4 was her best finish since her win in April at the Corona. Despite this finish, she was not a factor in this weekend’s proceedings. Defending champion Paula Creamer joined Ochoa at T4 7 strokes back at -9.
Despite the 20 player field, Eun-Hee Ji was unable to best her best finish since winning the U.S. Women’s Open (a T17 at the Safeway) as she finished dead last. 19th placed In-Kyung Kim bested her by 4 shots, finishing at +6 during a week where she was unable to break 70.
Leading money leader Jiyai Shin continues to lead the Samsung World Championship after firing a 3-under 69 on Friday. Shin leads hottest player on the LPGA Ai Miyazato and World #1 Lorena Ochoa by just a shot after the completion of round 2. Shin has lead for the past three rounds on tour (victory at NW Arkansas Classic, and the first two rounds here at Torrey Pines) and it’s likely someone will need to outshoot her if they expect to stop Shin from being the first back-to-back winner of 2009.
Ai Miyazato shot her second straight 68 to find herself in second place. Ai has not finished out of the top 10 since the U.S. Open, and the confidence built from her maiden victory at the Evian Masters seems to be following through yet again this week. Ochoa who has been rebounding nicely after a rough stretch during the midpoint of the season, looks poised to join Jiyai as the only players with 3 wins on tour (and also the only players to have won more then once on tour this year).
Ever confident Cristie Kerr rebounded nicely after her even par opening round, and fired the round of the day, a 6-under 66, to jump into a T5 with winless Na Yeon Choi and defending champion Paula Creamer.
Co-leader after round 1 Song-Hee Kim had a lackluster back-up again, following her wonderful 66 with a lackedasial even par 72, which also ties her a -6 T5 with the aforementioned players.
U.S. Women’s Open winner Eun-Hee Ji continues to occupy the basement after a one-over 73 put her in last and +7, 6 strokes worse then Angela Stanford who is 19th and +1.
Juli Inkster seemed to get the in the rough jinx and faltered out of the top 10, after a 74.
Collegiate star Azahara Munoz jumped to the top of the leaderboard after a 6-under 66 to hold a one shot lead after the second round of the California Sectional Q-School. She leads expected front runners Yuko Mitsuka and Amanda Blumenhurst. Surprisingly, another Japanese player Kazu Yazaki also is one stroke behind. Another JLPGA player and 1st round leader Tamie Durdin faltered with a 74, but finds herself in a good position of 9th place.
Jay Busbee wrote a piece over at Devil Ball Golf, raving about Juli Inkster’s solid start at the Samsung World Championship. Juli has struggled thus far this season, with only one top 10 finish a tie for 10th a couple weeks ago at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
Juli stated at the Solheim Cup that this year’s edition was to be her last and she would not be pulling any “Brett Favre” situation on the LPGA tour. With Inkster’s career winding down it is certainly great to see her put in some solid rounds and contend, especially this week against a seriously strong field.
With that said, I don’t know when the media decided to put Inkster’s career on life support. Yes, Juli is probably past her prime but she is certainly still solid enough to contend on the tour still, even at 48. Inkster is too good, and too solid to not be expected to be a factor in 2009. She’s only just outside the top 50 of the money list, but as we’ve seen from players like M.J. Hur and Eunjung Yi, it’s simply about putting 3-4 solid rounds together, regardless of where you are coming into the event.
Inkster’s last win was in 2006, which honestly isn’t that long ago. She’s had runner up finishes in 07 and 08, finishing 18th and 38th on the money list in those years. As much as I love the angle of Inkster adding to the Tom Watson, older golfer saga of 2009, Inkster is far from irrelevant on the LPGA. The tour is far too deep to ever count any player in the top 80 out, especially one that is a hall of famer. She’s not the Juli Inkster contending every week, but she can still contend out here, that should be no surprise.
So, let’s root for the steely veteran this weekend, while keeping in mind this is not her playing a miraculous week of golf. This is Juli being Juli, a continual player to watch on the LPGA tour, even if she’s in the floater role these days.
Eleven players went under par after the first round of the Samsung World Championship at Torrey Pines and two familiar faces from last week are tied atop of the leaderboard. Last week’s winner Jiyai Shin & Song-Hee Kim (right) both fired 6-under 66s which featured 7 birdies and one bogey during Thursday’s play. Just a stroke behind are Sophie Gustafson & World #1 Lorena Ochoa.
Song-Hee notched her 8th top 10 of the 2009 season last week, but has not been able to take the next step into the winner’s circle in her third year on the LPGA. Song-Hee joined the LPGA after a record breaking 5-win season on the 2006 Duramed Futures Tour. She has taken a slow ascent to the top of the LPGA. Her rookie season was completely underwhelming, only making 10 of 19 cuts and never breaking into the top 20. 2008 was a beautiful bounce back for Song-Hee finishing 14th on the money list, and posting 7 top-10s. Now it’s the time for Song-Hee to take the final leap into the winner’s circle. She has been playing quite well the past couple weeks, and clearly has the tools to win on tour. Whether she can carry this form into the next three rounds will be very interesting. A couple weeks ago at the Canadian Women’s Open Kim shot a second round 62 to jump to the top of the leaderboard, but faltered with a 77 in the third round, dropping out of contention. Last week she lead by two going into the final round in Arkansas, could not find a birdie on Sunday and finished T-4. If she can finally break through and get her first win against this elite field, Kim may run off many in a short period.
With that said her opening round co-leader is the final round queen (as she is fondly known in Korea). A final round 64 last week put her into a playoff with Angela Stanford & Sun Young Yoo, and she only birdied the first two playoff holes to secure her third victory of the year. Jiyai is the vision of consistency, hitting many fairways and greens. If she can her putts to fall, she is a danger every week. She opened with her only bogey of the day on the first hole, but came home with 7 birdies to find herself in a familiar position, in the lead.
Lorena Ochoa also bogeyed her opening hole on Thursday, but came back with 6 birdies of her own to be only a stroke behind. For as much as being said about her lackluster season, Lorena is only surpassed by Jiyai in number of victories in 2009. She halted a outside top 25 4-week skid a couple weeks ago in Canada where she finished T10, and seems to be getting back into a groove. A win this week would push her over the million dollar in 2009 earnings and add even more intrigue into the bunched money list race, currently lead by Jiyai.
