Sunday, April 1, 2007

Not-Quite-Live-Blogging III: Only the LPGA's First Major Edition

OK, so the final round of the LPGA's first major of 2007, the Kraft Nabisco Championship (formerly the Dinah Shore Golf Championship), is under way. I'm excited enough about it to forgo some sleep and follow the action here at Mostly Harmless.

First, a word about the pairings. The first group off the first tee--Angela Park/Sakura Yokomine/Laura Diaz--is interesting to me because it has the leader in the 2007 Rookie of the Year race, a much-hyped though underachieving Japanese golfer, and a wily NY veteran. My friend Moira Dunn went off at 8:12, two groups behind the Annika Sorenstam/Pat Hurst pairing and right ahead of the Angela Stanford/Karrie Webb/Mi Hyun Kim group. Of course the final three groups will get the most attention from CBS, but the 8:56 pairing--Lorena Ochoa/Ai Miyazato/Jee Young Lee--interests me the most, as the first two are among my top 5 favorite golfers and the third is having a great sophomore year, despite having been outplayed and overshadowed last year by her better-known rookie peers.

So how are people doing early? Jee Young Lee eagled the first hole to jump ahead of Ai-chan and Lorena, who only parred it, and get to even par, 4 shots off the lead. Angela Park is the only one playing decent early on in her group, and even she is one-over through 7 holes. Moira is also off to a solid start--unlike Sorenstam and Hurst. Angela Stanford and Karrie Webb birdied their first hole to get to +3 for the tournament, a two-stroke swing on Mi Hyun Kim, who is now two-over through 3 holes. Juli Inkster is the second-hottest golfer on the course; two-under through 6 holes, she is at +4 and tied for 20th with Cristie Kerr and Karrie Webb (who just bogeyed the third). For these golfers in the race for the top 20, getting under par over the first 12 holes is a must, as the last 6 holes are among the most treacherous in golf.

OK, updates will follow as interesting things happen.

[Update 1 (1:38 am): Ai-chan birdied the second--she's tied with Lorena at +1, 5 shots off the lead. There are now 15 people with a realistic chance of winning today. Oh, and Scott Eric Kaufman is fucking funny.]

[Update 2 (2:24 pm): Inkster is the only one keeping her momentum and is two-under through 10. This does not bode well for everyone chasing the final threesome of Se Ri Pak (-5), Suzann Pettersen (-4), and Meaghan Francella (-4), because the way they've been playing, going even or one-under for the first 12 holes today will not cut it if you weren't already under par at the start of the day. There are a lot of people at E or -1 for the round thus far--including Annika now, but not Creamer, Ahn, Ochoa, Webb, Kim, or, sadly, Dunn (already +2 through 8, dammit, and T29!)--but no one is putting any real pressure on the leaders just yet. Of course, the course itself puts enough pressure on its own to keep this tournament wide open yet, but you don't want to be more than 3 back with 6 holes to go if winning the year's first major happens to be a goal of yours.]

[Update 3 (3:20 pm): What a difference an hour makes! Hee-Young Park (-2 today through 12 but with 5 birdies) and Heather Young (-1 today through 11 but with 3 birdies) show that there are birdies to be had on the back 9 and are continuing their good play onto the front, despite recent bogeys. Jee Young Lee has followed up a bogey with a birdie to return to -2 on the day and E for the tournament through her first 8 holes. But the big development is that new mom Catriona Matthews has put together four birdies and a bogey in her first 7 holes and Stacy Prammanasudh has put together three birdies in that same span to pull within one and two shots respectively of leader Se Ri Pak, who's at -5 for the tournament through her first 5 holes. Pettersen and Francella have weathered a bad stretch and remain within a few shots of the lead, while Lincicome and Pressel are hanging tough and still in the thick of things. Meanwhile, Paula Creamer and Lorena Ochoa are moving backwards fast, Juli Inkster has bogeyed two in a row to fall back to E on the day, and Karrie Webb and Moira Dunn have battled their way back to match Inkster's round. And this is all before most of these folks have reached the back 9! Stay tuned!]

