Friday, October 31, 2014

Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Ladies Friday: Ji-Hee Lee's 66 Gives Her 2-Shot Lead on Momoko Ueda

Ji-Hee Lee fired a 7-birdie 66 to take a 2-shot lead on Momoko Ueda and Mihoko Iseri into the 2nd round of the Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Ladies.  Mi-Jeong Jeon and Esther Lee are only 3 back, Ji-Yai Shin, Yumiko Yoshida, Ai Suzuki, and Natsuka Hori are 4 behind, and Bo-Mee Lee, Miki Saiki, and the visiting Mika Miyazato are 5 off the pace.  Shin and Erika Kikuchi both got holes-in-1 on the 152-yard par-3 8th, while Kaori Makitani eagled the 487-yard par-5 6th.  With money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn and last week's winner Shiho Oyama sitting this one out, it's a great opportunity for for Shin and Lee to make up some ground.  Let's see if they can make a move tomorrow!

Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship Friday: Inbee Park and Mirim Lee Fire 62s; Park Leads Shanshan Feng by 3

World #1 Inbee Park followed up yesterday's 64 at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship with a 62 to get to -18 and take a 3-shot lead on Shanshan Feng.  Park's ten-under-par round included a bogey on the par-4 4th and an eagle on the par-4 8th, along with 9 birdies, while Feng's 65 was marred only by back-to-back bogeys early on the back 9.

Even as Park and Feng battle it out for world domination, the Rookie of the Year race is heating up.  Mirim Lee fired a bogey-free 62 of her own today to catch Lydia Ko (65) and Line Vedel (68) at -10.  Despite birdieing 6 holes in a row on the front and 7 of her 1st 10, ROY race leader Ko offset her last birdie of the day on the par-3 14th with a bogey on the par-4 15th.  As Lee racked up 5 birdies on each side, Vedel had an up-and-down front, with 2 bogeys and 2 birdies, but turned it on during the back with 5 birdies (and a lone bogey) in her last 8 holes.  If either Lee or Vedel are going to put any pressure on Ko down the home stretch, they're going to need to outdistance her over the weekend and challenge Park and Feng for the title.

That's a tall order, especially when you consider that Azahara Munoz joins them at -10, recent world #1 and leader in every significant year-long LPGA race Stacy Lewis is at -9, 2-time champion Suzann Pettersen is at -7, and there are a bunch of golfers at -8 playing well enough to win this thing, including So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, and Chella Choi.

Given how many big numbers have been posted already this week--Lewis doubled the par-4 9th, Michelle Wie made her 2nd triple of the week, this time on the par-4 4th (she's well back at -6), Brittany Lang tripled the par-5 12th (she's -7)--it's too soon to think that the lead chase pack near -10 can't chase down Park and Feng.  But it's likely that somebody in that pack will need to put together a course record on Saturday or Sunday to really put some pressure on them.

[Update 1 (8:10 am):  Congrats to Danielle Kang for winning her 2nd car in as many weeks with her 2nd hole in 1!!!]

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship Thursday: Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng Open with 64s

Coming off a 2nd-place finish to Hyo Joo Kim at a KLPGA major last week, new world #1 Inbee Park matched Shanshan Feng's bogey-free 64 at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship today.  Park and Feng were able to do what So Yeon Ryu, Michelle Wie, and Na Yeon Choi were unable to.  Where Ryu got to -9 but finished bogey-double bogey, Wie took a triple on the par-4 15th and had to recover for a 68, and Choi had to scramble for a 68 of her own after doubling the par-4 11th, the 2 co-leaders played spectacular and steady golf throughout the day, with each putting on a burst of her own.  For Park, it was 5 birdies in her last 7 holes, while for Feng it was 5 birdies in her last 10 holes.