Sophie Gustafson finished T10 with Lorena at the CN Canadian Women’s Open a couple weeks ago, which ended a two week worse the top 25 stretch of her own, which came after her playoff defeat to Ai Miyazato at the Evian Masters.
Half of Miyazato’s 11 top 10 finishes in 2009 have come the past 6 weeks in a row, and with a field of 20, it’s very likely that Ai will continue her streak to 7 weeks in a row. She is two strokes back at -4 after her 68, tying her with Hall of Famer and sponsor exemption Juli Inkster. It’s wonderful to see Juli playing well once again, and showing that she clearly deserved this exemption into the Samsung.
Defending champion Paula Creamer is alone in 7th, shaking off the myriad of health issues she’s had to face this year. U.S. Women’s Open Champion Eun-Hee Ji will need a big round tomorrow to get back into contention after shooting the worst round by three strokes today, a +6 78.
At the 2009 California Sectional qualifier, JLPGA standout Tamie Durdin of Australia leads after the opening day of play with a six-under 66 playing the Palmer course at Mission Hills. Right behind her is Big Break alum Chrisitna Lecuyer who is at -5. Jane Chin, Yuko Mitsuka, Esther Choe, Briana Vega, amatuer Ayaka Kaneko, Amanda Blumenhurst, and Azahara Munoz also find themselves in the top 10 after day 1.
Struggling after day 1 were Maria Jo Uribe, Aimee Cho, Sae Hee Son, Tiffany Joh, and Stephanie Na, who all find themselves right near the cut line in the first stage of LPGA Q-School.
“I know how good I am. A lot of people say, well, she really doesn’t know how good she is. I do know how good I am. Sometimes I get in my own way.”—Cristie Kerr on expecting the type of success she’s found in 2009 at a presser at the Samsung World Championship.
@TheMichelleWie , has started her own personal blog for those of you not paying attention to the LPGA blogosphere/twitterverse situation the past week or so. A Black Flamingo, “a mindless blog about life, and the stuff that doesen’t quite fit in” shows that the LPGA rookie is not only talented on the golf course, but can paint, make clothes, and do all types of artistic things.
As someone who is not good at golf, and does not have an artistic bone in my body I am of course even more jealous of Wie’s sheer ease at just jumping onto the art bandwagon. It’s not a huge surprise that someone so gifted athletically, would find herself talented in many facets of her life.
I’m sure the many haters that pester Miss Wie like little gnats will find many ways to tear up this side project of hers, but honestly it’s just fun, and I love her for it. The more players that can make themselves accessible, interesting, and show the myriad of talent and personality that each possess, the better. Kudos to Michelle Wie for putting herself out there. The only real mistake she made was using blogspot and not the brilliance of tumblr.
The LPGA Tour Championship has completely shifted formats for 2009 after having an exciting and successful run with the ADT Tour Championship Playoffs. The tour championship was limited to 30 players last year which featured a point system to qualify, and broke the season into two distinct halves, and of course the million dollar paycheck to the winner is certainly worth mentioning. The field was cut to the top 16 after 36 holes, and scored wiped clean for the third round. At the end of the 3rd round the field was cut in half and the slate wiped clean, creating a shoot-out for the 8 ladies remaining in the competition.
In a stark contrast, the 2009 LPGA Tour Championship will feature the top 120 players on the LPGA and the shoot-out drama is no longer present. After 36 holes the typical low-70 players will make it to the Saturday with another cut after the third round to the top 30.
It’s quite interesting they’ve expanded the field to the top 120 this year, as even before they adopted the playoff point-qualifying entry system in 2006, the tour championship was typically a 30 player field. I’ve always been a fan of a tour championship being at least semi-exclusive, so I’m not entirely onboard with this 120 player field going on this year. With the talent pool being so big, and so many chances for a surprise winner on tour (i.e. Anna Nordqvist, Eunjung Yi, M.J. Hur), I simply don’t think it’s necessarily a completely fitting end to see someone like Sarah Jane Smith (just as an example) have the week of her life and emerge as tour championship winner.
To me, this week’s Samsung World Championship feels more like a tour championship then the actual LPGA Tour Championship.
The most exclusive tournament on the LPGA, the Samsung World Championship will occur this weekend, and the field is as star filled as ever. Last season American darling Paula Creamer held off Song-Hee Kim by one stroke, Paula will be looking to find the same form at storied Torrey Pines this season. Paula has yet to win in 2009, and if she fails to do so, it will be her first season in her impressive career that she would have failed to nab a win.
It’s not going to be easy for Paula to repeat, the 19 other players are full of talent as is always the case at the Samsung World Championship. The biggest surprise in the field is Lindsey Wright who under the radar has been churning out a fine season for herself, making more money then Michelle Wie who is the first alternate for the event. Wright has two less top 10s then Wie (4 to 6), but Wright has two top 10s in majors (to Wie’s 0). Lindsey is sitting in the 15th spot on the tours money list, amassing a little over $100,000 over #16 Wie. Also missing out in the field is Seon Hwa Lee. The four time tour winner is missing the Samsung World Championship for the first time in her LPGA career.
I don’t have the numbers for the money list for the Safeway, but I wish they could’ve finagled a way for Se Ri Pak to have received the HoFer exemption into the event (Se Ri is currently #30 on the money list) over Karrie Webb who was already qualified via the money list.
All that aside, with such concentrated talent in the field it’s very difficult to pick a winner in this event, all that aside, I still went ahead and picked one.
Na Yeon Choi
Song Hee Kim
I am picking Inky to find some form and nab her second win of the season. She should be refreshed from her week off last week, and I think Torrey Pines should set up well for her. With last week’s winner Shin, the red hot Ai Miyazato, the renewed confidence of Suzann Pettersen, this week should produce some phenomenal stuff. I am certainly looking forward to it.
