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 not much of a rookie, rookie and possibly best lady golfer in the world Jiyai Shin broke the hearts of the Arkansas crowd and the entire Golf Channel production team by birding the last three holes to upend Angela Stanford & Sun Young Yoo on the second playoff hole to capture her third title of 2009 at the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship on Sunday. In sinking the clutch putt on the par-3 15th (second playoff hole) Shin effectively ruined the story of the day (if not weekend) of Angela Stanford making a full circle bounce back from having to deal with the diagnosis of cancer that her mother unfortunately received not too long ago. Much was made of Stanford’s mom making the drive to watch Angela play singles at the Solheim Cup on Sunday, and the same fanfare was given again on this Sunday as her mother was in attendance in Arkansas. Had Stanford been able to close it out it would’ve been a amazingly triumphant come back, from extraordinary personal struggles, and would’ve been the first time she had won an LPGA tournament with her parents in attendance.
Early on it certainly looked to be Stanford’s day, after stumbling out the blocks with a bogey on the 1st, she pitched in for eagle at the par 5 second which brought her to -8 for the tournament just a stroke behind the 36 hole leader Song-Hee Kim. If she could’ve continued a bit of a run after this eagle Angela could’ve easily run away with this championship, but was only able to birdie the par 5 14th (while bogeying two other holes) going into the final hole in regulation.
Jane Park had a much worse descent after hitting the -9 mark. She birdied four of her five holes to get there, but then gave nearly all of it back when she bogeyed three of the next four holes. She birdied 11 to get back to -7 which kept her very much in contention, but followed it up with what may have been the biggest meltdown of her career as she went double-bogey-double on holes 13-15 which at the end of the day dropped her out of the top 21 (T21, -2).
As exciting as the three player playoff was, it easily could’ve featured two additional players, or potentially ended in regulation. 36 hole leader Song-Hee Kim showed just how nervous she was attempting to win her first LPGA event, being unable to secure a birdie the entire round. This was perhaps exemplified best on the birdieable par 5 14th. After driving herself into trouble off the tee, Song-Hee attempted to pitch out to a comfortable distance for her 3rd shot. Not entirely sure what happened, but Kim’s pitch-out went a distance, and inexplicably rolled into the water hazard. Kim then had to scramble to save par on a hole that all the leaders found birdie throughout the week. Kim did infact get up an down for par, and gave herself a fighting chance to win this event. She would go to the 18th with Stanford needing a birdie to get into a playoff with Shin and Yoo.
Yoo joined Shin atop the leaderboard after she birdied the 14th hole for the third time this week, but then dropped back to 2nd after she bogeyed the 16th hole for the third time this week. She needed to birdie the 18th to guarantee a playoff with Jiyai. A few groups ahead, Shi Hyun Ahn was in the same predicament, but had to settle for par. After a picture perfect drive, Yoo hit her approach to the front of the green leaving a lengthy 30-40 footer for eagle, and the lead outright. Yoo’s putting speed had looked great all week, and this was no different, she lagged close, tapped in for birdie and made the playoff official.
When the last group arrived at the 18th, Shin had been done her round for a couple hours, and Yoo had just finished. Song-Hee once again drove herself into the rough, but her layup was executed much better this time, and had a decent up-and-down birdie opportunity. Stanford hit an aggressive driver down the fairway, and gave her a shot to reach the green in two, she hit an amazing approach to 25 feet, giving her a chance to tie Shin & Yoo. Kim hit her pitch to the pin, and after a bigish bounce and some backspin found herself a difficult 12-15 downhill sliding putt to get into the playoff.
Stanford was first to putt, and she sunk it, igniting the hopes of the Golf Channel production team, and showing an even bigger sign that this tournament was her destiny. Her celebration was almost as if she had won the tournament, or better yet sunk the clinching putt at the Solheim. Arms stretched, she jumped into the arms of her caddy, it was a touching moment for a player who has had to battle so much in the middle of the best season of her career.
Utilizing Na Yeon Choi’s near identical line just before her, Song-Hee was unable to do what Yoo and Stanford did before her. She hit an aggressive putt, but it slid 3 feet past, and Kim along with NYC will have to wait for their 1st LPGA win. Choi & Kim have the talent to be winning on tour, but they have not been able to keep it together while in contention, something that their countrywomen M.J. Hur & Eunjung Yi were able to do when they won earlier in 2009. Until they can calm these nerves and thoughts, I think it will be more likely to see them win an event like Shin did this week, from behind the pack shooting an amazingly low number.