There were eagles galore today, as well.  Feng, Line Vedel (66), and In-Kyung Kim (67) eagled the par-5 6th, Ryu the par-4 11th, and Harukyo Nomura (66) and Stacy Lewis (67) the par-5 2nd.  So no worries for Lydia Ko (69), Suzann Pettersen (70), or my fave Ai Miyazato (who fought back from a horrific start for a 73).  Looks like it's going to be all about getting on a roll and keeping on a roll this week!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Picks for the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship

Between going to Clinton for my dad's retirement conference/roast this past weekend and trying to catch up at work, I haven't been able to write about Lee-Anne Pace's and Shiho Oyama's victories.  But the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship is already upon us, so it's time for me to make my picks!

1. Park Inbee
2. Ryu
3. Choi Na Yeon
4. Feng
5. Pettersen
6. Lewis, Stacy
7. Ko
8. Choi Chella
9. Wie
10. Masson
11. Phatlum
12. Lincicome

Alts: Nordqvist, Lang, Park Hee Young

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blue Bay LPGA Saturday: Lee-Anne Pace Catches Jessica Korda at -11

Lee-Anne Pace won an LET event last week in her home country and her 7-birdie 66 on moving day at the Blue Bay LPGA has given her a great shot at making it 2 in a row halfway around the world.  To do it, she's going to have to get through Jessica Korda, who bounced back from an opening double bogey with 7 birdies of her own the rest of the way today to join the South African at -11.

But don't think for an instant Pace and Korda will be in some kind of match-play situation tomorrow on Hainan Island.  Chella Choi has been knocking on the door for years now and fired a bogey-free 66 of her own to move to -10.  Shanshan Feng, Michelle Wie, and Brittany Lang are only 2 behind the co-leaders.  2-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang and near-Rookie of the Year last season Caroline Masson are only 3 down.  Toss in Austin Ernst and Wanyao Lu (Haruka Morita when she competes on the JLPGA) at -7 and Beatriz Recari at -6 and you have some really good golfers ready to pounce if the co-leaders ease up on the accelerator or spin out on a curve tomorrow!

Going by their stats in the 1st 2 rounds, not to mention their recent victories, I'd say this is going to come down to Pace vs. Feng.  But given how few of my picks for the week are actually in contention, you should probably ignore that prediction!

Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies Saturday: Shiho Oyama Extends Lead to 3 on All-Star Lead Chase Pack

Shiho Oyama faltered a little midway through her moving-day round at the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies, but bounced back with 4 birdies in her last 11 holes of bogey-free golf to move to -15 through 54 holes--enough to hold onto a 3-shot lead on the charging Yumiko Yoshida and Teresa Lu (who fired a bogey-free 66 and a bogey-free 67, respectively) and open up a 4-shot lead on JLPGA money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn and 21-year-old Ayaka Watanabe.  With Momoko Ueda at -10, Ai Suzuki at -9, Paula Creamer at -8, and Bo-Mee Lee at -6, Oyama has a great chance to eliminate most of her competition if she can make it 4 rounds in the 60s this week.  But Watanabe's 63 and Yukari Nishiyama's 65 yesterday have to give everyone in the field within 10 shots of the lead (and that includes last year's money-list title-holder Rikako Morita and living legend Yuri Fudoh) just the slightest glimmer of hope.  Should be a great finish tomorrow!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Checking in on the LPGA and JLPGA: Jessica Korda, Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng, Shiho Oyama, Ayaka Watanabe, Sun-Ju Ahn Lead the Packs

Just have time for a quick update on the Blue Bay LPGA and Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies tournaments.

The LPGA event on Hainan Island was supposed to be 72 holes, but the 2nd round was washed out by heavy rains and the tournament will be reduced to 54 holes.  That puts an even greater premium on the great start by Jessica Korda, who opened with a bogey-free 31 on the front and held on for a 66 that gave her a 1-shot lead on Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng, Brittany Lang, Caroline Masson, Lee-Anne Pace, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff and a 2-shot lead on Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim, Chella Choi, Caroline Hedwall, Danielle Kang, and Dewi Claire Schreefel.  Of course, with 43 golfers within 5 shots of the lead, this is still anyone's tournament, and there are plenty of great golfers lurking.