The story around the tennis world is of course Serena’s unfortunate outburst and the the most famous foot fault call in tennis history. Although Serena’s actions are inexcusable, there is something to be said about the most inconsistent call in the sport of tennis. The foot fault is a common occurrence in pro tennis and how strict these judges are in calling these things should be looked at. Serena (along with her sister) is notorious for standing so close to the line on her serve. If you’re going to call foot faults do so the entire match, not on the crucial 2nd serve points. Simple as that. Anyone who believes that this was the only time she foot faulted in that match is absolutely nuts.
For your viewing pleasure, here are some other players who have and have not reacted so well to bad calls.
Bruno Echagaray loses it after being called on a 2nd serve foot fault on MATCH point in a 50K challenger against USO darling Jesse Witten. Tell me if you see a difference between the 1st and 2nd serves.
Roddick keeps his cool after his foot fault call.
Safin is not very happy after his foot fault call.
Not a foot fault , but a crazy reaction from Mikhail Youzhny.
Poranong Phatlum wrote a short rookie blog about getting in as an alternate for Paula Creamer at the Safeway Classic a few weeks ago. It’s amazing she played so well, after having to go to the ER when she first arrived in Portland!
Shin Ruins Sob Story, Makes POY Even MORE Interesting
The not much of a rookie, rookie and possibly best lady golfer in the world Jiyai Shin broke the hearts of the Arkansas crowd and the entire Golf Channel production team by birding the last three holes to upend Angela Stanford & Sun Young Yoo on the second playoff hole to capture her third title of 2009 at the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship on Sunday. In sinking the clutch putt on the par-3 15th (second playoff hole) Shin effectively ruined the story of the day (if not weekend) of Angela Stanford making a full circle bounce back from having to deal with the diagnosis of cancer that her mother unfortunately received not too long ago. Much was made of Stanford’s mom making the drive to watch Angela play singles at the Solheim Cup on Sunday, and the same fanfare was given again on this Sunday as her mother was in attendance in Arkansas. Had Stanford been able to close it out it would’ve been a amazingly triumphant come back, from extraordinary personal struggles, and would’ve been the first time she had won an LPGA tournament with her parents in attendance.
Early on it certainly looked to be Stanford’s day, after stumbling out the blocks with a bogey on the 1st, she pitched in for eagle at the par 5 second which brought her to -8 for the tournament just a stroke behind the 36 hole leader Song-Hee Kim. If she could’ve continued a bit of a run after this eagle Angela could’ve easily run away with this championship, but was only able to birdie the par 5 14th (while bogeying two other holes) going into the final hole in regulation.
Jane Park had a much worse descent after hitting the -9 mark. She birdied four of her five holes to get there, but then gave nearly all of it back when she bogeyed three of the next four holes. She birdied 11 to get back to -7 which kept her very much in contention, but followed it up with what may have been the biggest meltdown of her career as she went double-bogey-double on holes 13-15 which at the end of the day dropped her out of the top 21 (T21, -2).
As exciting as the three player playoff was, it easily could’ve featured two additional players, or potentially ended in regulation. 36 hole leader Song-Hee Kim showed just how nervous she was attempting to win her first LPGA event, being unable to secure a birdie the entire round. This was perhaps exemplified best on the birdieable par 5 14th. After driving herself into trouble off the tee, Song-Hee attempted to pitch out to a comfortable distance for her 3rd shot. Not entirely sure what happened, but Kim’s pitch-out went a distance, and inexplicably rolled into the water hazard. Kim then had to scramble to save par on a hole that all the leaders found birdie throughout the week. Kim did infact get up an down for par, and gave herself a fighting chance to win this event. She would go to the 18th with Stanford needing a birdie to get into a playoff with Shin and Yoo.
Yoo joined Shin atop the leaderboard after she birdied the 14th hole for the third time this week, but then dropped back to 2nd after she bogeyed the 16th hole for the third time this week. She needed to birdie the 18th to guarantee a playoff with Jiyai. A few groups ahead, Shi Hyun Ahn was in the same predicament, but had to settle for par. After a picture perfect drive, Yoo hit her approach to the front of the green leaving a lengthy 30-40 footer for eagle, and the lead outright. Yoo’s putting speed had looked great all week, and this was no different, she lagged close, tapped in for birdie and made the playoff official.
When the last group arrived at the 18th, Shin had been done her round for a couple hours, and Yoo had just finished. Song-Hee once again drove herself into the rough, but her layup was executed much better this time, and had a decent up-and-down birdie opportunity. Stanford hit an aggressive driver down the fairway, and gave her a shot to reach the green in two, she hit an amazing approach to 25 feet, giving her a chance to tie Shin & Yoo. Kim hit her pitch to the pin, and after a bigish bounce and some backspin found herself a difficult 12-15 downhill sliding putt to get into the playoff.
Stanford was first to putt, and she sunk it, igniting the hopes of the Golf Channel production team, and showing an even bigger sign that this tournament was her destiny. Her celebration was almost as if she had won the tournament, or better yet sunk the clinching putt at the Solheim. Arms stretched, she jumped into the arms of her caddy, it was a touching moment for a player who has had to battle so much in the middle of the best season of her career.
Utilizing Na Yeon Choi’s near identical line just before her, Song-Hee was unable to do what Yoo and Stanford did before her. She hit an aggressive putt, but it slid 3 feet past, and Kim along with NYC will have to wait for their 1st LPGA win. Choi & Kim have the talent to be winning on tour, but they have not been able to keep it together while in contention, something that their countrywomen M.J. Hur & Eunjung Yi were able to do when they won earlier in 2009. Until they can calm these nerves and thoughts, I think it will be more likely to see them win an event like Shin did this week, from behind the pack shooting an amazingly low number.
So there we were, Shin, Yoo, and Stanford in the sudden death playoff. Yoo drew first and smoked her drive down the fairway, setting up a great second shot. Shin hit her tee shot second and missed hers to the left, and was in trouble in the rough. She would be blocked out by trees and a hazard, and would not have a chance to get there in two. Stanford was next and her tee shot was falling off quickly to the right toward the right rough, she was fortunate to get a good kick and was just a few yards behind Yoo’s ball in the middle of the fairway.
Shin pitched to the middle of the fairway. Stanford’s attempt to reach ended up in a very similar position to Yoo’s in regulation, on the front edge of the green. Yoo’s looked great rolling up toward the back middle pin position, but hers was just a little bit too hot, and ended up rolling into the right greenside bunker.
