Friday, August 31, 2007

YES!! Mostly Harmless Jinx Avoided--So Far!

But just to be safe, only look at these three scorecards with one eye closed. And you probably don't want to even glance at the State Farm Classic leaderboard. It is probably ok to read the second-round interviews, though, unless you don't want to become a fan of the LPGA.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Do Not Look at the Leaderboard of the State Farm Classic

Certainly not through this link. Don't want any possibility of activating the Mostly Harmless jinx.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Comparing the Ranking Systems

As you may already know, I put a lot more thought into my Super Soph Rankings than my overall LPGA rankings. According to the former, there's a hair's breadth between Pressel and SH Lee, with JY Lee close to them and Miyazato falling behind, but the latter puts SH Lee well behind Pressel and JY Lee and even behind Miyazato. This is why I maintain Seon Hwa Lee is shockingly underrated--and why I like Hound Dog's ranking system for the LPGA better than mine! So what should I do?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Super Soph Top 20: August 2007 Edition

With the Safeway Classic over and the U.S. Solheim Cup team announced, now is as good a time as any to update my May, June, and July Super Soph rankings. The main purpose of these rankings remains to determine who among the Rookie Class of 2006 has had the best career to date, with improvement and consistency the key criteria. Feel free to disagree in comments!

Top Super Sophs

1. Morgan Pressel: I'm keeping Pressel #1 this ranking by a hair over Seon Hwa Lee, despite Lee passing her in wins and season/career earnings. Her rankings are still better than Lee's, and so are her key stats. She's improved far more than anyone among the top Super Sophs, even though she's had 3 of her worst finishes of the year in her past 5 starts. Unless she picks it up, though, one or both of the fighting Lee's could easily pass her in the September rankings.
2. Seon Hwa Lee: You could make a great argument she should be the #1 Super Soph, and you know what? Tomorrow I'd probably agree with you. She and Pressel are that close.
3. Jee Young Lee: Her shoulder injury practically guarantees she'll be stuck in #3 through September. Too bad, as you could make a strong case she's the most improved of the top Super Sophs.
4. Ai Miyazato: Entering a late-season slump, with 5 of her 6 worst finishes of the year--including 2 straight missed cuts for the first time in her career--in her last 8 starts. Is it physical? Or is she down after seeing Seon Hwa Lee outplay her in another final round she had a great chance to walk away from with her first LPGA victory? In either case, her stats are now as down from last season's as Julieta Granada's.
5. Julieta Granada: A small and inconsistent late-season resurgence could put her ahead of Miyazato in the September rankings.

Certified Super Sophs

6. Brittany Lang: Another formerly top-level Super Soph who seems to be finding her game again. Got her first top 10 in forever in Canada and has made 5 of her last 6 cuts. Combined with truly bad play from Meaghan Francella, whose injury seems worse than she's letting on, and Kyeong Bae, who somehow still makes a ton of birdies despite hitting hardly any greens, Lang passes them in this ranking.
7. Kyeong Bae: See above.
8. Meaghan Francella: See above.

Super Sophs in Waiting

9. Hye Jung Choi: She's hit as bad a rough patch as anyone in her past several events, but the only one behind her to make a serious move on her was so far back she's not yet a threat to take away her "most likely to succeed" status.
10. Karin Sjodin: Disappointing results in Europe carried over to Canada. In danger of getting passed by Wessberg.
11. Sun Young Yoo: Pretty much the same story, if you replace Edmonton with Portland.
12. Linda Wessberg: I don't know how she does it when she hits so few greens, but she already has 3 top 10s in only 11 LPGA events. She should be playing more on this tour--would easily be the top European player in her class if she did (Rolex and the GSPI say she already is, but I disagree).

Super Potential

13. Teresa Lu: Lost "in waiting" status as her injury-induced slide continues. In danger of getting passed by Futcher and Hall.
14. Katie Futcher: Making a nice run at securing exempt status for 2008; with a better cut rate and position on the career money list than Hall, I have to rank her just a bit ahead of Hall for now, contra Rolex.
15. Kim Hall: Only thing holding Hall back is her terrible cut rate and her relatively low status on the career money list
16. Nina Reis: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again is her motto. But she'd better start succeeding if she wants to avoid Q-School.
17. Minea Blomqvist: Showing some small signs of life lately, enough to have a shot at avoiding Q-School.
18. Veronica Zorzi: She makes cuts at a fantastic rate but has trouble breaking into the top 50. Probably right to focus her efforts on the LET.
19. Virada Nirapathpongporn: Would have been passed by Kim if she, too, weren't going through a bad spell.
20. Na Ri Kim: I discovered she played more events in 2006 than I had previously thought, so I wouldn't put her in the Francella/Choi/Wessberg category any more. But still ahead of Hoagland.

For your reference--and mine--are the stats on which I'm basing the August ranking.

2007 LPGA Money List (rank), stroke average (compared to last year's), birdies per round average (compared to last year's), greens in regulation (compared to last year's): I'm going to focus on four key indicators of how well someone is playing this season--how much money they've made, how they're scoring, how many birdies they're averaging per round, and average greens in regulation per round. (I figure I can figure out how well they're hitting their irons and putting by comparing the last three figures, so I won't include putts per green in regulation here. And by comparing this year's and last's results on those same three figures, I can see who's improving and who's backsliding.) Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are most important I'm looking at in the career stats (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the present and future.

1. Seon Hwa Lee, $906.4K (#6), 71.75 (+.45), 3.06 (-.40), 65.5% (-2.2%)
2. Morgan Pressel, $874.1K (#7), 71.15 (-.36), 3.43 (-.18), 67.3% (-3.7%)
3. Jee Young Lee, $862.3K (#8), 71.60 (+.14), 3.42 (-.47), 67.6% (-.5%)
4. Ai Miyazato, $753.7K (#11), 72.47 (+1.25), 2.91 (-.80), 58.7% (-9.6%)
5. Meaghan Francella, $442.4K (#25), 73.13 (-.62), 2.67 (?), 61.7% (?)
6. Julieta Granada, $376.5K (#31), 72.71 (+1.38), 2.48 (-.72), 61.3% (-6.7%)
7. Brittany Lang, $293.4K (#36), 73.14 (+1.79), 2.68 (-1.20), 64.5% (-4.9%)
8. Kyeong Bae, $275.0K (#38), 72.75 (+.42), 3.28 (+.24), 58.2% (-9.3%)
9. Hye Jung Choi, $224.6K (#46), 73.04 (+.14), 2.70 (?), 60.8% (?)
10. Karin Sjodin, $167.8K (#56), 73.53 (+.72), 2.72 (-.77), 61.8% (-6.3%)
11. Linda Wessberg, $127.9K (#67), 73.16 (-4.34), 3.00 (?), 51.2% (?)
12. Kim Hall, $124.7K (#69), 73.57 (-.17), 2.41 (-.11), 56.5% (-8.8%)
13. Teresa Lu, $108.6K (#77), 73.19 (+.30), 2.55 (-.36), 63.7% (-3.0%)
14. Sun Young Yoo, $98.4K (#80), 73.27 (+.74), 2.57 (-.39), 62.1% (-6.9%)
15. Katie Futcher, $78.9K (#88), 73.92 (+1.09), 2.56 (-.35), 60.8% (-7.0%)
16. Minea Blomqvist, $76.1K (#90), 74.11 (+1.07), 2.68 (+.01), 56.1% (-4.5%)
17. Nina Reis, $47.3K (#115), 73.76 (+.85), 2.74 (-.03), 58.4% (-7.6%)
18. Na Ri Kim, $44.0K (#117), 74.22 (-2.73), 2.43 (?), 61.9% (?)
19. Ashley Hoagland, $31.2K (#130), 73.78 (+.90), 2.11 (?), 57.5% (?)
20. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $30.8K (#131), 73.82 (+.36), 2.77 (+.40), 59.2% (-2.1%)