Over on the JLPGA, Shiho Oyama has gone 65-67 to take a 1-shot lead on Ayaka Watanabe, who fired a bogey-free 63, and a 2-shot lead on Sun-Ju Ahn, who's looking for her 3rd-straight victory on tour.  The visiting Paula Creamer is 6 shots off the pace, while Ji-Yai Shin, who had gone as cold in her last few events as she had been hot in her previous dozen starts, bounced back from an opening 77 with a 66 today to make the cut by a hair.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Picks for the Blue Bay LPGA

The Blue Bay LPGA starts in about 12 hours.  For the players in the field, it's a great opportunity to take advantage of the absence of the LPGAers in the running for best 2014 in the world of women's professional golf, Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park (who, BTW, are tied atop the Rolex Rankings), not to mention Suzann Pettersen (who's gotten a huge percentage of her career victory total on tour in Asia), So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, and others Tony Jesselli mentions in his tournament preview.  For me, it's one of my last chances to get back in contention in the race to win the season-long PakPicker!  So here goes:

1. Feng, Shanshan
2. Choi
3. Ko
4. Lincicome
5. Lee Mirim
6. Nordqvist
7. Munoz
8. Yang, Amy
9. Kerr
10. Wie
11. Thompson
12. Shin

Alts:  Park Hee Young; Hur; Ciganda

This is one of those weeks where a mercurial player like Caroline Hedwall or Laura Davies could get hot or a slumping player like Ya Ni Tseng or In-Kyung Kim could find her game, however.  With so many relatively untested Chinese pros and amateurs in the field, almost any regular LPGA member could step up and win this thing!  And who knows what role "home court advantage" will play for the top Chinese golfers?

[Update 1 (6:14 am):  Inbee Park's facing off against Hyo Joo Kim, Kyu Jung Baek, and the rest of the top KLPGA players in the last major of 2014 on that tour this week.  A good finish there could land her alone at #1 in the Rolex Rankings!]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

22 Under 22: October 2014 Update

It's been awhile since I've updated my last ranking of the top 22 female professionals under 22 years of age--but they haven't stopped winning!  Leaving the list due to age are Ha Na Jang (6 KLPGA victories), Misuzu Narita (5 JLPGA victories, including 1 major), Natsuka Hori (2 JLPGA victories), Jenny Shin, Danielle Kang, and Rebecca Lee-Bentham.  They all turned 22 this year (Kang yesterday!).

In what follows, I note wins and majors on the top women's professional tours, along with Rolex Rankings and Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index ratings and ranks.

Simply the Best

1. Lydia Ko (4/24/97): 4 LPGA, 1 KLPGA, 1 LET; 9.75 RR [#3]; 69.27 GSPI [#5]
2. Lexi Thompson (2/10/95): 4 LPGA [1 major], 1 LET; 6.12 RR [#9]; 70.36 GSPI [#23]
3. Hyo Joo Kim (7/14/95): 1 LPGA/LET [major], 1 JLPGA, 6 KLPGA [2 majors]; 5.59 RR [#10]; 67.93 GSPI [n.r.]

The Next Best

4. Jessica Korda (2/27/93): 3 LPGA; 3.49 RR [#25]; 71.40 GSPI [#62]
5. Kyu Jung Baek (10/15/95): 1 LPGA, 4 KLPGA [1 major]; 4.50 RR [#13]; 70.69 GSPI [n.r.]
6. Sei Young Kim (1/21/93): 5 KLPGA [1 major]; 2.50 RR [#40]; 72.66 GSPI [n.r.]
7. In Gee Chun (8/10/94): 3 KLPGA [1 major]; 3.51 RR [#24]; 69.41 GSPI [n.r.]

