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.
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.
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:
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.