Career LPGA Money List (rank), LPGA Majors/Wins/Top 3s/Top 10s/Made/Missed Cuts Percentage (and totals): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year. Between inflation, changing purses, and length/timing of careers, it's very hard to compare and contrast winnings across generations of LPGA greats. Fortunately the Super Sophs have not even been at this for two years, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing their short careers, even if it's a bit unfair to people who were not exempt in either or both years. What would really be great is if we had a world money list in inflation-adjusted dollars, with inflation- and exchange-adjusted other cash denominations added in (or just totalled up separately to avoid comparing dollars and yen), which included all each golfer earned as a professional on any tour. But even the guys don't have that, so that'll have to remain a dream for now. I include these other ways of seeing how the Super Sophs finished relative to their competition in the tournaments they entered because they reveal a lot about how well someone is able to compete at every level, from just making cuts to getting top 10s, top 3s, and victories. So here's how they stand:

1. Julieta Granada, $2.01M (#78), 0/1/5/10/.776 (38/49)
2. Seon Hwa Lee, $1.82M (#88), 0/2/6/12/.958 (46/48)
3. Jee Young Lee, $1.44M (#111), 0/0/4/14/.952 (40/42)
4. Morgan Pressel, $1.34M (#117), 1/1/4/16/.905 (38/42)
5. Ai Miyazato, $1.29M (#123), 0/0/4/13/.846 (33/39)
6. Brittany Lang, $.83M (#183), 0/0/2/9/.681 (32/47)
7. Kyeong Bae, $.56M (#227), 0/0/2/6/.738 (31/42)
8. Meaghan Francella $.45M (#253), 0/1/1/4/.571 (12/21)
9. Sun Young Yoo, $.33M (#284), 0/0/0/2/.711 (32/45)
10. Karin Sjodin, $.29M (#302), 0/0/0/3/.605 (23/38)
11. Hye Jung Choi, $.24M (#335), 0/0/0/2/.667 (14/21)
12. Katie Futcher, $.20M (#350), 0/0/0/2/.622 (23/37)
13. Nina Reis, $.19M (#353), 0/0/0/2/.634 (26/41)
14. Teresa Lu, $.18M (#361), 0/0/0/1/.600 (21/35)
15. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.17M (#370), 0/0/0/1/.486 (17/35)
16. Kim Hall, $.16M (#385), 0/0/0/1/.393 (11/28)
17. Minea Blomqvist, $.15M (#388), 0/0/0/0/.533 (16/30)
18. Linda Wessberg, $.13M (#406), 0/0/0/3/.545 (6/11)
19. Veronica Zorzi, $.08M (#451), 0/0/0/0/.800 (12/15)
20. Na Ri Kim, $.05M (#501), 0/0/0/0/.429 (9/21)
21. Ashley Hoagland, $.05M (#508), 0/0/0/0/.462 (6/13)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 8/27/07) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 8/26/07) and rank, International (as of the end of the 2006 season) and Non-Member LPGA Wins: This is a way of seeing how those Super Sophs who sometimes or regularly or always compete on other tours stack up over the course of their careers to date (the RR includes results over the past 104 weeks on the LPGA, LET, JLPGA, KLPGA, and Futures Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).

1. Morgan Pressel, 6.81 (#8), 70.35 (#7), 0
2. Ai Miyazato, 5.84 (#12), 70.86 (#23), 14
3. Jee Young Lee, 5.41 (#15), 70.33 (#6), 2
4. Seon Hwa Lee, 4.93 (#17), 70.83 (#22), 3
5. Julieta Granada, 3.91 (#29), 71.86 (#42), 0
6. Brittany Lang, 2.64 (#44), 72.62 (#66), 0
7. Meaghan Francella, 2.57 (#46), 72.45 (#61), 0
8. Linda Wessberg, 1.85 (#69), 72.92 (#80), 5
9. Kyeong Bae, 1.68 (#75), 72.19 (#55), 3
10. Karin Sjodin, 1.26 (#106), 73.00 (#88), 1
11. Veronica Zorzi, 1.12 (#118), 73.51 (#122), 2
12. Hye Jung Choi, 1.08 (#124), 72.69 (#69), 0
13. Sun Young Yoo, .98 (#136), 72.91 (#79), 0
14. Teresa Lu, .90 (#144), 73.48 (#120), 0
15. Minea Blomqvist, .87 (#150), 74.02 (#159), 5
16. Kim Hall, .78 (#168), 74.39 (#192), 0
17. Louise Stahle, .76 (#177), 73.05 (#89), 0
18. Nina Reis, .71 (#188), 73.51 (#123), 5
19. Katie Futcher, .59 (#209), 73.81 (#142), 0
20. Virada Nirapathpongporn, .53 (#229), 74.62 (#214), 0
21. Na Ri Kim, .25 (#345), 74.30 (#183), 0
22. Ashley Hoagland, .23 (#360), 73.62 (#140), 0

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's as Easy as Uno, Dos, Tres: Lorena Ochoa Does It Again!

Well, of course it wasn't really easy--Lorena Ochoa just makes it look like it.

Uno: The Women's British Open in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Dos: The Canadian Open in Edmonton, Alberta.

Tres: The Safeway Classic in Portland, Oregon.

The final margin of victory was much larger than Ochoa's lead had been for most of the round. Sophie Gustafson, down 2 shots to Ochoa for most of the day--matching her bad start, her hot comeback, and her subsequent steady play over the first 13 holes--started to press at the end and finished awfully as a result. Mhairi McKay, out to show Helen Alfreddsen she made a mistake to leave her off the European Solheim Cup team, almost got herself in the mix twice, but three consecutive bogeys on the front and a late double bogey kept her from putting any real pressure on Ochoa. As a result, she dropped back to a tie for second with Gustafson, In-Bee Park (who only shot a 64, the low round of the day and tournament to get there), and Christina Kim (whose 69 could have been a lot better if her 3 bogeys on the back hadn't erased her 3 birdies), all of them 5 shots behind the undisputed world #1.

It was a disappointing day for rookie first-round leader Ji-Young Oh (73, -6, 6th place), Angela Stanford (73, -3, T12), Minea Blomqvist and Lindsey Wright (74, -2, T22), and Diana D'Alessio and Natalie Gulbis (78, +1, T34), all of whom started the day with the hope of doing what In-Bee Park did. Although Laura Diaz, too, had a bad day--her 73 dropped her just out of the top 10--being named to the U.S. Solheim Cup team has to help her mood. The same, unfortunately, can't be said for Christina Kim, whom I believe played herself onto the team over the summer. Captain Betsy King chose Nicole Castrale instead.

In the Super Soph race, Morgan Pressel (76, +3, T50) had an uncharacteristic collapse while Seon Hwa Lee (69, +1, T34) put together another great Sunday charge. But it wasn't enough to catch Brittany Lang and Julieta Granada (73, E, T28), Blomqvist, or the surprising Super Soph winner of the week, Katie Futcher (70, -4, T9). Way to go, Katie!

And way to prove me wrong, Julieta! I can only hope Ochoa's winning ways continue when she returns to competitive golf in late September and that Se Ri Pak doesn't take advantage of her little sabbatical to pass the $10M mark first. Actually, I don't care that much about my silly predictions, but if they help motivate Granada and Pak in any way, I'll continue to stand by them. Something tells me Ochoa doesn't need my help for motivation--if she can win the inaugural Navistar LPGA Classic, she'll put herself in a position to surpass Annika Sorenstam's LPGA-leading victory streak, not to mention become the first LPGA player to break the $3M mark in single-season earnings. Here's the field, as of 8/7/07, by the way.

In the meantime, it'll be interesting to see who steps up in the State Farm Classic in Springfield, IL, next week, and the inaugural LPGA NW AR Championship in, well, northwestern Arkansas. But as the semester starts up later this morning, I'm going to be reserving most of my LPGA blogging for the last three Take Your Blog to the Course events. So unfortunately I won't be free to take part in Mulligan Stu's plan to celebrate Tiffany Joh's fine play this week. Too bad!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Will Anyone Take a Run at Ochoa and Gustafson at the Safeway?

