Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pressel Rises to the Challenge in 3rd Round--Can She Pass Pak on Sunday?

Well, well, well, I had Morgan Pressel pegged as the kind of player for whom a 68 was a low round--steady, consistent, not prone to making many mistakes (despite that back 9 on Open Sunday), but not someone yet who was capable of going really low. So much for that idea. Her 64 on moving day at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic vaulted her into second place, only two shots behind leader Se Ri Pak. She made more birdies in her third round than her previous two rounds combined to get to -11 and put pressure on Pak, who's looking for her fifth career victory at this tournament alone.

The experience/youth dialectic defined the rest of Saturday's top 20, as well. The LPGA's youth movement was out in full force. Rookie In-Kyung fired a 65 (including a 27 on the front!) to get to -8, alone in third; third-year pro Alena Sharp's 67 more than erased yesterday's 74 and got her alone in fourth at -7; and Super Soph in Waiting Linda Wessberg had one of her best rounds in the States (she's won this year in Europe), a 66 that got her to -6 and a tie for 5th. Super Soph Seon Hwa Lee caught surprising rookie Jin Young Pak at -3 (T15), while the same pattern occurred with Jee Young Lee and Mikaela Parmlid at -2 (T20). Meanwhile, superstar veterans Laura Davies, Laura Diaz, and Meg Mallon joined fellow veteran Carri Wood and Wessberg at -6 (T5), while Wendy Ward and Beth Bader joined Angela Stanford at -5 (T10). Like Stanford, fellow "tweeners" Stacy Prammanasudh, Jeong Jang, and Candie Kung played their way into the top 20.

So Sunday opened with two races--for the win, between Pak and Pressel, and for the top 5, between the rest of the top 20--for with the wind up on the weekend, it would be unlikely for anyone else to get double digits below par. Pak let Pressel right back in it with 2 bogeys over her first 5 holes, and Pressel took advantage, making 2 birdies and 1 bogey over that same stretch to grab a 1 stroke lead. The lightning struck--a hole-in-one for Pressel on the 6th hole. Pak's birdie kept her within 2 strokes, however, and as the Super Soph parred out the front, the Hall of Famer kept the birdies coming on the 8th and 9th to pull back to even with Pressel at -14. And that's how they stayed until the 15th hole, when Pak made another birdie. So with three holes to go, including 2 par 5s, anything can happen. Meanwhile, the vets were moving up the leaderboard. Who will win? Who will get a top 5? Stay tuned! [Update 9 (9:00 am): Or just head to Hound Dog's LPGA Blog for a recap that has the benefit of finer wordsmithing and actually being able to watch the action on ESPN2!]

[Update 1 (5:25 am): Pak and Pressel traded pars on 16. The par 5s will decide this one. The shorter-hitting Super Soph is 4 under on them in the tournament, while the long Hall of Famer is only 3 under. Meanwhile, journeywoman Carri Wood is 1 hole away from the best finish of her career. A par or better will put her at -9 or better, almost guaranteed to be alone in 3rd place, unless Laura Diaz, Laura Davies, Linda Wessberg, or In-Kyung Kim do something crazy on their final hole or two. If they do, too bad for Wendy Ward, who finished at -8 and is tied for 4th right now; it would be a great story for a veteran coming off a rib injury to post a top 5!]

[Update 2 (5:29 am): Damn, the Mostly Harmless jinx strikes again! Wood bogeyed 18, bringing everyone at -8 into a tie for 3rd. Good news for Wendy Ward, though.]

[Update 3 (5:45 am): Pak and Pressel traded birdies on 17. It's down to 18!]

[Update 4 (5:55 am): Ward, Wood, Davies, and Diaz ended up sharing 3rd place at -8. In addition, Sherri Steinhauer fired a 66 to climb into a tie for 14th. Looking down the leaderboard, one clear lesson is the value of having been there before. Not only did the young 'uns wilt on the weekend a bit and get passed by the vets (Ji-Young Oh's 74-74 dropped her all the way to T51, Jane Park's Saturday 77 meant that her Sunday 70 only pulled her up to Oh's level, Mikaela Parmlid's closing 74 put her in a tie for 39th at +1 with my friend Moira Dunn and Cristie Kerr, Alena Sharp's closing 78 kept her from having her career-best finish, after all (T28), and Jin Young Pak's Saturday 74 erased her Sunday 69, keeping her out of the top 10 by 1 shot)--with the exception of ever-steady Rookie of the Year race leader Angela Park (E, T28), former Rookie of the Year and even steadier Seon Hwa Lee (-4, T15), fellow Super Sophs Jee Young Lee (-2, T21), Na Ri Kim and Kim Hall (-1, T26), and Julieta Granada (E, T28), and Brittany Lincicome (-3, T18), who played their way out of contention befoe the weekend--they also got lapped by tweeners like Angela Stanford (-7, T7 with In-Kyung Kim) and Stacy Prammansudh (-6, T9 with Linda Wessberg), not to mention Gloria Park (-5, T11) and Mi Hyun Kim (-4, T14). The only people for whom experience didn't pay off were Meg Mallon, Beth Bader, and Candie Kung whose 72s dropped them out of the top 10, and Jeong Jang, whose 73 dropped her out of the top 20.]

[Update 5 (5:59 am): Give Se Ri a lot of credit! After Morgan's hole-in-one, she could have folded, but instead she put the pressure on the Super Soph for the rest of the round, and it paid off on the 18th. A great victory against a great competitor!]

[Update 6 (6:19 am): I haven't been giving The Florida Masochist enough credit lately (perhaps b/c he hasn't been doing all that much LPGA blogging the last few months), but he sure hit the nail on the head this weekend. If rookie In-Kyung Kim ties an LPGA record for low 9-hole score and no one in the golf media (or, for that matter, golf-o-sphere) covers it, does it make a sound? To add my own $.02 to the mix, a Se Ri Pak vs. Morgan Pressel showdown on Sunday and all everyone can blog about is Phil Mickelson not winning in Scotland? What's going on here?! It can't just be that Phil lost more than Se Ri won, can it?]

[Update 7 (6:26 am): I mean, sure, it's cool that Mulligan Stu covered the Alexis Thompson (12)/Kimberly Kim (15) showdown in the Junior PGA Championship, but, really, is that the top story in women's golf this weekend? Yes, it's one of the few Tiger wasn't able to win and it's clearly a great predictor of pro success, but by that time last Saturday night, it was clear real-live pros on the LPGA (one might say, a living legend and a legend-in-the-making) were going to have a little showdown of their own. And Waggle Room is one of the most gender-equitable of the golf blogs out there. I repeat, what's going on this weekend? {Update 10 7/17/07 (11:34 pm): Mulligan Stu writes a great tribute to Se Ri Pak--on Monday! Better late than never.}]

[Update 8 (7:12 am): This is my 99th golf post; I celebrated over at Waggle Room.]

1 comment:

hound dog said...

First off, I hope the typhoon and earthquake didn't affect you or your family.

Thanks for my promotion to "wordsmith"! I've been working hard for that. And if you didn't like being called TC, you should have told me! How was I supposed to shorthand "The Constructivist?

I agree that the Pak win (and Inky Kim's two records set Saturday) kind of got lost in the blogosphere, but at least included Pak fifth Farr win on their top story list this morning. Wait 'til this weekend when the British Open obliterates the HSBC Match Play (it's ok, least I'll be watching your coverage).