You really needed to see these three next shots in order to really understand how good they were, but it was some of the best golf I’ve seen in a long time. Shin was first and pitched hers to tap-in range for her (3-5 feet). Stanford was next, and nearly holed hers, but again was a tap-in for birdie. Yoo’s bunker shot rolled to inches. All three ladies tapped their birdies in (no relapse of Michele Redman from two weeks ago!) and went to the par 3 15th.
Yoo again was first and was short and right, which was incidentally the same position she was in regulation. She flirted dangerously with the hazard, but hit it far enough to land short of the green. Stanford hit hers about 20 feet short of the pin, which was just outside of Shin’s 12 footer left, and on a very similar line.
Yoo chipped hers from just off the green to three feet, nearly a tap-in for her on this day. Stanford was first, and she piped the left to right putt about five feet past (outside of Yoo’s ball), which set the stage for Shin to putt tow in. Trusting Stanford’s line Jiyai hit a perfect 12 footer, and claimed her third victory of the season.
Shin has a chance to match HOFer Nancy Lopez in winning both the Rookie of the Year & Player of the Year in the same season. She has essentially clinched ROY, but POY is certainly up for grabs.
Stanford should be very happy with her week, and is seemingly back in peak condition like she was earlier this season. I picked Yoo to win this week, so you’ve gotta be sure I was rooting hard for her down the stretch on Sunday. Hopefully Yoo will take a lot of positives in coming this close, and I expect an LPGA win in this player’s near future.
The field for the California Sectional Qualifier has been announced and Duke Alum Amanda Blumenhurst leads the 139 players all gunning for a spot in the final qualifier at the end of the year. There are 11 amateurs in the field, the most notable being Ayaka Kaneko. Other plaeyrs to look out for in this first qualifier are: Sofie Andersson, Jane Chin, Tamie Durdin, Tiffany Joh, Hannah Jun, Yuko Mitsuka, Azahara Munoz, Sae Hee Son, and Maria Jo Uribe. The event will be run September 17-20.
We continue to move through this lovely stretch of 6 tournaments in a row as Seon Hwa Lee is set to defend her title at the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship. Lee has not continued her growth upward in the wins column this season after winning twice for the first time in 2008 (following one victory in her first two seasons), and time is running out if she wants to keep the wins per year streak alive.
To be expected, many of the year’s top players are absent in this year’s edition, including last week’s winner Suzann Pettersen, a few of her European Solheim Cup teammates, Sophie Gustafson, Catriona Matthew, and Anna Nordqvist. Karrie Webb & In-Kyung Kim are both also missing from the field.
From various tweets from many of the players, the course is in amazing shape, as it has just gone under a bit of a redesign going into this event. With so many people skipping this event, it gives many of the lower status LPGA members a chance to make a name, and perhaps sneak into the top 90 late in the season. Paige Mackenzie did a great job a few weeks ago at the Safeway gaining a top 10 and a spot in last weeks CN Canadian Women’s Open.
After doing dismally in my picks last week, and will probably do equally as poorly this week.
Sun Young Yoo
Seon Hwa Lee
Na Yeon Choi
I don’t see why Sun Young Yoo can’t follow in her countrywoman’s footsteps and become a surprise Rolex First Time Winner in this event. I expect a breakthrough from this person, and am so desperate for a random genius pick. Lets go Sun Young!
Although seeing Ai Miyazato snag her second win of the year, and move up the money list may be a more expected and likely result.
Suzann Pettersen finally broke through for her sixth win on the LPGA Tour at the CN Candian Women’s Open, which was her first since her phenomenal 5-win 2007 season, a year where she seriously threatened Lorena Ochoa for Player of the Year honors. This win could mean amazing things for Suzann’s confidence, as she was known previous to her first 5 wins as a choker, and had shown some adversity under pressure since those wins, most recently struggling mightily down the stretch and losing in a playoff to unknown rookie M.J. Hur.
It should be no surprise to see Suzann win again in 2009, and perhaps steal Player of the Year and Money List honors if she continues her strong play. She jumped to the 2nd spot, just behind Cristie Kerr, Ai Miyazato (who added a runner-up finish to her top 10 streak that dates back to the U.S. Open) is just behind Suzann, and Jiyai Shin and In-Kyung Kim round out the top 5, whom are all million dollar earners so far in 2009.
In other news, the Duramed Futures Tour has concluded their 2009 season, and the winner of the final event Song Yi Choi, continues the theme of redemption that Suzann started in Canada. Choi garnered her first professional win in America at the ILOVENY Championship, and jumped from 11th (which means no LPGA status for 2010) to 5th (which means full playing privileges in 2010). This is sweet relief for Song Yi, who was 5th going into the same event in 2008, and was knocked out after Sarah Jane Smith (nee Kenyon) won the 2008 event.
Whitney Wade couldn’t finish in the top 10 which would’ve allowed her to keep her spot, and dropped to the 6th, which will mean very limited status on the 2010 seasons. She along with the other players finishing 5-20, should be playing the final stage at Q-School to try to get full privileges in 2010. Choi, will be in the field at this weeks LPGA event in Arkansas.
Mina Hariage finished off the season as the Rookie and Player of the Year, and has yet to use her battlefield promotion in 2009 for winning 3 events. Let’s see if she tries to sneak into an event by the end of the season.
I feel as though this is the worst weekend for this to happen! With the money list race heating up in Canada at one of the biggest purses of the season, the Duramed season finishing up, the US OPEN happening in the tennis world, it’s not a great weekend to be away.
I have a good excuse though I think, I’m moving into my first house this weekend! \ So, I should be back in commission after the Labor Day holiday!
I’m rooting for Na Li & Melanie Oudin at the U.S. Open, M.J. Hur to keep her magic ride going this weekend!
The last straw for me was hearing Chris Folwer talk about 114 ranked WC Vania King upset of 15th seeded Australian Samantha Stosur as “not a youngster.” Yes, Vania King has been around for quite awhile, and received her first WC into the U.S. Open in 2004 (qualifying WC). The fact of the matter is, Vania is ONLY 20 years old! I’d say she’s still a youngster!