For a long time, Lorena Ochoa and Sophie Gustafson were playing superlative golf in Portland at the Safeway Classic--Ochoa went on a 13-hole tear over two rounds in which she made 9 birdies, while Gustafson was -5 through her first 12 holes on Saturday--but they both came down to earth a little on the back 9 on Saturday, Ochoa with bogeys on the final two holes to fall back to -11 and Gustafson with a missed eagle chance and a missed par putt over her final 7 holes to drop to -10. So the door is open a sliver for rookie Ji-Young Oh (71) and Mhairi McKay (67) at -7 to keep the final round from being a match-play affair, while Natalie Gulbis (68) and Diana D'Alessio (69) at -5 have to shoot career rounds to have a hope of contending.

But the race for the win is not the only race worth watching on Sunday. Julieta Granada (69, -1, T20) has a great chance to become the first Super Soph to pass the $2M mark in career earnings (just as she was the first to break the $1M barrier)--her closest competitor, Seon Hwa Lee (73, +4, T70), was lucky to make the cut--not to mention extend her lead on Shi Hyun Ahn (67, -4, T7) and Meena Lee (72, +1, T40) on the career money list. And with Se Ri Pak (74, +2, T55) struggling, the Mostly Harmless crystal ball still has a chance to earn its 100-yen price on the $10M question I raised here and at Waggle Room.

The race for the top Super Soph of the week is also wide open. Playing in Seon Hwa Lee's group, Morgan Pressel showed why she is the #1 Super Soph--her 68 pulled her into a tie at -1 (T20) with two Super Sophs who have showed signs recently of breaking their sophomore jinxes, Granada and Brittany Lang. Whether fellow Super Sophs Katie Futcher (70, -2, T17) and Minea Blomqvist (70, -4, T7) will be able to stay ahead of these big names and avoid the fates of Na Ri Kim (72, +3, T63), Kyeong Bae (76, +2, T55), Hye Jung Choi (74, +1, T40), and Sun Young Yoo (72, +1, T40) is a very interesting question to me. It's only a matter of time before Bae, Choi, or Yoo breaks through to the next level, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen this week.

Speaking of breaking through, it will also be interesting to see if D'Alessio and Lindsey Wright (70, -4, T7) can put together strong final rounds. They've been hanging around the top of the leaderboard in many tournaments this year, but have had some trouble closing the deal on the weekend. But the biggest question of the week is who will break onto the Solheim Cup squad for the U.S. as a captain's pick. With Nicole Castrale (71, +4, T70) not doing much since her defeat of Lorena Ochoa at the Ginn Tribute in early June, Lang beginning to find her game again over the same stretch, and Laura Diaz (69, -4, T7) and Christina Kim (71, -4, T7) playing some fantastic golf in late summer, captain Betsy King has a tough choice ahead of her. Hound Dog and I think she should pick Diaz and Kim and lately Mulligan Stu has been rethinking his position that Castrale is a lock. So we'll see how closely the LPGA blogosphere mirrors King's thinking soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Can Ji-Young Oh Succeed at the Safeway Where In-Kyung Kim Failed at the Wegmans?

Ji-Young Oh is an exempt rookie on the LPGA this year, but coming into the Safeway Classic she stood at #100 on the money list and #11 in the Rookie of the Year race, despite playing in 17 events--mostly because she's missed the cut in 11 of them. But now she has a chance not only to secure exempt status for the 2008 season but also to do what In-Kyung Kim wasn't able to do back in June at the Wegmans: stop Lorena Ochoa.

It's a tall order. Back then, Kim was trying to keep Ochoa from her 3rd win of the season. Now, Oh is trying to keep Ochoa from her 3rd win in a row. But if she can sustain her momentum for two more rounds, anything can happen. Oh's career-low 66 on Friday put her even with European Solheim Cupper Sophie Gustafson and 1 shot ahead of Ochoa in this 3-round tournament. On a day when 6 players broke 70, 25 went under par, and 16 failed to break 80, Oh put together 7 birdies in her first 15 holes, despite averaging only 227 yards off the tee. By contrast, Ochoa was averaging over 280 yards and made three improbable birdies on the last 5 holes of the back 9, despite problems with her approach shots.

Also chasing Oh are potential American Solheim Cuppers Angela Stanford (68), Christina Kim (69), Laura Diaz (71), and Brittany Lang (72), Super Sophs Kyeong Bae (70), Hye Jung Choi (71), and Katie Futcher (72), Seoul Sisters Sarah Lee (69), Joo Mi Kim (70), Il Mi Chung (72), Gloria Park (72), Mi Hyun Kim (71), and Se Ri Pak (72), not to mention Karrie Webb (70) and Natalie Gulbis (71). Some big names will have to go super-low on Saturday to have a chance on Sunday, including Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Jeong Jang, Angela Park, Shi Hyun Ahn, and Meena Lee (+1) and Ai Miyazato, Angela Park, Meaghan Francella, and Julieta Granada (+2). Others, such as Juli Inkster (+3), Laura Davies (+5), Pat Hurst (+5), Moira Dunn (+5), Michelle Wie (+7), and Grace Park (+8), will have to play well just to make the cut. Which is still a better situation to be in than Jee Young Lee, whose shoulder injury forced her to withdraw after playing 9 holes on Friday.

So there's a lot to watch on Saturday for those who get ESPN2. Something the cameras are unlikely to follow will be the mini-showdown between duelling Top Super Sophs Morgan Pressel and Seon Hwa Lee, whose matching 75s put them in the same group on Saturday. Even more unlikely to make it on television is the no-doubt double-or-nothing match between Rookie of the Year shoo-in Angela Park and amateur superstar (and blogger) Tiffany Joh late in the afternoon. But that's what they made for.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who Will Reach $10M First--Pak or Ochoa? How About $2M?

There's only so many boxes of mail you can rummage through and updates to your software that you can do before you need a short break. Knowing me, you wouldn't be surprised that I started looking over the LPGA's Career Money List to prepare for my August Super Soph ranking (coming after the Safeway this weekend). In so doing, I was struck by an interesting question: can Lorena Ochoa reach the $10M mark before Se Ri Pak does? What makes it so compelling to me is that even though Ochoa is almost exactly a million dollars behind Pak, and, more important, Pak only needs about $292K to get to $10M before her, the way Ochoa's been playing this season, she could well do it.

There are other interesting races--Cristie Kerr is only a couple of hundred thousand dollars ahead of Mi Hyun Kim, Jeong Jang is within $15,000 of Hee-Won Han (thanks in part to Han's maternity leave for most of this season), Paula Creamer is about $500K ahead of Natalie Gulbis, Jee Young Lee is almost within $300K of Meena Lee, Morgan Pressel is only about $50K ahead of Ai Miyazato--but the only one that I find almost as interesting as the $10M question is the $2M one. Julieta Granada is only about $3450 shy of following Stacy Prammanasudh in breaking that barrier. But the way she's been missing cuts this year (even after I proclaimed her sophomore slump to be over), Shi Hyun Ahn and Seon Hwa Lee have a decent chance to beat her to $2M. Brittany Lincicome would, too, but she's not playing in the Safeway.

So you heard it here first: Ochoa beats Pak to $10M and both Ahn and Lee beat Granada to $2M.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Phew. As of yesterday morning we have internet access at home again. Had it at the office as of Friday but I was given the wrong key for my new office so won't be able to get into it until later today. We've been running so many errands since we arrived in the States a week ago that it makes the last month in Fukuoka look like a vacation. Who would have thought that getting set up back home would be more trouble than getting started in a new city in a foreign country?

As the details of car-buying (Prius, thank you very much), home-owning (unpacking, re-organizing, and dealing with carpet damage and an underground water leak), child-care-arranging (what little we can afford, that is), tax-paying (yeah, we filed for an extension), and doing-without-tv-ing (yeah, I don't believe it either) are likely to bore you more than me, as I missed blogging the Canadian Open (way to go, Lorena! better luck next time, Moira and Ai-chan!), and as I have a limited amount of time to take advantage of my jet lag sleeplessness and my girls' jet lag sleepiness, I'll devote this first Mostly Harmless post composed in the States and posted on Eastern Time to some random thoughts on (re)connecting.

