Bienvenue! My name is Jamie and I like golf. I grew up playing tennis in eastern Massachusetts, but fell in love with the game after watching Se Ri Pak defeat Jenny Chausiriporn at the 1998 U.S. Womens Open. I studied Hospitality & Tourism Management (with a focus on Event, Tourism, and Convention Management) at the Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Tennis is my first love, but golf is a very close second. I believe style should equal substance, and the latter is nothing without the former.
Lorena Ochoa’s tepid play allowed Sophie Gustafson to coast to victory at the CVS/pharmacy Challenge. Gustafson shot a final round 68 or 69, to best her 3rd round co-leader Ochoa by three or four strokes. A duo of South Koreans Sun Young Yoo & rookie Amy Yang finished solidly for third place.
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.
Ochoa’s birdie on the 16th got her to -17, but it was too little too late. Her bogey on the 18th hole really punctuated a frustrating day for the #1 player, as you never want to shoot a tepid 72 on Sunday. Gustafson may or may not have bogeyed the 18th hole, but it was irrelevant, she claimed a 3 or 4 shot victory.
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.
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.
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.
2009 U.S. Open winner Kim Clijsters on the return of Justin Henin to tennis. To be fair, she did tack, ““I’m sure she will produce great tennis.”
I hope in my heart of hearts, that if Kim has to face Justine in a big tournament next year, Kim will be able to do what she was never able to do in their peaks, hold her nerve and knock her down.
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.