Rising Stars

8. Charley Hull (3/20/96): 1 LET; 2.82 [#34]; 71.72 GSPI [#77]
9. Ariya Jutanugarn (11/23/95): 1 LET; 1.59 RR [#77]; 71.79 GSPI [#83]
10. Mamiko Higa (10/11/93): 2 JLPGA; 1.21 RR [#104]; 72.17 GSPI [#106]
11. Ai Suzuki (5/9/94): 1 JLPGA [major]; 1.10 RR [#113]; 72.11 GSPI [#111]
12. Harukyo Nomura (11/25/92): 1 JLPGA; 1.50 RR [#81]; 71.26 GSPI [#56]
13. Ayaka Watanabe (9/19/93): 1 JLPGA; 1.31 RR [#91]; 71.01 GSPI [#41]
14. Mi Hyang Lee (21): 1 LET; 1.66 RR [#72]; 71.16 GSPI [#50]
15. Phoebe Yao (12/15/92): 1 JLPGA; .95 RR [#131]; 71.50 GSPI [#67]

Quantum Leap Candidates

16. Minjee Lee (5/27/96): 1.61 RR [#76]; 70.00 GSPI [#15]
17. Jin Young Ko (7/7/95): 2.26 RR [#47]; 71.25 GSPI (n.r.)
18. Min Sun Kim (2/9/95): 1.69 RR [#69]; 72.10 GSPI (n.r.)
19. Moriya Jutanugarn (7/28/94): 1.11 RR [#111]; 72.44 GSPI [#118]
20. Su-Hyun Oh (5/23/96): .30 RR [#301]; 73.16 GSPI [n.r.]

Dark Horses

21. Hikari Fujita (9/26/94): .98 RR [#128]; 72.19 GSPI [#108]
22. Xiyu Lin (2/25/96): .95 RR [#134]; 72.47 GSPI [#121]

So who do you think should be on this list? What do you think of my ranking?  Anyone you'd expect to make it through LPGA Q-School's final stage I should be considering for when Harukyo Nomura, Jessica Korda, and Sei Young Kim graduate?

[Update 1 (12:36 pm):  Here's HappyFan on the KLPGA's Class of '95 (which includes In Gee Chun who was born a few months before that year started!).]

Monday, October 20, 2014

So Now Who Do You Think Has Had the Best 2014 in Women's Professional Golf? And Will?

So far, the title for best 2014 in women's golf is down to 8 golfers.  Each has at least 3 worldwide wins on major women's professional tours.  As impressive as Stacy Lewis has been, her difficulty in sealing the deal has opened the door to some golfers who have been racking up wins of late.  Still, Stacy's still my #1 candidate:
Of course, a lot can happen down the home stretch, with 6 JLPGA, 5 LPGA and 5 KLPGA, and 4 LET events left to go before the year is out.  Maybe someone will leave all these players in the dust if she really heats up as the temperatures continue to go down.

In a nutshell, the best of the best women golfers in the world have not yet begun to fight!  Who do you think will prevail in the end?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Weekend: Newly 19-Year-Old Kyu Jung Baek Gives Herself Birthday Present with Playoff Win Over Brittany Lincicome and In Gee Chun

Kyu Jung Baek turned 19 on October 15th but could celebrate her birthday only with an opening 74 at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship.  Yet with maturity beyond her years she figured out how to handle the winds and the Sky 72 Ocean course and her own balky back as she bounced back with rounds of 69, 68, and 67.  Her final-round back-9 31 included 5 birdies in a row and was so good that she even gave herself a chance to sink a curling downhill 6-footer on the par-5 18th for the win.  Even though she missed that putt, Baek succeeded in forcing her way into a playoff at -10 with Brittany Lincicome and 20-year-old In Gee Chun, who themselves closed with fantastic 66s to outdistance world #2 Inbee Park (68-67, -9), Michelle Wie (67-67, -8), Catriona Matthew (70-67, -8), Hyo Joo Kim (71-66, -7) and the rest of the 31 players within 5 shots of the lead with 18 holes left to play.  What's more, she learned from that miss and from Lincicome's birdie miss from a similar angle and distance on the 1st playoff hole.  Baek calmly sunk the downhill 5-footer to secure her 1st-ever LPGA victory and 4th KLPGA title of 2014.