Let's start with cell phones. Nothing brings home the meaning of "uneven development" like realizing that your 1-yen 2-years-ago-model cell phone from Japan that is now your daughters' toy is not only $49.98 cheaper than but also better than Consumer Reports' #1 cell phone in the U.S. (as of two months ago, at least, according to the salesperson). Or that your bare bones calling plan in Japan includes in it standard features (like text messaging and emailing) that are luxury add-ons in most U.S. calling plans. Or that in one week of calling in the U.S. I had more dropped calls than in an entire year in Japan (in which I had none). Or that the reception and call quality would be so poor in the U.S. Or that I'm locked into a two-year contract here.

If anyone has any ideas why this is so, let me know in comments. My pet theory is that with most of Japan's population already using cell phones, the few companies competing there have to offer better services and prices just to keep their customers from being raided by their competitors. And that with Japan's population so concentrated in cities, it's relatively cheap and easy to put up transmission towers. Hence, even on Kyushu, which has seen serious development only in recent years, and even then mostly in its major cities, people get far more for far less than in Rust Belt NY--and not just there. If you want to offer more culturalist explanations, I'm all ears. It'll be interesting to see if more people side with the tsuma's than mine.

In any case, we went with the company that has the best coverage in Western NY rather than the one with the coolest cell phone, which is similar to the choice we made in Japan. I don't know which hurts worse--knowing what I'm missing ($20-$30 a month for starters) or realizing that it only took a year in Japan for me to go from being a cell phone Luddite to a cell phone snob.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sparkychan & Gojochan Adventure Time Mystery Theatre

So, there they were, Sparkychan and Gojochan, two friends, cavorting in the woods. See, here they are cavorting:

X climbing.jpg

And then they decided to have some tea. Do you know why? Because anytime is a good time to have tea time. That's why.

X stroll.jpg

"Boy, that tea sure was scrumptious and delicious, Sparkychan. What should we do now?"

"I don't know, Gojochan. I wonder what Onechan and Imoto are doing."

"Me too. Do you think they're watching cartoons?"

"Yay, that's what we'll do, Gojochan. We'll watch some cartoons."

"PowerPuff Girls, PowerPuff Girls, we're gonna' watch the PowerPuff Girls."



"Hey! Octo looks like the wormasrhrimparamadamadingdongosaurus doesn't it, Sparkychan?"


And then they watched one of Uncle Bill's favorites, Fantasia. See the winter fairies skating on the ice:


And here's one of the bestest scenes:

winter scene.jpg

"Look at all the snow flakes, Sparkychan."

"Yeah, they're pretty, Gojochan. But what's that big stringy thing?"

"Hmmm . . . Could it be a hair brush?"

"I don't think so. It's too funny shaped to be a hair brush."

"And what would a hair brush be doing out in the snow."

"I know what it is, Gojo."

"What, Sparky?"

"It's a tippy end branch from a pine tree."

"Yeah, up real close. I see. And those are pine needles" – says Gojochan while pointing at all the needles.

"It sorta' reminds me of winter in Japan, Gojo."


"Let's have some more tea."

"And cartoons!"

So they watched My Neighbor Totoro:

sparky mei and gojo.jpg

Here they are exercising along with Mei and Satsuki:

together now.jpg

And so they finished watching the movie, which they liked alot, especially the Catbus. And then you know what they did?

Of course, they had some tea. And while they were drinking their tea, something scary and terrible happened to them. So get prepared for a mystery.

[Onechan and Imoto getting prepared.]

A big monster came out of the sky and scooped them up and took them away. Here's the monster:


Actually, it's sorta' pretty. All glowly and stuff. But don't let that fool you. This is a meanie monster. But you'll have to figure out the name for yourself because I'm too scared to think about it.

And you know what that meanie monster did? It stuffed Sparkychan and Gojochan into a box:


"What are we going to do, Sparky?"

"Let's try to escape. I'll climb up on your shoulders, OK, Gojo?"

"Let's do it!"

escape attempt.jpg

But you know what happened then, Onechan? This is what happened:


"Ow, that hurts!" said Sparkychan.

But the meanie didn't stop. The meanie closed the box on Sparkychan and Gojochan. Now isn't that mean? They're all scrunched up in the box.

And then you know what the meanie did? The meanie put the box in a spaceship and sent Sparkychan and Gojochan to another galaxy far far away:

spaceship gojo.jpg

Isn't that the coolest spaceship ever, all funky and blue? And all that pretty yellow space dust! with the red sparkles! Wow!

Whoops! I forgot. This is a scary mystery about Sparkychan and Gojochan.

What about Sparkychan and Gojochan inside the box inside the spaceship? What's going to happen to them? Are they ever going to get back to America? Will they ever get to eat ice cream with Onechan and Imoto?

So many questions, so many mysteries.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Twas brillig

Dear Onechan,

I hope you and Imoto are doing OK with all the traveling you're doing.

We had fun the other day with the wormashrimparamadamadingdongosaurus. His name is Felix Gumpers. Isn't that a funny name? Gumpers. But Felix means "happy." And he was very happy, and wavy too.

He told us where to go to a playground, the Cyberspace Fun-o-Rama. Here we are at the climbing mountain:


I think Gojochan was just a little scared because it was so steep. But I cheered her on and she made it: Go Go Gojochan! See:

on top.jpg

Then we did some more climbing:


And then we went on the slide. Gojochan went first. When I got to the bottom I was a little scared:


But Gojochan caught me and I was OK. It was a lot of fun.

You know what we did then? We found a nice place to sit down and have a cup of tea and have a nice chat.


We talked about lots of things. Like shoes, red shoes, from Kansas! And ships, big ships. And sealing wax. What? You don't know what sealing wax is? I don't know either. But Gojochan and I talked about it. Nothing like a nice chat over tea.

And then we took a nap.



Monday, August 13, 2007

Yo! IBM: 21st C = von Neumann * Armstrong^2

I wrote this a decade ago. IBM is no longer on the ropes, as it was at that time. But it hasn't regained its past glory either. That is gone, no doubt forever. And whatever happened to Borland International?

Why is America the software center of the Universe?
Because it is also the Rap-Rock-Funk-Soul-Jazz-Blues
center of the Universe. What does that have to do
with the If-Then-Else imperatives of byte busting?
Technology is not just technique. It is style and
attitude. You can't write great software if your
soul was nurtured on the mechanical clockwork and
internal combustion rhythms of the Machine Age.
You must free yourself from the linear flow of
mechanical time and learn to improvise order from
the creative chaos lurking in the multiple
intersecting flows of the digital domain.
Roll over Beethoven, it's Jimi Hendrix time.

Cases in point: Steve Wozniak took time out
from Apple to produce rock and roll concerts.
Microsoft was co-founded by a guitar-playing
Jimi Hendrix fan, Paul Allen. Borland International
is the brainchild of barbarian jazz saxophonist
Philippe Kahn. Xerox and Apple guru Alan GUI
Kay worked his way through graduate school as
a jazz musician. Lotus founder Mitch Kapor
has taken to riding the informatic frontier
with Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow.

Now, IBM is on the ropes. Marching to the tick tock
strokes of a steam locomotive, it can't swing to the
rhythms of the Apollo moon dance. Big Blue is
crying the blues because it isn't hip enough
to play the blues. If you don't want to be dogged
by the hell-hound on IBM's tail,
then baptize your brain in the soul-juice
of funkadelic jivometric drumology.

Still, we can't create the future from nothing.
The post-IBM world has been in the works
for a long time. In the Roaring 20s
the sons and daughters
of Henry Assembly-Line Ford
and Tom Light-Bulb Edison
cruised the night spots of African
America dancing to the
improvisations of Louis Armstrong,
Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway,
and all the other pioneering funkateers.
Getting juiced, they got loose,
and mechanical tick tock began to die.
Their sons and daughters dug
Elvis the Pelvis and blew
Bob Dylan's changing winds
into the high-tech studio wizardry of
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.
When Woodstock Nation faded into decaying
reels of audiotape and videotape the young,
the hip and the restless decided that
communes were 19th century and
created the video game and PC industry.

