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.
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.
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.
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.
Cristie Kerr on expecting the type of success she’s found in 2009 at a presser at the Samsung World Championship.