Friday, July 27, 2007

Evian Masters Second Round: New Pairings of Interest

In my preview of the Evian Masters, I assumed that the following juicy pairings would stand for the first two days of the tournament and thus was all prepared to report on who won over the two-day tournament-within-a-tournament here today:

Lorena Ochoa (72)/Karrie Webb (70)
Paula Creamer (75)/Ai Miyazato (73)
Ji Yai Shin (73)/Seon Hwa Lee (72)
Morgan Pressel (73)/Michelle Wie (73)
Annika Sorenstam (71)/Laura Davies (71)
Angela Stanford (73)/Sherri Steinhauer (72)

Well, after finding the time to read the first round interviews and look at the pairings for Friday's round, I now realize they're using the weekend method for three rounds rather than two. On the bright side, this leads to interesting new head-to-head match-ups:

Miyazato/Wie: hmm, maybe the Japanese media will pay a wee bit more attention to this tournament now?
Prammanasudh/Stanford: top Americans who deserve more recognition--who will make a move up the leaderboard?
Ahn/Lang: who will end their 2007 slide/slump this week?
Kerr/Ochoa/Gulbis: can Natalie hang with the best in the world? can they get into contention?
Steinhauer/Seon Hwa Lee: who will make a move to contend this week?
Sorenstam/Meena Lee: who will end their 2007 slide this week?
Francella/Hjorth: reprise of their HSBC match play quarterfinals showdown--can Francella beat Hjorth this time?
Webb/Angela Park/Ashleigh Simon: can the LPGA Rookie of the Year favorite outplay the world #2? can the LET's new star keep pace with her partners?
Mi Hyun Kim/Jang: can Jang jumpstart her 2007 season by keeping pace with the top Korean golfer in the world?

Other questions I'm interested in: Can fast-rising Super Sophs like Kyeong Bae and Linda Wessberg continue their fine starts? Can Pat Hurst and Christina Kim, not the steadiest of golfers, pull ahead of the field or will they self-destruct? Will KLPGA tour stars continue to shine and JLPGA stars continue to struggle? All I can say is, gambare, gambare, U-e-da!

Play has already begun. We should have a good sense of where the cut line will fall in a couple of hours. With some luck after our dinner engagement, I'll be able to report on the action in real time. And yes, all the boxes (but two that can't be finished yet anyway) got shipped. Moving Day in Fukuoka is over and we survived it.

[Update 1 (7/28/07, 5:21 am): First things first--go to Hound Dog's second-round summary. After you get the main story from him, you can follow my follow-up to my above questions from yesterday afternoon.

After tying Morgan Pressel on Thursday, Michelle Wie straight up beat Ai Miyazato on Friday. At E she's T28 for the tournament, 1 shot ahead of Pressel and 2 up on Miyazato. Stanford (74) played less badly than Prammanasudh (77), but both are at or near the back of the pack. So is the slumping Brittany Lang (74), who got totally outclassed by Shi Hyun Ahn (69), now sitting pretty at -2 for the tournament (T14). Natalie Gulbis (69) shocked me by beating both Lorena Ochoa (70) and Cristie Kerr (73), thanks to a closing birdie barrage on 4 of her last 6 holes; at -3, she's T6 and in the best position to contend on the weekend in a long long time. Great for her (and for me--I had picked her as a top 11 player at the beginning of the season), but still a huge surprise. Both the normally steady British Open champion Sherri Steinhauer (73) and HSBC match play champion Seon Hwa Lee (74) made moves in the wrong direction on Friday (Lee had 3 bogeys and a double--on 18!--to offset 4 birdies on the back)--another surprise. So did Meena Lee (73), who got toasted by the only-85% Annika Sorenstam (69), now -4 for the tournament, tied for 3rd, and only 3 shots off the lead. In a even more lopsided result, Maria Hjorth (71) continued her recent dominance over the injured Meaghan Francella (79), who barely made the cut. Meanwhile, Karrie Webb and Ashleigh Simon (72s) hung in there, while Angela Park (74) struggled. And Jeong Jang (71) squeaked by Mi Hyun Kim (72) to join Sorenstam in 3rd place at -4. Linda Wessberg (72), Kyeong Bae (74), and Momoko Ueda (67) all joined Gulbis and Kim at T6, along with charging veterans Laura Davies, Juli Inkster, and Sophie Gustafson, but Pat Hurst (76) and Christina Kim (75) did indeed take giant steps backward, joining KLPGA stars Ji Yai Shin (70), Sun Ju Ahn (73), and Eun-Hee Ji (76) in the barely-under-par group of golfers 5-6 shots out of the lead.

The Super Sophs are not looking as super as they usually do (especially Jee Young Lee, who needed 5 birdies today to offset her 5 doubles and a triple in her first two rounds!), but with the exception of Julieta Granada, whom I was sure was coming out of her slump, they all made the cut. We'll see how they--and leaders Diana D'Alessio and Jin Joo Hong at -7--handle the weekend pressure.

So go check out the second-round interviews and third-round pairings until the action starts up again!]

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