I was able to cap off a great birthday by watching Baek catch fire on the back in the middle of the night.  In a week when heralded (and higher-ranked) under-22s struggled--Sei Young Kim hovered between 71 and 74 and finished T42 at +2, Ha Na Jang opened with an 80 and even 30-straight under-par rounds after it only got her back to T35 at +1, Lydia Ko could never get it going and finished T29 at -1, Minjee Lee was either awesome or awful (she sandwiched a 78 and a 74 between an opening 69 and a closing 64 to finish T24 at -3), and Kim needed that Sunday charge to finally get it out of neutral--Baek found her tempo and found the hole, making great chips, pitches, and sand saves when she needed to and taking advantage of almost every birdie opportunity she gave herself.  For the week, she took 15 putts fewer than Inbee Park, who has probably been the best putter in the world for at least the last 4 years.  Yes, Baek hit the fewest greens in regulation of anyone in the top 20 except Yoon Kyung Heo and Julieta Granada, but Heo had 120 putts and Granada 107 to Baek's 102.  It's that kind of putting that wins you tournaments on any tour.

Speaking of which, it'll be interesting to see if Baek decides to take up LPGA membership next year.  Will she make like Teresa Lu and decide to stay on her home tour for at least another year?  For that matter, which KLPGA stars will decide by November 18th to sign up for the final stage of LPGA Q-School?  Ha Na Jang has already expressed an interest in doing this....

Looking ahead to the inaugural Blue Bay LPGA event on Hainan Island, I'm hoping Michelle Wie will be able to play as planned.  As well as she scored on the weekend, I saw her shaking her right hand after many shots down the home stretch today.  Here's hoping she's healthy enough to keep teeing it up.  As excited as I am to watch LET winner this week Lee-Anne Pace tee it up against a bunch of Chinese up-and-comers (Xi Yu Lin, Jiayun Li, Yu Yang Zhang, Yuting Shi, Liqing Chen, star amateurs Jing Yan and Haruka Morita/Wanyao Lu, and new pros Simin Feng and Yu Liu) and veterans (Li-Ying Ye, Hongmei Yang, Hong Tian, and Panpan Yan) and LPGA stars (Lydia Ko, Shanshan Feng, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Anna Nordqvist, Azahara Munoz, Brittany Lincicome, Caroline Hedwall, Mirim Lee, Amy Yang, Morgan Pressel, and Ya Ni Tseng, among others), a tournament without Wie just doesn't have as much buzz in the U.S. and world media.  Especially because Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, and Na Yeon Choi are taking the week off to prepare for the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship (where Ai Miyazato got a sponsor invite!), the Blue Bay needs all the help it can get.

Fujitsu Ladies Sunday: Sun-Ju Ahn Prevails Over Sakura Yokomine and Erika Kikuchi in Playoff

Sun-Ju Ahn got her 2nd JLPGA victory in a row, bringing her season total to 5 and career total to 18, by triumphing over Sakura Yokomine and Erika Kikuchi with a birdie on the 1st playoff hole that earned her the Fujitsu Ladies title.

