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?
In the fickle world of tournament golf, it’s all about what have you done for me lately. Christel Boeljon who hovered behind the lead for the majority of the Australian Ladies Masters wound up on top after birding the 72nd hole to avoid a playoff with U.S. Open Champion So Yeon Ryu, Diana Luna, and Ha-Neul Kim. Ryu, the 54 hole leader couldn’t find any of the form that saw her shoot an 11-under 61 in the second round.
When the tournament opened all eyes were on last week’s champion Lydia Ko, the 14 year old amateur from New Zealand. After the opening round Bo-Mee Lee lead by 1, but lurking behind were the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open playoff participants So Yeon Ryu and Hee Kyung Seo. Even in my post after the opening round I barely mentioned Boeljon, who shared the 2nd place spot with the two Koreans.
When Ryu shot a 61 on Friday to vault atop the leaderboard, the only question was would she have the post-awesome-round slump, or would someone be able to come close to such form on Saturday. Frances Bondad did with a 63 all her own, but Ryu still lead and looked to ride her great form into victory on Sunday.
It wasn’t to be.
Boeljon’s 4-undr 68 was enough to out duel the field, and she had the awesome opportunity to have a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to take the crown. For Ryu, it has to be another disappointment in a career that could be a lot better. I remarked earlier about her near misses in the KLPGA’s season ending awards, and the U.S. Open was only one of two worldwide victories she’s had in the past 2 years. This tournament can be added to her growing list of near misses. Strange sight for a player who burst on the international scene with some of the clutchest shots ever during the end of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open.
Boeljon who finished #6 on the LET Order of Merit in 2011 starts off her 2012 season in fine fashion. She might not have been a headline coming into Sunday, but she grabbed the only one that really mattered.
Incoming rookie & 2011 U.S. Women’s Open So Yeon Ryu lit up the course on the Gold Coast shooting a 61 to take a 4 shot lead over Christel Boeljon. As Ryu finishes her preparations here for the first LPGA event as a tour member next week my thoughts are immediately turned to the potentially epic Rookie of the Year showdown between So Yeon & Alexis Thompson.
Both are joining the LPGA this year after posting non-member wins in 2011, with Thompson becoming the youngest winner ever on the LPGA when she cruised to victory at the Navistar LPGA Classic. While Thompson’s entrance in the world’s elite has been well documented, Ryu, who’ll be 22 later this year, started her career in Korea with a bang very similarly to her new rival.
Ryu was a decorated amateur in Asia earning a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Asian Games (an Asian equivalent of the Olympic Games), and aiding Korea in team wins at the same games and the 2007 Queen Sirikit Cup, which pits top amateurs from Asia and the Pacific. At the end of the year she turned pro at the age of 17.
Turning pro before 18 is far more common in Korea, but it still doesn’t maker Ryu’s win at the KLPGA’s 2008 Sports Seoul Open any less impressive. Did I mention it was her first event on tour?
Not to count out the other talented rookies in the 2012 class it would be shocking if the contest did not come down to these two talented ladies. Can Lexi continue to live up to the hype and pressure and continue to thrive in the LPGA microscope? Will Ryu cope with a year abroad adjusting to the American tour? Coming over for a three week span is one thing, but spending an entire season is entirely another.
Ryu, although a consistent top performer on the KLPGA, has never taken home any end of the year awards. In 2008, despite winning the first tournament she entered on the KLPGA, she still wound up #2 in their Rookie of the Year race. In 2009 despite at one point winning 3-events in a row she only finished second on the money list and player of the races to Hee Kyung Seo (the 2011 LPGA Rookie of the Year and runner-up to Ryu at the U.S. Open). Ryu only managed one win in 2010, but still finished 4th on the money list. Last year she lead the KLPGA money list for most of the 2011, but couldn’t find it at the end of the season and finished 3rd.
Despite her top 4 finishes or better, Ryu hasn’t shown that she can have it all for the entire year. Thompson’s stamina is untested as well as 2012 will mark her first full year on a professional tour. So, who has the edge?
I don’t have an answer, but I’ll grab the popcorn as it’ll be a great show to watch.
*Lexi Thompson shot a 2-under 70 in the second round and finds herself 10 strokes behind Ryu.