Now a new cultural force has
emerged on the scene.
Tempered in battle with
Ronald Raygun and his
Bush League Wrecking Crew,
hip hop reaches back to
the rhythms which created
humankind on the African
savannas and, through digital
sampling, crosses those
rhythms with our recorded
musical legacy. Silicon Age
rappers insinuate body-heart
rhythm into the digital
warp and woof of emerging
cultural patterns. The anger
cuts through accretions of industrial
armor and
creates room to grow,
etting the neurons branch in new patterns.

That's where it all begins: the nervous system.
While the genes lay down the basic plan, the
detailed wiring is worked out through
extended and intimate interaction
with the environment.
To update William Wordsworth,
the jazz child is mother
to the cybernetic man.
The dancing you do at ten forms
the matrix out of which you think
when you are twenty. If you grow
up to mechanical rhythms,
digital dancing is unnatural.

To be a natural born child of the 21st century
you must dance at the wedding between
the soul of John von Neumann
and the science of Daniel Louis Armstrong.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tiger Wins His First Major of the Year by Taking a Page Out of Ochoa's Playbook

Remember how Lorena Ochoa won the Women's British Open? Well, that's how Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship today. Not like how Akiko Fukushima smoked the field (including Paula Creamer and Momoko Ueda) in Japan or Catriona Matthew's charge (past Laura Diaz, Brittany Lincicome, Sophie Gustafson, Suzann Pettersen, and Maria Hjorth) in Sweden this week on the JLPGA and LET--just by firing one-super-low early round and then playing smart, solid golf the rest of the way, challenging the field to do more than follow the leader. Good job catching Lorena in the majors total for 2007, Tiger! Even if your back 9 was a lot more stressful than hers, a win is a win, right?

[Update: And speaking of wins, how about Maria Jose Uribe's win at the U.S. Women's Amateur? She knocked off three players you'll be hearing a lot from in a few years on the LPGA--Amanda Blumenherst in the finals, Ha Na Jang in the semis, and Mina Harigae in the quarters. Impressive!]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Little Worm from Kansas

So Sparkychan and Gojochan were zipping along in cyberspace, having a wonderful time playing and messing around on their way back to America.

in school.jpg

When all of a sudden, Gojochan cries out "There it is, the worm! the worm!, Onechan's dad's computer's little worm!"

"Where is it? I wanna' see," said Sparkychan.

"It's right there in the middle, see, it's orange."


"You mean, that thing," says Gojochan. "That's not a worm. It's a shrimp."

"Is not, it's a worm."





"Cut it out you two! Stop that silly argument," said the creature:


"I'm not a worm, I'm not a shrimp. I'm a worm-a-shrimp-a-ramadama-dingdong-o-saurus."

Sparkychan, "Oh."

Gojochan, "Oh."

"And I'm from Kansas."

"Gee, you look so happy," said Sparkychan.

"And wavey."

* * * * *

Bye bye Onechan, see you next time. Can you guess the name of the worm-a-shrimp-a-ramadama-dingdong-o-saurus?

Bonus points: Who was it who said "A wormashrimparamadamadingdongosaurus! A wormashrimparamadamadingdongosaurus! My kingdom for a wormashrimparamadamadingdongosaurus." Was it:

a) Usagi Baggins.
b) Hilbert Hoggins.
c) Akira Takoyaki.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Just Wondering

I've been to an aquarium in Kagoshima, one in Fukuoka, and now one in Tokyo (where yesterday we met one of onechan's best friends from Fukuoka whose family was visiting family in the neighborhood), so I can't say this is true of every one in Japan, but it's enough to form a recognizable pattern. Which is: every single one of their on-site restaurants features a predominantly seafood menu. Why is that?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

LPGA Late Season Assessment: The View from St. Andrews

With her fine play in the LPGA's European swing and first victory in a major, Lorena Ochoa put to rest the "best player without a major" and "needs to validate her #1 ranking" memes infesting the golfy media this summer. Even golf writers can't ignore her Tiger-like lead in the Rolex Rankings and the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Not only was she the only player to record two top 3s at the Evian Masters and Women's British Open, only three other players-- #3 on the KLPGA money list Eun-Hee Ji, #1 on the LET Order of Merit Maria Hjorth, and #7 on the LPGA money list Paula Creamer--even managed top 20s on the two very different courses.

Which is to say that her closest competitors lost a lot of ground to Ochoa during the European swing. Creamer, Jee Young Lee, and Brittany Lincicome made out fairly well, with Lee's second-place finish at the Women's British Open the best of the bunch. Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, and Ai Miyazato played unevenly, but at least they made both cuts. The same can't be said for Mi Hyun Kim, Seon Hwa Lee, Morgan Pressel, or Se Ri Pak (who chose to skip the Evian Masters). So let's see how the Mostly Harmless mid-season assessment looks after St. Andrews.

Back in mid-June, I argued that Ochoa was in a class of her own, followed by Pettersen, Sorenstam, Webb, and Creamer, then by Inkster, Pressel, and Kim, then by Kerr, Prammanasudh, Pak, Lincicome, Miyazato, JY Lee, and Castrale, and then by Jang, Ahn, Steinhauer, S Lee, Hurst, SH Lee, Granada, Davies, Matthew, Gustafson, and Han. Now in mid-August, Ochoa stands further apart from her top peers, Kerr (#6 GSPI, #4 RR, #3 money list), Creamer (#3 GSPI, #9 RR, #7 money list), Pressel (#7 GSPI, #7 RR, #8 money list), and Sorenstam (#2 GSPI, #3 RR, #30 money list)--the only other players in the top 10 in each of the 3 major ranking systems (with Sorenstam's injury-induced absence, I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt and moving her up into this category, despite her low standing in the money list thus far).

Close behind them are the 5 players in the top 10 in 2 of the 3 systems (with a top 5 in one system offsetting any ranking below 20th in another): MH Kim (#8 GSPI, #11 RR, #4 money list), Pak (#9 GSPI, #5 RR, #11 money list), Webb, (#4 GSPI, #2 RR, #22 money list), Pettersen (#15 GSPI, #6 RR, #2 money list), and JY Lee (#5 GSPI, #13 RR, #5 money list).

A bit further behind these top 10 comes the 6 players who are in the top 20 in each system (with a top 10 in one offsetting a lower ranking in another): Miyazato (#11 GSPI, #12 RR, #10 money list), Jang (#12 GSPI, #14 RR, #13 money list), Prammanasudh (#10 GSPI, #17 RR, #16 money list), Lincicome (#19 GSPI, #15 RR, #9 money list), Inkster (#18 GSPI, #10 RR, #18 money list), and SH Lee (#21 GSPI, #18 RR, #6 money list).

Next comes the 4 players in the top 30 in each system: Castrale (#16 GSPI, #22 RR, #12 money list), Matthew (#13 GSPI, #30 RR, #24 money list), Steinhauer (#17 GSPI, #28 RR, #27 money list), and A Park (#24 GSPI, #25 RR, #14 money list).

And finally comes the 5 players in the top 30 in two of the three systems: Davies (#23 GSPI, #37 RR, #21 money list), Stanford (#26 GSPI, #31 RR, #19 money list), Y Kim (#22 GSPI, #45 RR, #25 money list), Gulbis (#34 GSPI, #26 RR, #15 money list), and Han (#14 GSPI, #23 RR, #84 [thanks to maternity leave]).