The golfer I'm trying to get everyone to recognize as "Knockout" saved her best punch for last, but for a long time it looked like she had thrown away the tournament.  When Ahn made 3 bogeys in a 5-hole stretch midway through the front 9, she dropped to -9 and gave the lead to Kikuchi, who kept it even after bogeying the 193-yard par-3 8th to fall back to -10.  But after Ahn and Kikuchi both birdied the 533-yard par-5 10th, and Kikuchi bogeyed the 405-yard par-4 11th, they found themselves tied for the lead at -10.  Then, even as Ahn stalled, Kikuchi and Yokomine went on runs:  Kikuchi birdied 3 of her next 5 holes, while Yokomine got off her 15-hole par train (dating back to the end of yesterday's round) with birdies on 14, 15, and 16.  At that point, Kikuchi was -13, Yokomine was -12, and Ahn, who birdied the par-5 16th, as well, was -11.  But Kikuchi and Yokomine bogeyed 17 and Kikuchi, needing a par to win, bogeyed it.  We had a playoff, and the rest is history.

Even though it ended up being a 3-player race to the finish, a few other players had the chance to crash the party.  Asako Fujimoto got it to -9 with 12 holes to play, but was +2 and birdieless the rest of the way to settle for T5 at -7 with Rikako Morita and Soo-Yun Kang.  Onnarin Sattayabanphot was -9 with 8 to go, but bogeyed 11, 17, and 18 to fall to T8 at -6 with Megumi Kido.  Teresa Lu's bogey-free 69 earned her a solo 4th at -8, but as 2 of her birdies came in the last 3 holes, it really was too little, too late to put any pressure on Ahn, Yokomine, and Kikuchi.  The visiting Mika Miyazato (71, E) and Ai Miyazato (74, +2) were never factors.

Ahn's win made her the fastest player in JLPGA history to break the 600 million yen barrier, beating Yokomine's record by 48 starts.  It also extended her lead on the tour money list.

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥136.09M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥110.27M
3. Ji-Yai Shin ¥96.59M
4. Misuzu Narita ¥91.57M
5. Teresa Lu ¥84.34M
6. Miki Sakai ¥83.89M
7. Na-Ri Lee ¥69.39M
8. Erina Hara ¥59.05M
9. Esther Lee ¥55.06M
10. Ayaka Watanabe ¥53.76M
11. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥52.76M
12. Shiho Oyama ¥50.25M
13. Lala Anai ¥48.41M
14. Rikako Morita ¥46.17M
15. Ritsuko Ryu ¥43.86M
16. Ai Suzuki ¥43.35M
17. Ji-Hee Lee ¥41.13M
18. Momoko Ueda ¥39.55M
19. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥37.86M
20. Erika Kikuchi ¥34.97M
21. Sakura Yokomine ¥33.89M
22. Saiki Fujita ¥33.39M
23. Kaori Ohe ¥32.16M
24. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
25. Phoebe Yao ¥30.40M
26. Mami Fukuda ¥30.05M
27. Mayu Hattori ¥29.60M
28. Yumiko Yoshida ¥29.34M
29. Junko Omote ¥29.01M
30. Asako Fujimoto ¥26.85M
31. Hikari Fujita ¥26.71M
32. Yeon-Ju Jung ¥25.68M
33. Soo-Yun Kang ¥24.16M
34. Rumi Yoshiba ¥23.92M
35. Kotono Kozuma ¥23.63M
36. Megumi Kido ¥23.62M
37. Na-Ri Kim ¥22.53M
38. Yukari Baba ¥22.47M
39. Mamiko Higa ¥21.42M
40. Natsuka Hori ¥21.31M
41. Rui Kitada ¥20.94M
42. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
43. Akane Iijima ¥20.01M
44. Yukari Nishiyama ¥19.29M
45. Miki Saiki ¥18.22M
46. Megumi Shimokawa ¥17.82M
47. Eun-Bi Jang ¥17.47M
48. Da-Ye Na ¥17.36M
49. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥16.24M
50. Nana Yamashiro ¥15.97M

