When I lived in New Jersey in grad school in the 1990s, I was struck by how early spring would arrive. Having grown up in central NY, my expectations for spring were very low--something like two weeks in late May when you could see the first brave flowers poke through the mud--although I did play enough college golf to have learned a lot about keeping warm with patches of snow still on the course (and why it's important to keep your ball out of them). So southern Jersey was like a tropical climate to me--spring was no longer the muddy and short interlude between winter and summer, but a time in which normal golf was possible. I expected that kind of thing while my family lived in North Carolina for a year back when I was in junior high school, but I always thought NJ's climate was roughly the same as NY's. Nice surprise, although from the point of view of spring in Japan, I have to say I was rather easily impressed back then. My point is, it wasn't such a risk for the LPGA to come to northern Jersey for the Sybase Classic, weather-wise. But as the cold morning and not much warmer afternoon show, it still was a bit of a risk, at least to low scoring.
Not for leader Sarah Lee, mind you, who made four birdies and an eagle to offset three bogeys and ended up at -9. Nor for Young Jo, who made three birdies on each side on her way to a 67, good enough for the low round of the day and second place in the clubhouse at -5. And not for Nina Reis, who continued her "make a lot of birdies and bogeys" policy from yesterday on her way to a 71 today, which got her to -1 for the tournament (T21 so far) and within striking distance of fellow Super Soph in Waiting Hye Jung Choi, who could only manage a 73 today (-3, amazingly still T8 right now). A few other people kept it in the low 70s and moved into the top 30 by doing so, among them former Rookie of the Year Dorothy Delasin (71, -1, T21). And Maggie Will and Meg Mallon got moral victories at least by firing a pair of 70s, the third-best number of the day so far, even though Will is very unlikely to make the cut and Mallon won't.
But for most of the field, Friday was moving backwards day. Some only moved a little backwards, like rookie Paige Mackenzie (74, +2, T47) and my end-of-season top 11 picks Kyeong Bae (73, +3, T55) and Seon Hwa Lee (76, +3, T55). But many moved right back to or behind the cut line, headed by Jeong Jang (80, +7, T105), but including such potential Super Sophs as Linda Wessberg (78, +6, T95), Teresa Lu (77, +6, T95), Sun Young Yoo (77, +4, T70), Minea Blomqvist (77, +10, T126), and Karin Sjodin (74, +4, T70). And those weren't even the ugliest rounds of the day: 8 players joined Jang in failing to break 80.
The afternoon scores are getting better, though. Sure, Mi Hyun Kim shot a 38 on the back to fall back to +4, right with Julieta Granada and Moira Dunn on the cut line as of now at T70. And Catriona Matthew, at five-over through 12, has free-fallen to +2 (T47) with 6 holes to play. But the contenders have begun to do some exciting things. Lorena Ochoa may be getting some momentum on the back, having birdied 11 and 12 to get to -6. Brittany Lincicome is keeping pace with her. Juli Inkster (-4 through 11) has the best round of the afternoon players going and Brittany Lang (-3 through 10) has joined her at -5 (T4). Laura Davies (-3 through 11) and Sherri Steinhauer (-2 with 5 holes on the front left to play) have gotten to -4 (T7). Even rookie Sarah Lynn Sargent is getting in the act, birdieing three of her first five holes in a strong bid to make the cut (+3, T55).
The cut line keeps going back and forth between +3 and +4. Lee's -9 looks like it'll hold up as best start of the tournament, but it looks like she may have 10-20 people within striking distance over the weekend. That's where things stand now at the Sybase Classic.
[Update 1 (4:52 am): WTF?! The LPGA's scoreboard software must be glitchy today! All of a sudden the leaderboard has changed drastically! I'm going back to edit the original post. Be right back. (Actually, I went back and re-edited the post to go back the way it was; the glitch actually occurred during my first and second updates, which I'm leaving up for no good reason except the time I put into them!--TC, 7:55 am.)]
