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.
This time last year, if you were in a final group paired with world #1 Lorena Ochoa you would be shaking in your boots. The media, fans, and perhaps even yourself would’ve pegged you as a severe underdog, no matter who you were. Ochoa’s rather tepid response to being in the hunt the past two weekends is certainly puzzling, and if the streak continues this week as she defends the Navistar, the aura of Ochoa may be wearing off quicker then I imagined.
The intimidation factor of playing with a top female, or even just being in the final group can be game changing. If you were a young player looking to win, and you were paired in the final group with Annika Sorenstam, the pressure alone may get the best of you.
This is why Ochoa needs to win, and needs to win quick. Yes, three top 10s in a row are great, and back to back top 5 finishes are better. Mustering rounds in the 70s when you’re in contention are not good. With a bunch of players all contending for the top of the money list, and Jiyai Shin looking poised to become the new face of the LPGA tour, Sunday’s round at the CVS and last weekend’s play at the Samsung are potentially diminishing Lorena’s shine.
Where is the #1’s killer instinct? Hopefully we’ll see it this week.
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.
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.
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.