[Update 4 (3:51 am): OK, things are just about to get interesting. Angela Stanford is -3 through 12 holes today and is about to enter the Twilight Zone of the last 6. It'll be interesting to see if she, Ai-chan, and Jee Young Lee, who are all at +1 for the tournament and under par on the day, can make a charge on the back 9 and put themselves into contention--and if Paula Creamer, who's also at +1 on the day by way of being +4 through 8 holes, can arrest her free fall and work her way back up the leaderboard. There are still 15 golfers with a realistic chance to win today, but the odds are getting longer for 9 of them--everyone in the middle of the pack who got to two- or three-under on their rounds at some point today has been unable to sustain the pace, and two of them lost their momentum while playing the easier (front) side. The course is tough.]

[Update 5 (4:25 am): Here's how good Lorena Ochoa is. After playing her previous 26 holes at 8-over, she birdies 11 and 12 to get back to +1 for the tournament and 6 shots back of Suzann Pettersen as she enters the Twilight Zone and Pettersen enters the back 9. Given the way she came back on Pettersen last week down the home stretch, I wouldn't count her out. Shi Hyun Ahn is as tough as they come, too; like Ochoa, she is back to E for the day (and -1 for the tournament) after a bad start to her round today that made it look like she wasn't going to bounce back from her second disastrous back 9 in a row on Saturday. If the group at -4 for the tournament--Stacy Prammanasudh (-4 through 11 today), Catriona Matthew (-3 through 11), and Se Ri Pak (E through 9)--have anything to say about it, though, this will end up being a four-player race. BTW, there's a neat race to see who's the second-best Japanese golfer, as Yuri Fudoh, Shiho Oyama, and Sakura Yokomine are all tied at +11. And Moira remains E for the day with 3 holes to go, T21 for now. Go Moira!]

[Update 6 (5:08 am): Moira rocks! She just shot a bogey-free 33 on the back 9 today to finish with a 71 and end the tournament at +4, good enough for 19th place right now. In other news, amateur Stacy Lewis is three-under through 15 holes today and only 4 shots behind leader Suzann Pettersen, who just opened up a two-shot lead on Se Ri Pak and a three-shot lead on Stacy Prammanasudh, Catriona Matthew, and Brittany Lincicome by making her fourth birdie in her last 8 holes. Shi Hyun Ahn bogeyed two in a row just to prove me wrong in my last update. Could it be a third disastrous back 9 for her in a row? But she's not alone: Pak, Ochoa, and Webb are now over par on the day, Ai-chan bogeyed two in row in the Twilight Zone to join them, Inkster and Hee-Young Park could only manage 73s despite their hot starts, Sorenstam ballooned to a 75, and others did far worse. In fact, Moira is one of only 7 people who are under par today--and the only one to have finished her round. This is definitely a good sign for the rest of the year for her, as difficult as it is for NYers to start strong in the spring.]

[Update 7 (5:20 am): Congrats to Angela Stanford--she just posted a 69, which is likely to be the best round of the day. In case you were wondering, Yuri Fudoh is likely to win the race for second-best Japanese golfer in the field--unless top 10 in the world Shiho Oyama finishes strong. And, yes, there's just no way she deserves that ranking--the Rolex Rankings give too much credit for JPLGA tour finishes, given the tour's weakness compared to the KLPGA. Realistically, it's down to an 8-person race for the win right now--everyone else is over par on the day and unlikely to get low enough to put pressure on those at -2 or better.]

[Update 8 (6:06 am): Well, Moira's and Angela S's rounds are looking better than ever, as there are only three people left on the course under par and they're all moving backwards. Even more impressive, though, is Morgan Pressel's 69, which puts her at -3 for the tournament, two shots behind Suzann Pettersen and ahead of everyone else in the field. If Pettersen falters and no one else steps up, Pressel would become the youngest winner of a major in LPGA history and also the youngest winner of the KNC.]

