Saturday, November 10, 2007

How Low Can Paula Creamer Go at the TOC?

Let's see, Paula Creamer has made 14 birdies and no bogeys in her last 25 holes, stands at -12 after two rounds of the Tournament of Champions, and is talking like she needs to do just as well on the weekend to win. So just how low can she go?

Given the stumbles of some of her nearest competitors on Friday--not only Meg Mallon's 82, but also 76s by Jimin Kang and Mi Hyun Kim, 74s by Seon Hwa Lee, Hee-Won Han, and Natalie Gulbis, and 73s by Se Ri Pak and Liselotte Neumann, not to mention the number of double bogeys and worse the Robert Trent Jones course has elicited over two rounds--a lead of 5 on Jin Joo Hong and 6 on Annika Sorenstam and Pat Hurst can disappear in a day. Bring in a lurking Suzann Pettersen (-4), who would be -6 but for a penalty invoked when her ball moved on the putting green near the woods ([Update 1: Thanks, Verdant Garden!]) and only a lone TV camera caught it, and Lorena Ochoa (-1), who made up a 5-shot deficit on Lee and Gulbis today, and you can see why Creamer is going to try to push the envelope on moving day later this morning. After all, Meaghan Francella improved by 12 shots from her previous round, Morgan Pressel by 10, and Christina Kim by 8, so there's still no reason to count anyone in the top 20 out of the tournament, especially given the quality of the field. With the weather predicted to be sunny, warm, and calm over the weekend, and players getting used to the course, there's no reason to expect scores to remain as high as they have been for the majority of the field.

[Update 2: Well, after Saturday's round, Creamer's bogey-free 68 allowed her to maintain a 6-shot lead on Hurst (-10), extend her lead on Hong to 7, and move 8 ahead of Birdie Kim (66), Pettersen (68), and Sorenstam (70). Lee, Gulbis, Nicole Castrale, and Pressel fired 67s, but besides Kim no one else relatively close to the lead closed the distance between themselves and Creamer (although if Pressel continues this pattern of improving on her opening 82, a 20-shot improvement tomorrow would get her to -15 for the tournament and in contention if Creamer stumbles). So, sure, this tournament is Creamer's to lose, and she hasn't made a bogey in her last 45 holes, but to get a sense of the scoring volatility that characterizes this course, check out my friend Moira Dunn's Saturday scorecard--4-under over her first four holes, thanks to an eagle on the par-5 4th, then a terrible stretch in the middle, then 4 consecutive closing birdies for a 69. So anything can still happen, as the Honda Thailand's Sunday attests.

By the way, Moira's playing with Se Ri Pak on Sunday, so might get some TV time if both are playing well. But if anyone's going to seriously challenge Creamer, look for the Seon Hwa Lee-Natalie Gulbis and Suzann Pettersen-Annika Sorenstam pairings. Somehow I don't see Hurst, Kim, or Hong making moves on the back tomorrow--just a feeling--although we might hear some noise from Ochoa at -5. Anyway, we'll be in Erie, PA, tomorrow afternoon, eating Japanese food with my former faculty mentor from Seinan Gakuin University and our families, so once again I'll miss a Sunday finish on network TV. (What else is new this season?) Look for spyder's updates in the comments if you happen to have access to the web but not a TV tomorrow....]

1 comment:

spyder said...

So right now Gulbis and Castrale are both in w/ 67s thus showing the course is playing open and relatively easy today. Birdie Kim is at 6 under going into 18 and Creamer is holding the -2 i said she would need for sure. Ochoa slipped back to -3 for the round and will be way back. Looks like tomorrow will be a great day for championship golf.