To give you a sense of the gaps between these subgroups among my top 25, consider that Ochoa has 68.05 rating on the GSPI, a 17.33 average in the RR, and has made $2.30M this year. The next 4 players average 69.77 on the GSPI, 8.21 on the RR, and $.89M on the money list (not counting Sorenstam's total in their money average due to her long absence from competitive golf). The 5 behind them are very close indeed--70.17 (GSPI), 7.58 (RR), and $.83M (money list)--and hence are far ahead of the next 6, who average 70.54, 5.62, and $.72M. There's about as sizable a gap between them and the next 4, who average 70.66, 3.97, and $.55M, but the last group of 5 are fairly close behind them, averaging 70.95, 3.50, and $.52M (not counting Han's total in their money average due to her long absence from competitive golf). In short, Ochoa is further ahead of her closest 4 competitors than they are of the bottom of the top 25.

Outside of this top 25 are formerly ranked and up-and-coming players like Gustafson, Ahn, S Lee, Hjorth, Hurst, Francella, Diaz, C Kim, and IK Kim. As always, it would be interesting to see how these rankings would change if top players on other tours--like Ji Yai Shin, Eun-Hee Ji, Sun Ju Ahn, and Hyun-Ju Shin of the KLPGA, Shiho Oyama, Momoko Ueda, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Sakura Yokomine, Yuri Fudoh, Na Zhang, Shinobu Moromizato, Ji-Hee Lee, and Miki Saiki of the JLPGA, and Gwladys Nocera, Trish Johnson, Becky Brewerton, Linda Wessberg, Karine Icher, and Sophie Giquel of the LET--were playing on the LPGA on a regular basis.

Be that as it may, my current rankings give me reason to be more optimistic about my early season predictions than I was in mid-May. The only person I've lost hope in is Meena Lee, although I'll need late charges from most of my picks, but particularly Webb, Sorenstam, and Gulbis, for Creamer, Pressel, Pettersen, JY Lee, Lincicome, Prammanasudh, and Inkster to be displaced from the top 11 by the end of the season.

[Update: Just as I was turning this into a shorter diary entry over at Waggle Room, I found out that Hound Dog has updated his own LPGA Top 30 rankings. His are much better than mine, so go check them out!]

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Summer in Chiba City II

Sorry for the cryptic comment at the end of yesterday's post. Almost everything's been great about our stay in Chiba with onechan's and imoto's baba and gigi, but just as I started to write that post I looked over and saw that imoto was starting to snack on some kind of medicinal creme. I got it away from her in a flash, cleaned her hands and mouth a bit, checked out the tube more closely, realized I couldn't read it, and raced downstairs to the tsuma and baba to ask, "Is this bad for babies to eat?" Apparently, although I thought I was being calm and sardonic, I gave the impression of being angry and panicked, so I kind of freaked them out, especially when I insisted they call the Japanese equivalent of a poison control center after the tsuma and I tried five different ways of washing imoto's mouth out more thoroughly. Turns out she got very little of what turned out to be a very weak steroid creme in her mouth and the folks on the phone told us not to worry unless she vomited or something, which she didn't do. Once we got her calmed down (after, not during, her bath), I finished the post, shut down the computer, and went to bed with the kids. She turned out to be just fine this morning.

So, yeah, yesterday's end wasn't the best--but it could have been a lot worse. And the beginning wasn't so great, either. I was so exhausted from a week with onechan and imoto's cousins that I went to bed early Sunday night and slept straight through the end of the Women's British Open. With them back in Okinawa by that time, we could sleep downstairs and give baba her room back, but that meant I didn't have access to the computer, either. And since we had to get to Tokyo early for my Fulbright exit interview--and stayed all day at Tokyo Dome City, in the amusement park/play area/shopping area surrounding the Yomiuri Giants' home stadium--I literally didn't find out that Lorena and Tiger won their respective tournaments until right before I found out that imoto was able to open a twist cap. That's how I missed the end of my own carnival. Nice.

Still, I can't complain. This was a week of firsts for imoto. In the weeks before we left Fukuoka, she'd become quite vocal, stringing together phrases and sentences in a language no one understood but which had the rhythms of everyday Japanese. For the first few days in Chiba, she was very quiet, but just before her cousins left, she began to use individual words. And not just the "Mama," "Dada," "Baba" variety--although even with those she was quite clever, as when I would stop her from doing something abunai, she would cry, "Mama," and then when mama would agree with me, she'd cry "Baba"--or "oichi" for oishi (delicious). No, these were the most powerful words in onechan's vocabulary, ones guaranteed to get any adults' attention around her--"itai" (ouch!) and "oshiko" (I have to go pee!). Sure, she uses them in any situation she wants to get our attention and they accrue any number of meanings beyond their dictionary definitions, but I'll save that kind of academic nitpicking for my last set of student papers. If you can't cut a 15-month-old some slack, who can you?

Speaking of which, we found out this afternoon that imoto can also use her container-opening powers for good, After lunch at a sushi place, we gave her a lollypop that she had gotten as a gift from the restaurant owners to keep her occupied for awhile, but she had other plans. She got it out of its plastic wrapping without our noticing, and was about halfway through it when we realized what she had done. By then, despite our anti-sugar position, we figured it would send the wrong message to take it away from her--appropriating the fruits of her labor, in a sense. Come to think of it, she also grabbed a popsicle from onechan the other day, so she has her own position on our anti-sugar position,

When you consider that imoto had just learned to roll over about a year ago and is now climbing stairs (with some help going down) like a pro, her changes since we left the States have been even more dramatic than onechan's. A few more anecdotes to drive this point home. Despite her dislike of bathtubs, she loves the inflatable pools that she played in at one of onechan's friend's houses in Fukuoka and that onechan, baba, and I inflated after the cousins left late Sunday morning. Since it was so much work to inflate, we've kept it up since then and today imoto had another clever moment. When a bee landed on her wrist, she calmly put her hand in the water--tsuma had to rescue the bee from a near-drowning! Don't get on imoto's bad side. She has ways of dealing with you. Like when she wakes up in the middle of the night and wants some opai, if mama's just that slow getting up, she gets a pinch in the back or side. (I witnessed that myself around 4 am today!) I've been on the receiving end of various scratches and chin butts, myself. And poor onechan's a prime target for both pinching and hair pulling. We just tell her imoto has to learn to be yasashi--right now she's more like Kuromi than My Melody.

Speaking of onechan, she's had a pretty good time since her cousins left, what with the pool at baba's place, the neighborhood Matsuri festival we took her and her sister to, her visit to Tokyo (even if it didn't involve riding any of the rides at Tokyo Dome City that she had her heart set on--she was too short for most and it was too hot for us to ride on the slow-moving ones she could have gone on), and her reunion today with her friend Yumi-chan at the nearby playground. With all the activity, we haven't had time to catch up with Uncle Bill's latest.

But now that the cousins are gone and we're back from Tokyo, my little summer vacation is coming to an end as well, so after one more LPGA post I'm going to take a break from golf blogging until we're back in the States. Until then, you can find us in the comments on posts like these.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Take Your Blog to the Course II: The Sequel

With apologies to raincoaster, who suggested a slightly different name for this Mostly Harmless event, I'm going with a tribute to the Airplane movie series in this quixotic attempt to get bloggers not known for their love of respect for awareness of tolerance for writing on women's golf to help me draw Blogoramaville's attention to the Evian Masters and the Women's British Open.

This European swing for the LPGA is interesting to me for, oh, several thousand reasons. Not least among them are the chance to see how the stars of the Ladies European Tour stack up on their home turf against the best from the LPGA, KLPGA, and JLPGA, whether these big-purse tournaments can help vault any of world #1 Lorena Ochoa's top competitors into shouting distance of her on the 2007 LPGA money list, who among Morgan Pressel, Seon Hwa Lee, Ai Miyazato, and Jee Young Lee is the top Super Soph, and whether Sarah Lee, Meaghan Francella, Annika Sorenstam, Natalie Gulbis, and Michelle Wie have recovered from their injuries enough to begin to think about approaching their top form.

But enough about me--this carnival is about you. As before, I'll post here most any link or submission I receive at the[underscore]constructivist18[at]yahoo[dot]com between July 25th and August 5th (U.S. time--this blog is on Japan time while I'm still on this side of the Pacific) and keep this page at the top of the blog during that stretch. So start submitting!