[Update 9 (7:25 am): Hmmm, maybe that Mostly Harmless 100-Yen Crystal Ball is actually working--Pettersen collapsed, no one else stepped up, and Pressel won! Amazing and heartbreaking finish for so many people--too bad imoto's waking up even earlier than usual made me miss it, and that Japanese network TV apparently only will air the LPGA when Ai-chan is among the leaders, so I'll miss it twice--spyder, care for an update in comments? Just to further support the idea that the MH100YCB is half-way decent, let's recap the Twilight Zone's evil powers. +5: Pak (T10). +4: Pettersen (T2). +3: Prammanasudh (T5), Creamer (T15). +2: Matthew (T2), Miyazato (T15). +1: Lincicome (T2), Francella (T5), J.Y. Lee (T13), S. Lee (T13), Lang (T15). And that's just among those who had a chance to win at the start of the day. So congrats to Morgan and condolences to everyone else. Let's hope her victory motivates Michelle Wie to come back from her two wrist injuries in time to give herself a chance to break Morgan's record in the three remaining majors this year. More after the money list and world ranking updates come out.]

[Update the Last (4/3/07, 3:53 am): As promised, here's the link to the new Rolex Rankings. Ochoa's bad finish means she's still .3 points behind Sorenstam, while Pressel jumps 13 spots to #4 in the world, Suzann Pettersen 12 spots to #20, Brittany Lincicome 10 to #21, Catriona Matthew 9 to #31, Meaghan Francella 25 to #49, Angela Park 14 to #97, and Moira Dunn 36 to #180. The money list should be has been updated soon now, just under twenty-four hours since I posted this final update. So I'm adding the money list position in [] in the next couple of sentences (for example, Dunn [49]--yeah!). Going back to my beginning-of-the-year predictions, it certainly looks like many of the folks I neglected to put in my top 11 are for real (uh, Pressel [1]-Creamer [6]-Prammanasudh [3]-Francella [5]-J.Y. Lee [7]-Pettersen [4]-Matthew [8]-Granada [12]-Ahn [11]-Stanford [15]) and some that I did are struggling (uh, Gulbis [65]-M. Lee [71] in particular, but Sorenstam [10]-Webb [16]-Kerr [25]-Miyazato [19]-S.H. Lee [32]-M.H. Kim [22]-S.R. Pak [27] have plenty of room for improvement, too), but it's a long season and in the end only supports my point that you're not going to see much of a separation between the #1 and #15 players on the money list this year. (For those unconvinced that money is the best measure of success, it's worth parsing together the scoring average, rounds under par, and birdies lists, to get an overall feel for how someone is scoring [Mi Hyun Kim provides a great example of why combining these stats is useful]; and you can get a sense of how well someone's ballstriking, short game, and putting are going by parsing together their driving accuracy, greens in regulation, sand saves, putting average, and putts per green in regulation stats.) Moving up is going to take top 3s and anything but top 10s opens the door for everyone else in the top 30--we're talking that kind of pressure in every tournament this year. It'll be interesting to see who handles it the best. I can't help but hope that Michelle Wie looks at the quality of competition on the LPGA and sets her sights on being world #1 by age 20. She has plenty of time to take on the men--and should keep doing so as often as she feels like it--but she's going to have to work really hard on her short game to even be the top American woman golfer next year. Just saying.]

3 comments:

spyder said...

looks like (for the moment) Petterson is seeing big cups on those greens, and Stacy just missed a crucial green sitting up in a bunker. Your girl Meghann is under par for the day and moving up the leader board.

Stacy round is going the way of so many others this week, being eaten on the 14th... aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggg

alas we shall have to see what the rest of this back nine does to these players

spyder said...

Meghann Pressel.. looking good at 3 under (with a 69) and Petterson in such deep trouble at 16.. this could be the whole tournament right here at this whole....

The Constructivist said...

spyder, can you hit the high points of the finishing holes for those you care to? I'm shocked at how few birdies there were on 18 today. What's up with that?