She may seem like a journeywoman, but she’s still progressing and growing. She broke into the top 50 at the age of 16, won her first title that year (2005 Bangkok) and played the bulk of her Fed Cup in those years. So, yes she’s fallen on tougher times. She isn’t even old enough to drink!
So, perhaps we should give Miss King a break, and really enjoy the fact that she’s made the 3rd round a grand slam for the first time. She’s only 20 years old for pete’s sake!
On the flipside French veteran Amelie Mauresmo joined Sam Stosur in the loser’s circle after a 6-4, 6-0 whomp by French Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak. These upsets are especially disappointing considering the huge strides these players have made during the Olympus U.S. Open Series.
Agi Radwanska also lost to Adidas beauty Maria Kirilenko. Kirilenko is playing her first tournament as an Adidas clone, after being dropped from the Stella McCartney line (who now has Caroline Wozniacki as her muse). It seems to have spark some added fuel to the fire for Kirilenko who’ll need all of that and more when she takes on Li Na of China in the 3rd round.
Li Na crushed a furious Michelle Larcher de Brito who moaned, squealed, and screamed through the 2R clash. Any unforced error of of Li Na’s racket equaled a fist pump and cheer from Larcher de Brito. I found her on court antics disgusting, and I don’t care if you’re 16 or not, you need to act professional, if you want to play professional tennis. She only had two winners this match, yet still found a way to fist pump/cheer every other point. Go figure.
The LPGA Tournament Train continues it’s chug towards the finish with the CN Canadian Women’s Open this week. Katherine Hull won first LPGA title last year. This tournament has one of the biggest purses of the year, and with the money list being as a tight as it is, this could be a week someone could make a big statement. One player who we should expect to do well is Ai Miyzato. The Japanese superstar is on a four tournament top-10 steak, and a three tournament top-5 streak. This is pretty impressive as there was a time earlier in the seasons where some wondered if Mika Miyazato would beat her to the winner’s circle!
The other three players above a million dollars so far on the year are Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin, and In-Kyung Kim, all of whom were less then impressive last week in Portland. Kerr was steady and finished T20, Shin was T65, and In-Kyung missed the cut. This was only Shin’s 3rd finish outside the top 25 this year, so expect her to rebound in a big way. I.K. sandwiched two missed cuts with a T3, T8, and a T20, and aside from those MCs and the first two events of the seasons, I.K. has finished in the top 35. So, I wouldn’t expect the MC chain to grow.
With Seon Hwa Lee rounding back into form, Suzann getting a short taste of victory, and a group of other LPGA elites all vying for a big pay day, this weeks top 12 picks could be filled with anyone. So, who did I choose?
Sun Young Yoo
Seon Hwa Lee
Shi Hyun Ahn
My picks might seem a little haphazard and random, and they kind of are. I think I picked with heart this week over brain, and really wanted to mix things up a bit. Meena Lee must seem like a completely random choice, but it isn’t, well maybe it is. I realize Lee’s 3 top 10s at the Canadian Open did not occur in Alberta, and the one time they played in Alberta Meena Lee finished outside the top 50.
With that said, Meena did open with a 67 that week, so I’d say she can do it again, and shock us! Also threw up other favorites who have been struggling like Shi Hyun Ahn & Angela Park who is making her return to the LPGA after a self imposed hiatus.
For many top players, the opening round of a grand slam is a nervous affair. We saw Venus Williams struggle against Vera Dushevina last night, earlier today Dinara Safina was on the ropes against the Australian qualifier Olivia Rogowska, and in year’s past we’ve seen Camille Pin take Maria Sharapova to extra innings. Needless to say a random player, taking advantage of a nervous top seed, and nearly upsetting them is almost commonplace. Almost always, the top player shows why they are a top player, and comes through even when it looks impossible. Unfortunately for the 11th seed Ana Ivanovic, she wasn’t able to find the extra gear against the always dangerous Kateryna Bondarenko (who defeated Venus Williams earlier this summer).
Perhaps it was the sudden shock of being in this situation to begin with. Ana started the match strongly enough, and seemed to be in total control when she won 9 of the first 12 games, and lead the match 6-2, 3-1. Then something switched. Ana, who was once relentlessly punished her lower ranked opponents (she had never before lost in the opening round of a grand slam), froze up. Her forehand was finding the net more then it was finding the court, and Kateryna grew in confidence. Before you knew it, Kateryna strung together 9 of the next 10 games, and now the younger Bondarenko lead the match 2-6, 6-3, 4-1, which was a lead of two breaks.
Showing her true grit, Ana seemed to get things back under control, and was about to set things in place, puts things in order and finish off this match. Even though it wasn’t perfect, there was no doubt in my mind that Ana was going to pull off the third set tiebreak, and live another day. When she had a match point at 6-5, it seemed like it was over. When Kateryna clawed back and gave herself a match point at 7-6, and double faulted, I don’t think anyone thought she’d be able to recover. The true grit it seems, was actually within Kateryna, despite the double fault, she won the next two points (fittingly won on another error off the Ivanovic forehand), and claimed the biggest scalp in her grand slam career.
Where Ana goes from here is anybody’s guess. She’s fallen out of the top 10, and does not look like she’s gaining form anytime soon. Perhaps she should take a page out of her compatriot Jelena Jankovic’s book and take some time off. JJ did so after Wimbledon and has come out strong, and she won swiftly today.
Ivanovic wasn’t alone in being a seed going down today. The 16th seed Virgine Razzano has had a career best seasons so far, but Yanina Wickamayer’s comeback from injury seems to be going very well as she pulled off the upset in straights. Kleybanova lost her second straight match since her semifinal finish at Toronto where she beat Ana’s rival Jelena Jankovic, tumbling out to Petra Kvitova (incidentally her other loss since the SF was to Wickamayer). Agnes Szavay’s (pictured) come back to the top 20 was halted by another player looking to get back there Israeli Shahar Peer.
Jamie in the Rough = Jamie in the lazy rutt . Why do I say that?
Simply because I’ve chosen to miss the ITF’s 50K Boston Challenger, Pilot Pen Tennis, U.S. Open, & now will be missing Deutsche Bank tournament, despite being really too close for words for all of them.