August 6
In which I congratulate Lorena Ochoa.

August 4
But when the wind is up this course is tough!

August 3
Hey, these gals are good! And since so many people in the field have mentioned in interviews playing the video game version of St. Andrews, here's a link to a JapanProbe article on the newest Japanese golf video game.

August 2
And they're off!

August 1
In which I all but drool over the pairings for the first two rounds of the British Women's Open.

July 30
In which I draw lessons and raise questions from the French Alps for Scotland.

July 29
Not that bad, if I do say so myself. But plenty of room for improvement. You up to it?

July 28
Still not good. But better late than never. Same goes for you all.

July 27
Definitely not my worst ever. Has potential. I'm sure you can do better. If you agree, let me know! Certainly Hound Dog's tv criticism does better. Anyone else?

July 26
In which I write my worst golf post ever. Yet another reason for you to pick up the slack!

July 25
Here's Hound Dog's tournament preview and mine.

Way to Go, Lorena!

A quick congrats to Lorena Ochoa for her easy win at the Women's British Open. More later...a lot's been going on here, most of it good!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Old Course Shows Evian Masters Golf Club What Moving Backwards Day Really Looks Like

It's clear from the numbers alone of the people who went off early today that the Old Course at St. Andrews is showing its teeth this Saturday at the Women's British Open. With 12 players who have failed to break 80 or are about to and only 1 under par out of everyone who's already completed their third round--Stacy Prammanasudh, whose 72 gets her to +3 for the tournament, good enough for T20 right now--the only question remaining is how big a moving backward day will it be for the 19 players ahead of our leader in the clubhouse. Will the carnage be intense enough that Prammanasudh, with a little luck, could play herself into contention on the back 9 on Sunday? Will it be even worse, keeping the hopes of +5ers like Karrie Webb and Jimin Kang alive? How many of the golfers already playing well this week will stand up to Open weekend pressure on top of the tougher scoring conditions? We'll find out soon. As of this writing, there are only 8 people still under par--although the leader Lorena Ochoa has gotten back to -7, and if she stays there all these questions are moot. Here's hoping Japanese tv doesn't only focus on the struggles of Momoko Ueda (79, +9, T50), Ai Miyazato (77, +8, T45), Miki Saiki (+2 through 8, +2, T17), and Yuri Fudoh (+2 through 4, -1, T6) and covers it like an actual tournament.

[Update 1 (10:32 pm): Ochoa's now at -8, so this may be moot, but there are now only 17 people ahead of Prammanasudh, 5 under par, and 14 rounds that are or will be in the 80s for sure. Maria Hjorth, at +2 with two possible birdie holes ahead of her (under normal conditions, that is), has the best chance to finish ahead of Prammanasudh. We'll see how tough Se Ri Pak is--she's E through 10 (on the round and the tournament and T6--or she was, until she bogeyed the tough par-3 11th!]

[Update 2 (10:48 pm): Ah, Dave Allen at Golf for Women was onto the state of the weather early. Now there are 4 under par, Paula Creamer shot a fantastic 74 in these conditions to tie Prammanasudh as leader in the clubhouse at +3 (currently T16), Maria Hjorth birdied 17 to get to +1 on the tournament (and -1 for her round), and now there's a good chance for 19 rounds in the 80s. But Ochoa is still -8.]

[Update 3 (11:08 pm): Hjorth matched Prammanasudh's 72 to remain 2 shots ahead of her. Now the interesting question is how many behind Ochoa will Hjorth be heading into Sunday's round? And how many people will be E or better for the tournament after 3 rounds? Now there are 6, but they have only just begun the tougher middle 9 of the course.]

[Update 4 (11:20 pm): Brittany Lincicome joins Creamer and Prammanasudh at +3 (now back to T16), with only Reilley Rankin (+2, T11) between them and Hjorth at +1 (now T5!).]

[Update 5 (11:33 pm): Well, well, well, Super Soph in Waiting Linda Wessberg just birdied 18 to shoot the third 72 of the third round and finish at E (T4). So we know there will be at least 1 player between Hjorth (now T6) and Ochoa heading into Sunday. Right now, Wessberg is 7 behind Ochoa, while Rankin is T10 and the +3 group is T14.]

[Update 6 (11:45 pm): Wessberg, by the way, was in a similar position last week, heading into the Evian Masters's final round at E, 6 shots behind the leader. She shot an 80 that Sunday. We'll see tomorrow how much she learned from that experience. In another aside, we could have as many as 21 rounds in the 80s today.]

[Update 7 (11:59 pm): How great is Lorena Ochoa playing today? She's -2 through 12 and has a 6-shot lead on Wendy Ward, the only other person in the tournament under par. If she can get through the tough 13th and 16th, she actually has a chance to break 70 today! Se Ri Pak ballooned to +3 but now has the birdie-able 17th and 18th left to play. Hopefully she can come close to Hjorth or Wessberg with a strong finish!]

[Update 8 (8/5/07, 12:08 am): Pak could only tie Rankin at +2, unfortunately. Now it's Jee Young Lee's turn to make a move on her closing 2 holes. I'm off to watch the TV Asahi coverage.]

[Update 9 (8/5/07, 2:05 am): They switched the start time of the coverage on me, so I could only catch the last 6 holes of Ochoa's group (and of course a lot of Fudoh). All I can say is Ochoa seemed too loose to me--not only did she bogey 13 and 16, she had legitimate birdie chances on every single other hole, as well--and made nothing. Still, she takes a 6-shot lead on Wessberg, a 7-shot lead on Hjorth, Lee, Karine Icher, and Annika Sorenstam, an 8-shot lead on Rankin, Pak. Eun-Hee Ji, Catriona Matthew, and Wendy Ward, and a 9-shot lead on Prammanasudh, Creamer, Lincicome, and Na On Min into Sunday's round. It's her major to win--or lose.

By the way, there ended up being 26 rounds in the 80s on Moving Backwards Day at the Old Course. Wow.]

Friday, August 3, 2007

Juli Inkster and Yuri Fudoh Respond--Who Else Will?

With Juli Inkster's 68 (+1, T29 so far) and Yuri Fudoh's 69 (-3, T4) leading the way, scores from the second round of the Women's British Open have been surprisingly low--surprisingly, at least, if you listen to Ron Sirak. When Miki Saiki, one of the less heralded JLPGA players in the field, shoots a 70 to get back to E for the tournament (T19), and Canadian Alena Sharp matches that -3 performance to keep within a shot of her in the tournament (T29), you know there are more sub-70 rounds to come, even in the generally tougher afternoon conditions.

Annika Sorenstam and Sherri Steinhauer already came close--their matching 71s today got them to -3, tied with Fudoh--as did KLPGA #2 Eun-Hee Ji, whose eagle on 10 helped her to get to -2 for the tournament (T8). With veterans like Wendy Ward (-3 through 14, -5 for the tournament, 2 shots behind Ochoa, alone in 2nd), Catriona Matthew (-2 through 6, -2 for the tournament, tied with Ji and Miyazato), Beth Daniel (-2 through 8, -1 for the tournament, T12), and Karen Stupples (-2 through 7, E for the tournament, T19) making late morning charges of their own--along with KLPGA #1 Ji Yai Shin (-2 through 14, +1 for the tournament, T28), Cristie Kerr and Sakura Yokomine (who both shot 34s on the front to get back to +2, T44)--and many others at -1, we should see some more players break the 70 barrier soon.

That's not to say it was fun and games for everyone out there. #1 in the Class of 2006 Morgan Pressel's opening 34 this morning gave her some hope of playing on the weekend, but her 42 on the back ended that dream. #1 in the Class of 2007 Angela Park battled back to +4 for the tournament through her first 8 holes, but bogeys on 9, 11, 15, and 16 (those latter two for the second day in a row), offset by only 2 birdies down the stretch, dropped her to +6, in danger of missing the first cut of her LPGA career. If she does, she'll have to blame that 8 on the road hole on Thursday! Laura Davies, looking for a win in a major that would qualify her for the LPGA Hall of Fame, may have a 7 on the same hole today to blame--she had it to -3 on her round after 10, 12, and then 14 holes, but only ended up with a 73, tied with Park at +6. And many other big names continued their struggles on the Old Course, among them Meaghan Francella (+12 for the tournament), Mi Hyun Kim and Laura Diaz (+11), and Shi Hyun Ahn (+9).