[Update 2 (5:20 am): First the corrections: Sarah Lee is still on the course; she just bogeyed 2 and doubled 3 to fall back to -5 for the tournament, 1 shot behind Lincicome, and 2 shots behind Ochoa, who definitely is getting hot. Meena Lee is still right in the tournament at -2 with 9 holes to go (I erased the part of my original post that had her over par after round 2 before I realized it wasn't my mistake but an LPGA.com glitch). Seon Hwa Lee, Kyeong Bae, and Sun Young Yoo (what is it with the software screwing with Koreans' scores?) are also still on the course--none are playing particularly well, but all have a good shot to make the cut (as does Mi Hyun Kim, by the way, who just birdied 3 and 5 to get back to +2 on the tournament). The same can't be said for Linda Wessberg, who, like Moira, will either need a strong finish or weak finishes from others to move the cut line back to +4. Maggie Will is also still on the course and holds her fate in her hands: she's having a good round at two-under through 15, but she's still at +5 for the tournament. OK, updates to come in a second now that I finished these corrections!]
[Update 3 (5:40 am): The 5th and 7th holes are reachable par-5s, so those who started on the back today have a great opportunity to post strong finishes. Sherri Steinhauer is one such person--she has just leapfrogged into second after birdieing both of them, along with 3 others in her last 8 holes. But she's two shots behind Ochoa, who has birdied 4 of her last 8 holes, all on the back, after making 3 birdies and 3 bogeys on the front. Lang, Inkster, and Davies are three-under on their days with less than 5 holes to play for each; Karrie Webb is making a late move to join them in the -4 to -5 range, having birdied 13 and 16 to get to -3 for the tournament (she'd be right in the thick of things if she hadn't tripled 12 on Thursday!). Jimin Kang is making a bit of a move on the front, having birdied 1, 3, and 5 to get to -1 for the tournament; Suzann Pettersen is also back under par after birdies on 16 and 17. Ashli Bunch shot a 32 on the back and has lots of birdie opportunities ahead of her to improve on her T31 position (E), and pass people like Meaghan Francella, Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis, and Reilley Rankin, who have fallen back to the -1 to E range. Sarah Lynn Sargent is now also 4-under today. Moira Dunn and Julieta are both at +5 with two holes left to play--they need to birdie out to ensure making the cut and get at least 1 to avoid missing the cut, as Maggie Will ended up doing, after all.]
[Update 4 (5:57 am): What is going on with LPGA.com today?! Sarah Lee's scorecard looks exactly like it did before I started updating and editing this post! Ochoa shot a 31 on the back to tie her for the lead going into the weekend. After doubling 12, Morgan Pressel birdied 16 and 18 to get back to -2 on the tournament (T14). More after breakfast!]
[Update 5 (6:57 am): It's very strange that all the scores I struck during my Update 2 edit/correction ended up being right. So far 10 people have failed to break 80. And probably only 10-15 people have a chance to catch Lee and Ochoa, after all. Rookie Jane Park is one of them, courtesy of a birdie-double-eagle-par-birdie run midway through her round--we'll see if she can get alone in third closer than the 4 shots behind the leaders she is now, with 4 left to play.]
[Update 6 (8:22 am): Well, as I didn't quite figure out in the previous two updates, I was right the first time! I've changed the post back to its original language. Now that the round is over, I'm pretty sure it's not a software glitch that Jane Park finished strong to post a 68 and get within two shots of Lee and Ochoa. Like them, she has a great chance tomorrow to distance herself from the rest of the leaders, none of whom were able to put two sub-70 rounds together and hence are bunched between -5 (T4) and -3 (T11). With 31 people at par or better, there are still many opportunities for weekend charges (witness Jeanne Cho-Hunicke's 69 that got her right on the cut line at +4; if a non-exempt rookie can do this, anyone can!). With 4 rookies under par and 6 Super Sophs at par or better, there are some good races-within-the-race, as well, not to mention the question of whether Inkster, Pak, Davies, and Webb will be able to capitalize on their fine starts. On a tree-lined course, with sketchy weather predicted for the weekend--another cold and probably rainy day Saturday and warmer, although possibly still rainy, weather Sunday--anything can happen and no lead is safe. How the weather affects players in Saturday's pairings will definitely be worth watching--the cliche that everyone plays under the same conditions definitely does not hold true when the weather is changeable like it will be tomorrow.]
[Update 7 (8:54 am): They're clearly trying to fix their scoreboard at LPGA.com. Hopefully they'll get that straightened out soon. Sooner than the media straightens out their questions in interviews, probably. More fun, especially with Park and Steinhauer!]