So there we were, Shin, Yoo, and Stanford in the sudden death playoff. Yoo drew first and smoked her drive down the fairway, setting up a great second shot. Shin hit her tee shot second and missed hers to the left, and was in trouble in the rough. She would be blocked out by trees and a hazard, and would not have a chance to get there in two. Stanford was next and her tee shot was falling off quickly to the right toward the right rough, she was fortunate to get a good kick and was just a few yards behind Yoo’s ball in the middle of the fairway.
Shin pitched to the middle of the fairway. Stanford’s attempt to reach ended up in a very similar position to Yoo’s in regulation, on the front edge of the green. Yoo’s looked great rolling up toward the back middle pin position, but hers was just a little bit too hot, and ended up rolling into the right greenside bunker.
You really needed to see these three next shots in order to really understand how good they were, but it was some of the best golf I’ve seen in a long time. Shin was first and pitched hers to tap-in range for her (3-5 feet). Stanford was next, and nearly holed hers, but again was a tap-in for birdie. Yoo’s bunker shot rolled to inches. All three ladies tapped their birdies in (no relapse of Michele Redman from two weeks ago!) and went to the par 3 15th.
Yoo again was first and was short and right, which was incidentally the same position she was in regulation. She flirted dangerously with the hazard, but hit it far enough to land short of the green. Stanford hit hers about 20 feet short of the pin, which was just outside of Shin’s 12 footer left, and on a very similar line.
Yoo chipped hers from just off the green to three feet, nearly a tap-in for her on this day. Stanford was first, and she piped the left to right putt about five feet past (outside of Yoo’s ball), which set the stage for Shin to putt tow in. Trusting Stanford’s line Jiyai hit a perfect 12 footer, and claimed her third victory of the season.
Shin has a chance to match HOFer Nancy Lopez in winning both the Rookie of the Year & Player of the Year in the same season. She has essentially clinched ROY, but POY is certainly up for grabs.
Stanford should be very happy with her week, and is seemingly back in peak condition like she was earlier this season. I picked Yoo to win this week, so you’ve gotta be sure I was rooting hard for her down the stretch on Sunday. Hopefully Yoo will take a lot of positives in coming this close, and I expect an LPGA win in this player’s near future.
From what I’ve read so far, the early reaction to Venus Williams’s dress is a mixed bag. I personally love this dress, the bright pink looks great against her skin tone, the racing stripe is awkward, but this dress certainly needed something in the front. The side pleat-situation gives Venus some curves, which she could definitely use. I think the pink is a great color for the U.S. Open too. It’s just nice to see Venus in something new.
Dress aside Venus needed all of her game to fend off the charge of Russian Vera Dushevina. Dushevina took charge of a lethargic Venus from the get go, and really displayed some fine tennis against the much favored American. Dushevina gave herself a chance to serve out the match at 7-6, 5-4, but was unable to convert. That set off 7 games in a row for Venus to get her to 4-0 in the third set. Vera, not ready to give up just yet, fought all the way back to 4-3, before Venus closed her out 6-3 in the third.
According to the Australian media, Ai Sugiyama is set to retire at the end of 2009. The Japanese veteran has played over 60 grand slams, and has played more grand slams then any active player. Although Sugiyama has struggled lately in singles, she’s still keeping herself relevant in doubles. Partnering Daniela Hantuchova, they made the finals at the Australian Open (saving match points en route against the #1 ranked doubles team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber), before falling to the Williams Sisters.
Not much was expected of her against the red hot Samantha Stosur, the 15th seed, who’s continued her incredible year through the U.S. Open Series. Despite going up a break and serving at 4-3, Sugiyama was unable to finish off the hard hitting, and epic topspin that Stosur was producing. In the end Stosur won 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, not a bad way to end your grand slam career. Hopefully, even if she were to retire in singles, she’ll continue to play doubles. She’s a workhorse, and always seems to be enjoying herself out there, a true role model for the sport which is often inflicted by spoiled brats, who never seem to enjoy their court time.
17th seed Amelie Mauresmo looked to be cruising against young German Tatjana Malek taking what seemed to be an insurmountable lead of 6-2, 5-1. In what seemed to be a blink of the eye, Malek had climbed her way up to 5-4, and looked to threaten to take the second set away from the veteran Frenchwoman. Amelie who’s not had a great year, shown some great signs of life in defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova last week in New Haven. Amelie composed herself and finished off the German and will face Canadian Aleksanda Wozniak in the next round.