From what I’ve read so far, the early reaction to Venus Williams's dress is a mixed bag. I personally love this dress, the bright pink looks great against her skin tone, the racing stripe is awkward, but this dress certainly needed something in the front. The side pleat-situation gives Venus some curves, which she could definitely use. I think the pink is a great color for the U.S. Open too. It's just nice to see Venus in something new.
Dress aside Venus needed all of her game to fend off the charge of Russian Vera Dushevina. Dushevina took charge of a lethargic Venus from the get go, and really displayed some fine tennis against the much favored American. Dushevina gave herself a chance to serve out the match at 7-6, 5-4, but was unable to convert. That set off 7 games in a row for Venus to get her to 4-0 in the third set. Vera, not ready to give up just yet, fought all the way back to 4-3, before Venus closed her out 6-3 in the third.
According to the Australian media, Ai Sugiyama is set to retire at the end of 2009. The Japanese veteran has played over 60 grand slams, and has played more grand slams then any active player. Although Sugiyama has struggled lately in singles, she’s still keeping herself relevant in doubles. Partnering Daniela Hantuchova, they made the finals at the Australian Open (saving match points en route against the #1 ranked doubles team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber), before falling to the Williams Sisters.
Not much was expected of her against the red hot Samantha Stosur, the 15th seed, who’s continued her incredible year through the U.S. Open Series. Despite going up a break and serving at 4-3, Sugiyama was unable to finish off the hard hitting, and epic topspin that Stosur was producing. In the end Stosur won 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, not a bad way to end your grand slam career. Hopefully, even if she were to retire in singles, she’ll continue to play doubles. She’s a workhorse, and always seems to be enjoying herself out there, a true role model for the sport which is often inflicted by spoiled brats, who never seem to enjoy their court time.
17th seed Amelie Mauresmo looked to be cruising against young German Tatjana Malek taking what seemed to be an insurmountable lead of 6-2, 5-1. In what seemed to be a blink of the eye, Malek had climbed her way up to 5-4, and looked to threaten to take the second set away from the veteran Frenchwoman. Amelie who’s not had a great year, shown some great signs of life in defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova last week in New Haven. Amelie composed herself and finished off the German and will face Canadian Aleksanda Wozniak in the next round.
In the biggest surprise of the day 210 ranked qualifier Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei upset the 25th seed Kaia Kanepi 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 to win her first main draw match at a grand slam. This is actually Kai-Chen’s first ever grand slam, and is surprisingly the only player from Taiwan to qualify for the main draw (higher ranked Yung-Jan Chan & Su-Wei Hsieh both fell in qualifying 3rd and 1st Rd respectively). Another Asian qualifier Yurika Sema’s upset bid against Anna Chakvetadze took a halt after she won the 1st set, falling 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Another upset falling short was that of Meghann Shaughnessy, unable to defeat Daniela Hantuchova [pictured]. Hantuchova won 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
Other seeded winners today were (2)Serena Williams, (7)Vera Zvonareva, (8)Vika Azarenka, (10)Flavia Pennetta, (12)Agnieszka Radwanska, (14)Marion Bartoli, (18)Na Li, (20)Anabel Medina-Garrigues, (26)Francesca Schiavona, and (31)Elena Vesnina.
28th seed Sybille Bammer was the only other seed to join Kaia Kanepi in losing on opening day. This ruins the epic rematch of Bammer and Serena Williams. Bammer has beaten Serena twice, including once this summer.
M.J. Hur 4th on DFT Money List 32nd 2009 LPGA Money List: $330,511 Best Finish: 1st - Safeway Classic 2009 Rookie
M.J.’s win this past week at the Safeway Classic was nothing short of shocking. M.J. broke 70 all three days, after only breaking 70 twice previously this season. As referenced through the ESPN telecast M.J. is one of the best putters on tour, averaging 28.72 putts per round (7th on tour) and 1.78 putts per green in regulation (T19 on tour). Aside from sand saves (.500, T14) she has struggled nearly everywhere else. Averaging just over 250 yards per drive, she has one of the least accurate drivers .569 (144th!) and this likely leads to her horrendus GIR average of .596 (125th!). Clear this was the week she was able to drive it straight, allowing her to get some more GIR and take advantage of that amazing putter of hers. If she can continue striking the ball well, M.J. could easily cement herself into the top 30 and perhaps even higher!
Vicky Hurst 1st on 2008 DFT Money List 55th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $161,920 Best Finish - T5 Corning Classic 2009 Rookie
Vicky’s prom picture always makes me laugh. Anyway, Hurst before this week was the clear DFT leader, and seemingly showed a continued strength over the ladies she dominated a year ago. Hurst has had two top 10s this year, and has had a solid, if not uneventful season. For the average rookie, she’s right on the money, but with Hurst’s illustrious amateur career, and her dominance on the DFT last season I think the majroity of us have felt underwhelmed by her performances this year. Hurst is in the top 40 in nearly every major category, and is one of the strongest drivers on tour averaging 268.9 yards off the tee, good for 3rd in Driving Distance. Her accuracy though is one of the worst, only finding the fairway 62% of the time which puts her 131st on tour. As we saw with Hur this week, if she can one great driving week, she could be hoisting a trophy by the time 2009 is done.
Jin Young Pak 5th on 2008 DFT Money List 87th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $76,538 Best Finish: T9 McDonald’s LPGA Championship Rookie in 2007
Jin Young Pak will need to raise her level if she hopes to continue having high priority for the 2010 season, but for the player playing her first full year on tour, she’s at least above the Top 90 line at the moment. This is mostly due to her solid T9 performance at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship far and away her best finish thus far. It’s the only time she’s been able to break the top 30 this season. She is ranked outside the top 70 in all of her stats aside from GIR (.661, 59th), and Driving Average (251.4 T64), so she’ll need to imrpove everywhere to make more cuts, and earn more money. She has nearly practically set herself up to have decent status for next year, but she’ll definitley look to securing her place in the top 90.
