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.
The tough test of Oakmont Country Club awaits the best and brightest of the LPGA this week as the ladies compete for the 65th U.S. Women’s Open Championship. Expect to see some tough scoring this week, as the course features the longest par-3 in U.S. Open history, the 8th could play 252-yards throughout the week.
Don’t expect the course this week to only be about the length. The USGA has the option to make a couple of the 4s reachable. It’s going to be a diabolical week, and with the few birdie opportunities that will be abound, I think the winner will be the player who takes the few chances that are given to them this week. Or to put it simply, who can sink those putts when it matters.
Don’t expect anything close to the Cristie Kerr blowout that we saw a few weeks ago at the LPGA Championship.
I would be shocked to not see Cristie Kerr in the thick of things come Sunday. It’s almost as traditional as apple pie to see Kerr somewhere near the top at the most coveted championship on the LPGA. In the past 9 years Cristie has had 6 top-15 finishes, including her victory in 2007. The question really isn’t whether she’ll be a factor (that’s a given), but whether or not she’ll succumb to the pressure on championship Sunday.
2010 has been a coming out party for Japanese sensation Ai Miyazato, and I don’t expect the Japanese star to look to end the festivities anytime soon. The list of career milestones Ai has achieved thus far in her 4-win season is superlative. In 2010 she’s had her first multi-win season, captured her first win on American soil, and ascended to #1 in the world. The one thing she’s missing both in 2010 and in her career is an LPGA major. A win this week would be a huge exclamation point as she attempts to end the year #1 in the world and on the LPGA.
Let’s not forget Jiyai Shin either, Shin was the first player to jump to #1 in the world when Lorena Ochoa retired, but Shin has been seemingly lapped in 2010. After posting 3 victories in both 2008 (as a non LPGA member) and 2009 (as a rookie), Miss Shin hasn’t been able to get into the winner’s circle in 2010. That isn’t to say Jiyai has been having a bad 2010 by any means. In her 8 starts this season she has finished top-10 6 times, and hasn’t finished outside the top 30 yet. It was a big question mark as to how Shin would play after her emergency appendectomy, and I think her back to back top 5 finishes answers that loud and clear.
Song-Hee Kim had the Jamie Farr Owens Classic in her hands on Sunday, and was unable to sink a putt on the 73rd hole to capture her first title. It’ll be interesting to see how she bounces back from that. In 11 events in 2010 Kim had finished in the top 10, ten times. That’s impressive stuff.
With her length and determination Suzann Pettersen may finally capture her first victory of 2010. Pettersen has 6 top 10s in 9 starts, and sits at #4 on the money list right behind Miyazato, Kerr, and Kim.
Na Yeon Choi will be looking to win back to back for the first time in her career. She finished T9 last year at Saucon Valley. In-Kyung Kim was in the hunt all day on Sunday last year at the open. She’s finished T3 the past two years at the U.S. Open and will be looking to get her first victory of 2010 also.
Last week I scanned the leadearboard of the LPGA Championship presented by Wegmans and did a double take when I didn’t see Na Yeon Choi’s name among the top 20. Using my trusty command + f, tool I typed her name to find her below the cut line for the first time in her career.
I have a lot of faith in Na Yeon Choi’s game, so much so that I picked her to finish #1 on this year’s money list. Choi has been solid in 2010 (as always) sitting at #10 on the money list with over $341,000 in earnings over the year, but that’s a far cry from the top of the list (#1 & #2 Ai Miyazato and Cristie Kerr have nearly tripled her earnings), but she’s looking to close the gap this week at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger.
Choi enters the final round with a one shot lead over Christina Kim, and is looking to post her first ever wire-to-wire victory. A victory this week could prove momentous for NYC. Choi captured her first victory last year at the super exclusive Samsung World Championship, but it wasn’t easy. Choi held a whopping 7-stroke lead with 12 strokes to play, before seeing it deflate completely by the time she arrived on the last whole. A two shot swing (a birdie for Choi, with Ai Miyazato’s earlier bogey) on the 18th hole gave her first title, but it was certainly more of a barely hung on moment, then a cruise to the title victory we thought she was getting.
She showed a lot of gutso in her 2nd victory on tour, matching Yani Tseng’s birdie on the final hole to capture victory by one stroke and avoiding a three way playoff with Maria Hjorth. So, she’s certainly brushed off the nerves that almost saw her blow her maiden victory. Let’s see if she continue to hold her nerve tomorrow.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!