In the biggest surprise of the day 210 ranked qualifier Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei upset the 25th seed Kaia Kanepi 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 to win her first main draw match at a grand slam. This is actually Kai-Chen’s first ever grand slam, and is surprisingly the only player from Taiwan to qualify for the main draw (higher ranked Yung-Jan Chan & Su-Wei Hsieh both fell in qualifying 3rd and 1st Rd respectively). Another Asian qualifier Yurika Sema’s upset bid against Anna Chakvetadze took a halt after she won the 1st set, falling 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Another upset falling short was that of Meghann Shaughnessy, unable to defeat Daniela Hantuchova [pictured]. Hantuchova won 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
Other seeded winners today were (2)Serena Williams, (7)Vera Zvonareva, (8)Vika Azarenka, (10)Flavia Pennetta, (12)Agnieszka Radwanska, (14)Marion Bartoli, (18)Na Li, (20)Anabel Medina-Garrigues, (26)Francesca Schiavona, and (31)Elena Vesnina.
28th seed Sybille Bammer was the only other seed to join Kaia Kanepi in losing on opening day. This ruins the epic rematch of Bammer and Serena Williams. Bammer has beaten Serena twice, including once this summer.
If Beth Bader had a birdie for every round in the 60s she had this year, she would be two strokes worse then then the -8 (64) she fired in the opening round of the Safeway Classic. Nine birdies and a single bogey on the par 4 2nd has given Bader her best round of the year, and a one stroke cushion over 2009 Rookie and major champion Anna Nordqvist. Not a bad bounce back for Anna who is shaken off the dubious distinction of losing the point that allowed the U.S. retain the Solheim Cup.
A third of the field finished under par on opening day, and the birdies came in bunches, and for three of my favorite players Mindy Kim (82), Jeanne Cho-Hunicke & Jeehae Lee (83) struggled mightily.
The story of the opening day though belongs to Bader. The 9th year player hasn’t had a top 10 since 2007, and best finish in the last two seasons has been a T25 at the 2008 State Farm Classic. Currently 95th on the money list, a solid finish here could guarantee her Category 1 status for next year. Bader returned to Q-School last year, where she tied for 4th, giving her Category 11 status for the year.
Earlier in the week The Construcstivist posted the question: Will the Rookie of the Year Race Finally Get Interesting? In the post he referenced the #2 in the ROY race Michelle Wie as a potential player to threaten Jiyai Shin for the honor. McDonald’s LPGA Champion Anna Nordqvist may have something to say about that after her bogey-free 65 (-7). Anna may only have one top 10 this year (but, my was it a good one!), but has shown poise under pressure, and definitley has a chance to make a run at it. Shin, who only has one finish outside the top 25 so far this year, is in danger of missing the cut after a +2 74 which puts her in a tie for 83rd.
Seemingly always coming out of nowhere to win, Seon Hwa Lee is tied with Anna Nordqvist in T2. She may not have made the big leap into the top of the game like I expected her to this year, but that dosen’t mean she won’t grab a win or two before 2009 is done.
Nordqvist’s playings partners Angela Stanford (66, T4) & Ai Miyazato (67, T8) had similiar good rounds, and were the clear winners for group of the day. Solheim Cupper Janice Moodie, former Solheim Cupper Stacy Prammanasudh, and Lexus Cupper Candie Kung joined Stanford at -6, T4, while Moira Dunn and another former Solheim Cupper Michele Redman joined the red hot Miyazato at -5, T8.
Great opening rounds by two injury sticken players, Jeong Jang & Jennifer Rosales who both fired 68s to finish just out of the top 10 at tied for 11th with a quadruple of Solheim Cuppees Christina Kim, Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie, & Suzann Petterson, and the #2 player in the world Yani Tseng.
Pornanong Phatlum gained entry in the field after the withdrawl of Paula Creamer, and used her alternate status well, Phatlum shot a 71 and is T39. Amateurs and Monday qualifiers Ayaka Kaneko and Taylor Karle had two different rounds today, Kaneko is above the cutline (T66, 73) while Karle is below it (T125, 78).
Surprisingly joining Jiyai Shin, and Karle below the cutline are, Morgan Pressel, In-Kyung Kim, and Karrie Webb all who could only manage 74s today are are tied for 83rd. 2009 major champions Catriona Matthew & Brittany Lincicome were worse after their 77s.
With birdies available in Portalnd this week, we should be in store for an exciting weekend.