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.
When Cristie Kerr became the new #1 ranked golfer in the world last week, the common theme amongst the media was the potential resurgence of American Ladies Golf. Kerr has been a consistent top 5/10 player, and it was no real shock that the she is leading the charge of Americans this year.
When journalists and bloggers alike delved deeper into the American talent they began to throw out names of other Americans who could potentially make an impact for the good of the LPGA.
Paula Creamer immediately came to mind, along with fellow top American pros Morgan Pressel and Angela Stanford. Again, no shock here as these players are some of the highest ranked and most popular girls on tour.
Missing from the conversation was former major champion Brittany Linicome. If the big hitting blonde was going to be missing from the chatter, then it’s certainly no surprise that there was no mention to the spunky Californian Christina Kim. Well CK is looking to get her name back in the mix in a big way this week.
She is only one back of Na Yeon Choi playing her best golf of 2010 by far. Kim has struggled in a big way in 2010, her best finish is a T24 way back in March at the Kia Classic presented by J Golf. Kim’s 3 rounds in the 60s so far this week matches the number of rounds in the 60s she’s had so far in 2010.
Kim hasn’t won on the LPGA in 5 years. If she can do it this week it could really capitalize on the momentum of American golf going into the biggest event of the year next week, the U.S. Women’s Open.
With the LPGA in a big transition period, many casual fans are not warming up to a leaderboard crowded with talented Koreans and other foreign born players. A win by Kim or one of the other Americans in the hunt (Kristy McPhereson is 4 back, and Stacy Prammanasudh is 6 back) could continue the momentum that Kerr gave us last week, which would be just in time as we head into the biggest event on the LPGA next week, the U.S. Women’s Open.
That would be a sweet 4th of July for the LPGA. Although having television coverage of this event would certainly make this sweeter.
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.
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.
Cristie Kerr on expecting the type of success she’s found in 2009 at a presser at the Samsung World Championship.
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.
After what feels like forever, the LPGA is finally back in action at the Safeway Classic in Portland, Oregon this week. The Safeway is the tour’s first 54-hole event since the Mastercard Classic in March, which was won by Pat Hurst. In 2008 Cristie Kerr was cool in the clutch, sinking a 15-hole birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Helen Alfredsson and Sophie Gustafson.
The return to tour could not have come any sooner for the lower ranked fully-exempt (or high priority) players no the tour this year. For any of those unable to qualify for the European Swing, and not able to get an entry into this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, the Safe Classic will be their first event in eight weeks. Almost has the feel like the beginning of the year for some of then I’d imagine!
With the LPGA taking center stage last week with a brilliant event at the Solheim Cup, this is a great opportunity to ride that momentum here in Portland. This will be the last regular LPGA tour event that ESPN will cover for at least 10 years, due to the exclusive deal the LPGA tour struck with the Golf Channel earlier this year. Hopefully some of the drama from last week in Rich Harvest Farms will follow.
With only Angela Park the only LPGA regular ranked in the top 50 in the Rolex World Rankings not in the field at the Safeway has got to be one of the strongest events of the year. So, who has the best chance to come through this week?
Of the Americans, current money list leader and defending champion Cristie Kerr is coming off a solid 2-1-1 performance at the Solheim Cup. Kerr, the most consistent player on tour this season is playing as good as golf as anyone.
I’ll get to the big question, is this week, or at least this fall, going to be when Michelle Wie finally breaks through? I don’t take lightly the indelible experience Wie gained last week at the Solheim Cup. She seemed to have the same lightness, the same fun, and the same power that she had when she was a 14 year old dominating nearly all of the events she entered. The 3-0-1 record is the best of the USA team, and the only player with three wins to go undefeated. Paula Creamer and Christina Kim the other players to get gain three wins, also had one defeat.
Perennial LET star Gwladys Nocera was the only player on the European team able to secure three wins (she matched Michelle Wie with the best record of the cup) is returning to Europe this week. We’ll see if Suzann Petterson, who fighting a bad back, was only able to go 1-4 last week can bounce back in a big way.
With the top three players in the world returning to action (Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng, and Jiyai Shin) it’s anyone’s guess as to who will finish on top this weekend. Remember, before we broke Ai Miyazato was on quite a hot streak winning in Evian and finishing top 3 at the WBO. With all of that said, who are my picks for the top 12?
Like I’ve said many times In-Kyung Kim is my pick to finish as Player of the Year, so it’s no wonder I’m picking her to win again. I expect Michelle Wie & Brittany Lang to some solid play at the Solheim and have strong finishes this week. Very impressed by Lang’s finish against Laura Davies on Sunday.
Finally, big props to Taylor Karle and Ayaka Kaneko for taking advantage of open Monday qualifying and gaining a spot in this year’s event.