Next up on the JLPGA is the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies, which Sakura Yokomine won last year.  Bo-Mee Lee and Ji-Yai Shin return to a very different tour than the one they took a break from.  Let's see if they fare better against Ahn's knockout punches than the Miyazatos and everyone else did this week!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fujitsu Ladies Saturday: Sun-Ju Ahn Leads Erika Kikuchi by 1, Sakura Yokomine by 2

Sun-Ju Ahn continued her fine play at the Fujitsu Ladies on moving day with a 5-birdie 69, but another walkoff bogey dropped her back to -11, which opened the door for a persistent Erika Kikuchi, whose bogey-free 33 on the back pulled her within 1 stroke of the lead, and Sakura Yokomine, who's had a quiet 2014 but who fired a bogey-free 65 to move to -9.  With Onnarin Sattayabanphot eagling the par-5 10th to move to -8, Mami Fukuda birdieing 4 of her last 5 holes to get to -7, and Mihoko Iseri firing her 2nd-straight 69, there are a few players who can deny Ahn her 18th career JLPGA victory tomorrow.

But Teresa Lu and Phoebe Yao at -5, Miki Sakai and Soo-Yun Kang at -4, Misuzu Narita and Yumiko Yoshida at -3, Rikako Morita and Erina Hara at -2, Shiho Oyama and Ai Suzuki at -1, and Ai Miyazato and Ji-Hee Lee at E will need to play out of their heads tomorrow (and probably get a little help from the leaders) to pull into contention.  Defending champion Na-Ri Lee and Mika Miyazato were among those who made the cut by the skin of their teeth, while the likes of Miki Saiki, Yuko Mitsuka, Esther Lee, Natsuka Hori, Mayu Hattori, Mamiko Higa, Kumiko Kaneda, and Maiko Wakabayashi ended their weeks on frustrating notes.

I'm rooting for a final-round showdown between 2 former money-list title-holders tomorrow.  I'd love to see Ahn and Yokomine play like their capable of!

Friday, October 17, 2014

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Friday: Karine Icher Leads as Volatility Reigns

It appears that anything can happen at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship!  Just take a look at a few of the scoring swings at just the halfway point of the tournament:

  • Amy Yang 69-79
  • In Gee Chun 76-67
  • Ha Na Jang 80-71
  • Minjee Lee 69-78
  • Mo Martin 78-69
  • Shanshan Feng 71-79
  • Haeji Kang 67-75
  • So Yeon Ryu 76-69
If it can happen to golfers of this caliber, it can happen to anyone!  So all credit to Karine Icher for starting 70-68 and taking a 1-shot lead on Beatriz Recari and Brittany Lincicome through 36 holes!  Well, I have a few minutes to enjoy the 3rd round coverage before I conk out--let's see if the leaders can sustain their great play and avoid the volatility that's affected some of the best in the world!

Fujitsu Ladies Friday: Sun-Ju Ahn Fires 64 to Take 1-Shot Lead on Erika Kikuchi

Even as many of the top Korean women golfers in the world have signed up for the LPGA-KLPGA dual-sponsored event this week in Korea (and attended or helped out with Inbee Park's wedding), Sun-Ju Ahn stayed on the JLPGA for the Fujitsu Ladies and rewarded herself with a 64 that even included a walkoff bogey.

She's not alone at the top of the leaderboard, but Knockout doesn't have much company there, either.  Erika Kikuchi birdied 5 holes in a row to start the tournament and had 8 through her 1st 13 holes, but she made 2 bogeys (and her 9th birdie of the day!) coming home and had to settle for a 65.  Onnarin Sattayabanphot fired a bogey-free 67 to keep the leaders within sight, Teresa Lu eagled the par-4 9th on her way to a 68, Rumi Yoshiba had a 6-birdie 68, and Phoebe Yao, Kaori Nakamura, and Mihoko Iseri stayed within 5 shots of Ahn.

