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.
When Jessica Korda joined the LPGA last season many eyes were pointed her way to be one of the contenders for Rookie of the Year. With a sparkling amateur career, and professional athlete pedigree (her father Petr was a top tennis player winning the Australian Open), it wasn’t a question of will she, but when she. It wasn’t her rookie campaign which saw her finish just inside the top 100 on the money list. While adjusting to the professional lifestyle, and trying to find some momentum is the sparse playing schedule for rookies last year, Korda never got anything going. It took her one week to turn that around.
Jessica Korda showed some nerves of steal when she birded the second playoff hole to knock out 5 other women in the sudden death playoff for the ISPS Handa’s Women’s Australian Open. Korda started the round magically with three birdies in the first 8-holes to get up to 7-under par. Then the wheels started to fall off. She doubled the 9th, broke even with a bogey/birdie duo on 10 & 11, before a 3-bogey stretch on holes 14-16. The mini-choke was truly just miniature, because she rebounded with a birdie on 17 to finish at 3-under, which lead to her impressive playoff victory.
The tough weekend scoring conditions saw them finish at just 3-under par, 3-shots worse than the 6-under par So Yeon Ryu posted to take the 36-hole lead.
For Ryu, it’s another troubling so close, but cannot close moments. She bogeyed her 72nd hole to fall back to 3-under. She lead for most of the weekend last week at the Australian Ladies Masters before closing with an even par 72 to fall one stroke short. Today she entered the final round one-behind Korda and again shot even par, which was enough to get in the playoff, but still equals the same result, a runner-up finish. Ryu got the reputation as a clutch competitor at the U.S. Women’s Open last year where she stared down Hee Kyung Seo in the aggregate playoff, but these type of runner-up finishes seem more accurate. Aside from the U.S. Open Ryu has only won one other time in the past two years, and has faltered down the stretch and was unable to win a single KLPGA End of Season award. While these back-to-back runner-up finishes are promising for the rookie, the manner in which she got there leaves some troubling feelings in my opinion.
It’s nice to see Julieta Granada secure a runner-up finish as well. After strong 2006 and 2007 seasons which saw her win the ADT Championships (and the million dollar payday) Julieta has struggled. She hovered around the 100 on the money list range for three years, before a mini-resurgence last year brought her into the top 70. This might be a nod to say Julieta’s back!
Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome also found themselves in the playoff and look to continue to push Cristie Kerr & Paula Creamer out of the top of American golf. Hee Kyung Seo, the runner-up to Ryu at the US Open rounded out the 6 way playoff. Seo matched Ryu’s even par round, and also matched her 72nd hole bogey, to get into the playoff that would be won by Korda.
And what a way to win your maiden LPGA title by birdieing the second playoff hole to knock out 5 talented women out. Korda was a teenage prodigy, and had a mountain of expectations laid upon her last year. In just one week she’s tripled her career money won. Heck, even if she had lost in the playoff the share of runner-up money would’ve been more then she gained in 2011! Jessica Korda has always had the game to be one of the best, now that she has proven belief how far will she go?
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.