Mindy Kim 2nd on 2008 DFT Money List 96th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $64,766 Best Finish: T10 Wegmans 2009 Rookie
Mindy, who has struggled with some injury problems in 2009 has only made three cuts this season. However, when she’s made the cut she has finished in the top 30 both. Mindy is teetering on the edge, and is close but not quite at the top 90 line. She wasn’t able to break 80 in the first round at the Safeway and will have to regroup for this week in Canada. Aside from having one of the best sand save percentages in 2009 (.571, 3) she has struggled nearly everywhere in 2009. Mindy’s transition to the big show hasn’t been as smooth as I had predicted, but when she’s on, she’s good, and hopefully she can get on a roll before the end of the season.
Chella Choi 17th on the 2008 DFT Money List 101st on the 2009 LPGA Money List: $57, 432 Best Finish: T33 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic 2009 Rookie
Chella was one stroke away from upping her cuts in a row streak to 5 this week at the Safeway Classic, had it not been for a late birdie for Stacy Lewis, she’d be looking a pretty decent streak for herself. Unfortunately she’s been unable to break the top 30 barrier so far this year, and has pretty average stats. Her best being her driving acuracy of 72.9% (42nd) likely offset by the fact that she only averages 244 yards off the tee. Chella’s not a strong player, so she’ll need to be as accurate as possible, but she’s really only one top 30 finish away from jumping into the top 90, so if she can just buckle down and be more accurate she could make a bit of a leap, as it’s fairly bunched up down here.
Sarah Jane Smith (Kenyon) 3rd on the 2008 DFT Money List 131st on 2009 LPGA Money List: $18,520 Best Finish: T39 SBS Open Rookie in 2006
Sarah Jane’s wedding bliss hasn’t translated to bliss on the golf course and for a player who was a rookie four seasons ago she has not been able to use her experience for any solid results on the golf course. She made the cut in her first two events of the seasons, but has only made one other cut since. Sarah Jane ranks very low in almost every major stat, with her only bright spot is her 250.5 yard driving average. Sarah Jane will need to improve every aspect of her game if she wants to avoid Q-school this year.
Jeehae Lee 78th on 2008 DFT Money List 151st on 2009 LPGA Money List: $3,989 Best Finish: T57 J Golf Phoneix LPGA International 2009 Rookie
Jeehae was one of the most surprising players who received high priority status at 2009 Q-School, and hasn’t been able to translate the same success on the tour this season. It’s may not be a big surprise, as Jeehae struggled on the DFT last year. Lee has already done something that Violeta took all season last year to do, which was make a cut, in her third event of the season. In the beginning of the year Lee’s M.O. was to have two similiar mediocre rounds. As of late she’s had one decent to okay round, and one round in the 80s. She hasn’t been able to get two solid rounds back to back yet, and if she’s able to have one strong finish it might give her the confidence to catapult herself into the top 90. She has one of the most interesting, if not inspiring stories of all the players on the tour, and really hope she can pull off something big by year’s end. She came out of nowhere at Q-School, maybe she can pull the same thing off here.
So thre you have it, those are the six players that I was curious about at the start of the seasons. M.J. Hur’s win was a huge surprise, and I am equally shocked by how poorly Sarah Jane Smith has done so far in 2009. I am a big fan of both Mindy Kim and Jeehae Lee and hope that they can turn it around before season’s end.
Regardless of all that, they have all shown flashes of good play, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these ladies retain a high priority for 2010. Hopefully the rough starts to a lot of their seasons won’t hold them back as they look to finish strong in 2009.
In an exciting final round 2009 Rookie M.J. Hur outlasted Suzann Pettersen and Michele Redman in a two-hole playoff to claim her first tour victory. Down the stretch it was a question of who wanted to win as a series of errant shots, missed putts, and opportunities turned a would be blowout into one of the most exciting finishes so far in 2009.
When Suzann Pettersen reached the 13th she was in the lead by 3 at -15, with M.J. Hur & Michele Redman leading the charge at -12. M.J. Hur, playing a couple groups ahead of Pettersen and Redman hit her approach close on 14, and sunk the ensuing birdie putt to get within two of Suzann. M.J. continued her stealth iron play and hit another close shot at 15. In the meantime on the 14th, Suzann was on the green after her tee shot to the par 3, but was too agressive with her birdie putt and ran it by. In the short 3 footer coming back, Suzann missed it. Unbeknownst to Hur who now had a putt to tie Suzann. She did not make a solid putt and remained one back of Suzann.
Pettersen on the 15th hole, a par 5, laid up into a decent position after two shots. With a wedge in hand Suzann did the unthinkable, she badly flew the green actually going over the t.v. tower. After dropping to get eye line relief, Suzann hit her pitch short of the green. From there she hit a poor chip, and was finally on the green in 5. Unable to convert her putt for bogey Suzann had to settle for double. Dropping her a stroke behind M.J. Hur.
Meanwhile Hur had another birdie chance at the 16th, of similiar length as the one she had on 15. Hur, perhaps feeling rookie nerves of being in contention, again missed the putt. She would settle for pars at the driveable par-4 17th, and the tough as nails 18th, and posted the -13 number.
Suzann and Michele went to the 220 yard par-4 17th, and both missed the green with their tee shots. Michele, up first, missed hers badly to the left and had a buried lie in the primary rough. Suzann also missed left, but was a bit better, and had a clean lie in the bunker. Michele’s shot was a doozy, buried lie, green running away toward the creek. We had just seen Christina Kim’s pitch run past the hole, off the green, and nearly in the hazard. Michele showing her wily veteran skills, played a perfect delicate pitch that played off the ridge behind the pin, rolling just a few feet away. Suzann hit another good shot, a bit outside of Michele’s setting up two birdie putts for a share of the lead. They both sank to tie M.J. Hur at -13.
Quietly the final group on the course had two players at -11 when they got to the tee at the birdieable 17th. Ai Miyazato and Seon Hwa Lee both had birdie putts on the 17th hole. Ai made hers, Seon Hwa did not. Ai could seemingly birdie the 18th and get into the playoff.
That was if, Redman and Pettersen did not birdie the final hole. The 18th was playing very difficult on this day, and had only 2 birdies and that point in the day. Redman, after a picture perfect drive, hit hers short of a ridge, but directly on line to the pin. Suzann had the opposite fate, she pushed her driver far right, and it bounced off the rocks in the hazard, and landed in the rough. She layed up from there, and hit her third shot to 10-15 feet of the pin. Redman, didn’t quite hit her putt hard enough, but left an easy tap in to ensure there was a playoff. Pettersen had a test par putt, and found the nerve to sink it to make it at least a 3-way playoff.
