Well the weather outside Clifton, NJ, may or may not be that frightful (the LPGA.com weather link is down and The Weather Channel just says mid-50s and cloudy), but more than a few players are tearing up the course early on moving day at the Sybase Classic. When I first checked in, it seemed that only co-leaders Sarah Lee (birdie-par-birdie-birdie-birdie-par-birdie-par-par: -14) and Lorena Ochoa (par-birdie-birdie-par-eagle-birdie-bogey-par-birdie: -14) were doing it, but lately others have been making their moves, too. Sherri Steinhauer birdied the first par 5 on the front and eagled the second to get to -8 through 8 (but then bogeyed 9) and Young Jo birdied three of five holes midway through the front to get to -7 through 8 (but then matched her bogey on 2 with a bogey on 9). Nobody else who started the day close to the co-leaders has made a move yet (except Jane Park, and it's in the wrong direction: +2 through 9 thanks to a double on 4 to fall back to -5), although to give them credit Juli Inkster (-6 for the tournament through 9) and Brittany Lincicome (-5 through 10) have played solidly thus far.
Still, Young Kim has birdied every par 5 and one par 4 so far to get to -5 through 12 and the ubiquitous Suzann Pettersen had an early birdie-eagle-birdie stretch to get to -5 through 5 but is still there through 11 now. It's nice to see rookie Angela Park outplay legends Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak with a 34 on the front, but as she had gotten to -6 through 5, it's clear she's cooled off a bit lately, too, and is only -5 through 10.
So the big question of the day--with Lee and Ochoa 7 shots up on the field after the front 9, with both playing great this year and this week, and with both comfortable going very low (and capable of switching to conservative mode if the weather takes a turn for the worse)--is, who is going to make a move on the back to turn this into something other than a Sunday Showdown between our co-leaders?
[Update 1 (3:00 am): Apparently not Pettersen--she tripled 12. To give her credit, she birdied 13 to get back among the top 20 in the field, but she's still hanging back with Webb, Pressel, Lang, Kang, Rankin, and Min at -3 instead of with the kewl kidz at -5 through -7 trying to chase down the lead pair.]
[Update 2 (3:20 am): So after two-and-a-half rounds at this course, it appears that the first 11 holes, with 3 par 5s in the bunch, are the ones to take advantage of if you want to go low. Most of the leaders not named Ochoa have made their mark on these holes. However, as Ochoa's incredible play on the back shows, if you can play the tough 12th as well as you played the equally tough 9th, you can think about making another run on the last 6 holes (especially with the 18th being a par 5). Kate Golden is a great example of this, having birdied three of her first four holes on the back to get to -6 through 13 (despite having shot 37 and 38 on the back the previous two days). At only 2-under through 11, we'll see if Inkster, Steinhauer, and Jo can get hot and make it a 5-person race, but they'll have to have the toughness of Pettersen, who just birdied another hole to get two-thirds of the way to erasing her triple. Angela Park, at -3 through 11 today, has the third-best start of the leaders--too bad for her it's the co-leaders who have the two best starts, with Lee at -6 and Ochoa -5 through 10.]
[Update 3 (3:23 am): Looks like another software glitch--the site hasn't been updated for 10 minutes and you can't look at scorecards anymore--so I'll be back at the end of the round.]
[Update 4 (3:50 am): Ah, it may be a problem on my end--I'm not getting any non-Japanese sites to show up on my browser. So I'll note that after two rounds at the Chukyo Open, Momoko Ueda is a co-leader, two shots up on Mi Jeong Jeon, who's gunning for her fourth consecutive win on the JLPGA. I wonder when the young guns of the JLPGA--Sakura Yokomine, Shinobu Moromizato, and Ueda, especially--will follow Ai-chan to the LPGA? They have to be able to do better than Riko Higashio!]
[Update 5 (4:13 am): I'm glad to see the Japan Times added this article on the surge of interest in golf among girls in Japan to their website!]
[Update 6 (7:05 am): Hound Dog has the 3rd round results, and I agree with him it's a two-player race between Lee (-16) and Ochoa (-14). With better weather coming to Clifton, I could see a few people going sub-65 Sunday, but even if the right people do, you can count on the leaders to go sub-70. I think Lee will hold off Ochoa. If I ever get access to non-Japanese web sites again, I'll get to find out for myself how good that Mostly Harmless crystal ball is this week (I'm feeling pretty good about its top 20 predictions from a few posts back). (BTW, I can still get into blogger and read blogspot.com sites, so assuming the worst I'm counting on Hound Dog to do some live blogging tomorrow....)]
[Update 7 (6:41 pm): I got my connection back--woo! Here are the interviews with Lee and Ochoa. And here are the pairings for Sunday's round. Looks like a nice Angela Park-In Kyung Kim-Na On Min-Jane Park rookie showdown to match the Lee-Ochoa one. And Brittany Lang will be trying to hold off Morgan Pressel for top Super Soph honors.]