In fact, the biggest other names in the field were pretty much left in the dust:

  • 70: Sakura Yokomine, Misuzu Narita, Erina Hara, Yumiko Yoshiba, Ayaka Watanabe
  • 71: Rikako Morita, Miki Sakai
  • 72: Ai Miyazato, Shiho Oyama, Mamiko Higa, Ai Suzuki
  • 73: Ji-Hee Lee
  • 74: Yuko Mitsuka
  • 75: Mika Miyazato, Miki Saiki, Natsuka Hori
Defending champion Na-Ri Lee had an unexpectedly tough day, opening with a birdieless 77.  Let's see if she can bounce back tomorrow and if anyone can make a move on Ahn!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Thursday: Haeji Kang Leads; Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer Struggle

I mentioned the volatility in players' results at the LPGA LEB-HanaBank Championship yesterday, and that was certainly borne out today.  A lot of players came into the 1st round hot and came out more or less frozen:
  • Ha Na Jang 80
  • Ji-Yai Shin 77
  • So Yeon Ryu 76
  • In Gee Chun 76
  • Na Yeon Choi 75
  • Kyu Jung Baek 74
Others came in with big question marks, whether from injury or uneven play of late, and really struggled:
  • Paula Creamer 81
  • Mo Martin 78
  • Lexi Thompson 77
  • Michelle Wie 76
Other favorites hung around but didn't do anything all that special today:
  • 71:  Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng
  • 72:  Hyo Joo Kim, Azahara Munoz, Cristie Kerr, Mi Jung Hur
  • 73:  Lydia Ko, Anna Nordqvist, Brittany Lang, Pornanong Phatlum
I'd say the newlywed should feel pretty good about her round, but everyone else won't have quite her quota of happiness to cushion the pain of shots thrown away.

So who did play well to kick off the 1st-ever 4-round version of this tournament?
  • 67:  Haeji Kang
  • 69:  Amy Yang, Minjee Lee, Mirim Lee, Ilhee Lee, Catriona Matthew
  • 70:  Suzann Pettersen, Chella Choi, Beatriz Recari, Brittany Lincicome, Eun-Hee Ji, Sandra Gal, Hee Kyung Bae, Kim Kaufman
I didn't have time to watch the coverage last night and am way too tired after a full day of work and a drive to central NY (on the way to union thug business in Albany tomorrow and Saturday) to stay up for the round currently in progress.  But I'll try to do an earlier (and better) round 2 report tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Picks for the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship

I've really got to get it into gear with my PakPicking this fall, as I'm slipping down the rankings, but with work really heating up, I haven't had have time to research the tournaments on the fall Asian Swing to my satisfaction.  I guess it's a good thing that players have had such volatile results at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship, then.  Better to just go with my gut!

1. Kim Hyo Joo
2. Choi Na Yeon
3. Shin Ji-Yai
4. Ryu So Yeon
5. Feng
6. Ko
7. Park Inbee
8. Phatlum
9. Pettersen
10. Lee Mirim
11. Lee Minjee
12. Yang, Amy

Alts: Choi Chella; Nordqvist; Kim Ha-Neul

Here are some KLPGA stats, btw!  For more, see my rundown of worldwide 2014 winners in women's major-tour professional golf--click on the winners' names for links to how they won and who almost beat 'em!

[Update 1 (7:40 am):  Word on Seoul Sisters is that Ha Na Jang intends to go to LPGA Q-School if she doesn't win this week.  I probably should have put her in my top 12, but that's life!]

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Farewell, Dai-chan: Daisuke Takahashi Retires from Competitive Figure Skating

The Constructivist household is in mourning for the retirement of Daisuke Takahashi from competitive figure skating.  Ever since we found out, I've been asking the Full Metal Archivist to write something celebrating his career, but she's still dealing with the shock of the news and is just too sad to put her feelings into words.  What she has told me has been poetic:  "he flirted with the music, seduced audiences, and challenged judges...he was a shaman on the ice."  So I'll just point you too her April 2010 "Luv Letter" for now.  More on his legacy later!