Miyazato, needing birdie to get into the playoff, hit her tee shot wayward right, and it landed in the primary rough. She missed the green on her approach, made an aggressive pitch, then two-putted finishing at -11 and tied 4th with Seon Hwa Lee and Michelle Wie.
Pettersen had a 2-0 record in playoffs, M.J. Hur was playing in her first LPGA playoff, and Redman had not been in a playoff in 20 years I beleive. Who would settle their nerves?
All three of them had picture perfect drives all in line with eachother. Redman’s approach landed in a very similiar place to her shot in regulation, if not a few feet further away and to the left. Hur was long and to the left and in the rough. Suzann played a beautiful approach and had a 8-12 footed for birdie. Suzann’s was the only shot that looked makeable. Hur left her chip about 5 feet short, and after wrestling with those type of putts down the stretch, definitley left herself some work. Redman putted to 2 feet, marked, and it set the stage for Pettersen.
Suzann must have been the favorite to win out of these three, winning 5 times in 2007, and never losing in a playoff. Here she had a ten footer to claim the sweet feeling of victory. She missed to the left. Hur steadied herself and sank her 6-footer, but Redman missed her two footer. A sad end to a player who really fought hard this weekend, you never want to miss a chance to win like this.
Pettersen & Hur went to the 17th and hoped to get on the green and one. Hur again was short and to the left, but left a doable pitch shot to get a birdie. Pettersen hit one of the worst shots I’ve ever seen her hit, and she was short and to the right, luckily not rolling into the creek that was short of the hole. Her shot was that poorly hit that it was short of the hazard.
Hur pitched to 6 feet, leaving an uphill birdie putt. Pettersen’s approach nearly bounced into the cup, but rolled 20 feet past. Pettersen gave it a good aggressive go for birdie, but it wasn’t good enough. Hur with the tournament in her hands, finally sank a short birdie putt giving her her first career win.
She is the third rookie to win on tour this year after Jiyai Shin & Anna Nordqvist, and made only her 7th cut this year. We’ll see if Hur can continue an ascension upward on the LPGA, or if she’ll fall into Eunjung Yi land.
Christina Kim got up to -12 at one point, but struggled down the stretch. Seon Hwa Lee never got it going today, and even though finished at T-4, was not really a factor. Neither was Anna Nordqvist.
Russy Gulyanamitta had a surprise top 20 finishing T-12 at -7. Her compatriot Poranong Phatlum, had a hole in one, but struggled mightily dropping all the way down to 60th after a 78. Jeong Jang joined Gulyanamitta at T-12, and Jennifer Rosales notched a top 20 finishing at -6 and T-17.
It was adorable watching Haeji Kang try to spray M.J. Hur with champagne after the finish. After not being able to get the spray action she wanted, and Hur fleeing for safety in the gallery, Kang settled for dumping the champagne all over her. Hur teared up hugging her parents, and spoke solid English in a post tournament interview.
I know 16 ladies who aren't pleased with Stacy Lewis right now
With the second round of the Safeway Classic nearly complete, there are 16 players anxiously awaiting the finishes of Lisa Strom & Kristy McPhereson (playing the 9th and 18th holes, both their last, respectively). If either of them bogeys it will push the cutline up to +1 giving them a chance to play on Sunday. To miss the cut at T71 has gotta be brutal. Notables of this group of 16 players include Laura Davies (who bogeyed her last hole of the day, and three of her last four holes, a group ahead of McPhereson), Monday qualifier amateur Ayaka Kaneko, and tournament winners this season Pat Hurst, In-Kyung Kim, and Catriona Matthew. IK birdied 16 and 18 to give her a chance to make the cut, while Katherine Hull birdied 3 of her last 5 holes to also finish at +1. On the flip side Johanna Mundy & Alison Hanna-Williams both finished double bogey-bogey on 17 and 18 to fall below the cut line.
As I wrote that paragraph Stacy Lewis has birdied the 8th (her 17th) to go above the cutline, meaning Lewis, McPhereson, or Strom need to bogey the 18th to allow those players to make the cut.
Onward to players who will absolutely make the cut and be a factor tomorrow. On top of the leaderboard after 36 holes is McDonlad’s LPGA Champion and rookie Anna Nodqvist. The stauesque Swede had 5 birdies and 2 bogeyes for a 69, good enough for a one stroke lead over Evian Masters Champion Ai Miyazato (68) and Seon Hwa Lee (70).
Two veterans hoping to make the Safeway their first top 10 of the year are Michele Redman (T4, -8) & 1st round leader Beth Bader (T6, -7) who offset her three bogies on her front nine with four birdies on the back, before disaster struck in the form of a double bogey on the 15th. Who knows, maybe one of these vets can steal the show tomorrow.
With 26 players within 6 strokes of the lead, and the fact that birdies come in bunches here this week, this tournament is still up for grabs. Perhaps the two unheralded Thais in the field Russy Gulyamanitia and the alternate for Paula Creamer’s withdrawl Pornanong Phatlum could really shock the field. Russy, who has been nearly invisble after opening the season last year with a runner up at the SBS Classic, was 7-under on the day through 12 holes, despite having two bogies coming in, she still is T-9 at -6. Phatlum, making her LPGA debut on American soil (she played in the HSBC Masters earlier this year, but for some reason that money was not counted as official), followed up her opening 71 with a bogey free 68, and is T15. If she can snag a top 10 she’ll get into the field next week I beleive.
Anna Rawson double bogeyed the 17th, giving the players currently T71 a fighting chance. McPhereson birdied and Strom parred, all their hopes rely on Rawson and Lewis at this point. Anna just birdied the 18th, so Lewis, who just jumped out of the T71, can put the axe on the cutline by parring the 9th.
Lewis did finish by parring the 9th, which means 16 players have missed the cut at +1 finishing a devasting T71.
Se Ri Pak withdrew from the tournament earlier today, after her opening round 69. Hope it’s not serious Se Ri!