This time I'm staying up to make sure I catch the action on Japanese tv. More later!

[Update 1 (11:33 pm): Well, Ward couldn't do it. She birdied the road hole to get to -4 on her round and -6 on the tournament, but bogeyed 18. Ouch. Not as painful as Hye Jung Choi's +16 for the tournament or Kyeong Bae's +8--very disappointing results for these fast-rising Super Sophs.]

[Update 2 (8/4/07, 9:54 am): So the answer to my title question is...Catriona Matthew! She was the only person who played well for all 18 holes among the later groups. Her 68 has vaulted her into a tie for second, only 1 shot behind Lorena Ochoa, thanks to some bad putting by the world #1 on the last two greens. Others came close to breaking 70, such as Karine Icher (whose +1 finish over her last 4 holes kept her from doing better than 71--still good enough for -3 and T4), Sophie Gustafson (who was -2 11 holes into her second round, but went +1 over her last 7 to drop to -1 for the tournament, T10), Karen Stupples (who went 33-39 to finish T19 at +1), Cristie Kerr (who went 34-37 to finish T29 at +2), Jimin Kang (who was -3 through 10 but doubled the 15th on her way to a 72, which dropped her to T40 at +3), and Ji Yai Shin (who was -2 through 14 but finished bogey-double-bogey-birdie for a 74, which dropped her all the way back to T52 at +4), but like those in the morning group I focused on earlier, they just couldn't do it.

Still, they have to feel better than the people who shot themselves out of contention, like my fave Ai Miyazato, who never got it going on the front and went from bad to worse on the back. 70-80 can't feel good, especially when the conditions were as benign Friday as Thursday. Nor can 69-79, which is what In-Bee Park (whom the editors of Golf for Women may someday realize is not from Japan) shot. Even those who shot more reasonable numbers like 71-76 (Meena Lee and Brittany Lincicome), 72-75 (Na On Min), 72-76 (In-Kyung Kim), 73-75 (Paula Creamer), and 73-76 (Natalie Gulbis and Momoko Ueda) can't feel all that great given that they did this in such comparatively good Scottish weather.

Still, it's better to be playing on the weekend than not playing, which unfortunately is what's going to happen to Pat Hurst (+14), Julieta Granada (+13), Seon Hwa Lee (+8), Jeong Jang and Michelle Wie (+7)--and maybe even Angela Stanford (+7 with two holes left to play when play was suspended), along with the big group joining Angela Park and Laura Davies at +6, including Brittany Lang, Shiho Oyama, and my friend Moira Dunn, who are T69 according to yet below the projected cut line for some reason.

But it's even better to be in contention, like short-sleeve-wearing Englishwoman Rebecca Hudson (-3, T4), Ai-chan's playing partner from the first round of the Evian Masters Virginie Lagoutte-Clement (-1, T10), Swedes Louise Friberg (-1 T10) and Catrin Nilsmark (E, T14), and England's own Lisa Hall (E, T14)--all of whom are helping the usual suspects like Sorenstam and Gustafson make this a Eurocentric top 15. Jee Young Lee (-1, T10) is the only Super Soph in contention, while Se Ri Pak looked grim and unhappy the few times I saw her on Japanese tv, despite being only 6 shots off the lead and playing solidly. Maybe it was that double on the 1st hole Friday that had her playing defense all day that did it.

Speaking of Japanese tv, its coverage, of course, was limited to the groups Ai-chan, Momoko, and Sakura were playing in--some very good golfers, but to fit their rounds into the brief 4-hour coverage we saw very little of Kerr, Pak, Gulbis, Creamer, and Stupples, none of Matthew and Pettersen (b/c Oyama had blown up early, exiling herself and her group from the coverage, despite her strong finish to give herself a chance to make the cut while Sakura and Ai-chan were self-destructing on the back), and barely enough of Ochoa. Despite that parochialism, I enjoyed the coverage, which literally gave the three Japanese stars a lot of face time (Momoko has a cute pout, while Ai-chan somehow looks grim, intense, and cuter than ever when she's upset with herself, as she was all day, while Sakura just looked lost as her dad/caddy, a newly-elected member of the DPJ's Upper House majority in Japan, blew her off). I think the great rounds of Fudoh and Saiki in the morning combined with the great playing conditions (for St. Andrews) put extra pressure on them to perform. Whatever it was, their bad ball-striking, shaky wedge play, and bad putting combined to do them in, despite flashes of brilliance here and there. With the pressure off a bit, perhaps Ai-chan and Sakura can make a run at Fudoh and Saiki and steal their way into the top 10. Maybe going off early will give them a bit of an advantage.

Here are the second-round interviews. Enjoy!]

Summer in Chiba City

In only a week here in Chiba with the tsuma's sister and her three boys (5, 3, and 1 and a half) before they return to Okinawa, we're trying to pack a full summer's worth of fun. This includes:

1. Suika every afternoon. Japanese watermelon is the best!

2. Fireworks every night we can. Last night was just sparklers in the driveway but tomorrow night we're shooting for the real thing, if we can get the middle cousin over last year's trauma. Hey, don't tease him--ever since onechan was caught outside in that mini-typhoon with her mom and little sister, she's been afraid of strong winds! I had to talk her down during the Matsuri festival one of our last evenings in Fukuoka when it got windy enough for her to exclaim "sugoi kaze!" and suggest that everyone get inside immediately. (In her defense, she did hear that a typhoon was near Japan that week.) Which reminds me that she was also afraid of the sparklers because of the fire safety lesson she got at her yochien.

3. Speaking of typhoons and Fukuoka, we managed to get out of town before Typhoon Usagi went almost straight northward up the eastern side of Kyushu. It's hugging the northwestern coast of Honshu--good thing Chiba is on the southeastern one! Dodging typhoons is good summer fun. Being in them, not so much.

4. More summer festivals. Today we enjoyed the ancient and revered Pokemon Festival right by the Chiba Marines baseball dome/stadium. Well, I guess less than ten years isn't quite ancient, but when upwards of 25,000 people were there in the first three hours of a three-day event, that's some serious reverence. We're talking elementary school kids, their younger siblings, and their moms (and even some dads) hiking in a kilometer or more from the parking lot in high 20s C (at 9 am) and sunny post-rainy season heat wave to go through at least that much in lines just to enter the main arena, which is filled with 8 or so stations, each of which involved waits of 10 minutes (for the free Nintendo DS new Pokemon adventure game) to 4 hours (for who knows what). We waited about 45 minutes to get a Pokeball and go in with a group of kids and moms trying to "catch" some new Pocket Monsters. Only problem was, neither the tsuam and I paid any attention to the directions the attendant was giving the kids, so when onechan got scared (of course), we had little idea what to do and only caught 2. Whatever. Then we avoided the 4-hour line and onechan and I tried the Nintendo DS game, which basically involved hitting the A button whenever hiragana appeared on the screen (which was often). I did accidentally discover you could move the character by touching the screen, which was cool. (You could say I've been out of the gaming world for a while, I guess.) Then the family waited a half hour for photos with and postcards featuring Pokemon characters, while imoto and I checked out the crowd outside that station, while some kind of concert went on about 200 yards away. This was the best part of the event, for me, at least. I jokingly referred to the whole thing as "three hours of crowd watching and kid herding" in a cell phone email to a friend, but I can't say I didn't have a good time doing that. I've been to Tool at the Buffalo Civic Center, but this crowd dwarfed that one. More litle girls in this one, too. As much as I hate Pokemon, I have to admit it provides a unifying generational experience for the boys and girls between 3 and 12, who were the majority of the crowd. Sorry, no outre otaku sightings to report, but as Kung Fu Monkey pointed out, the .1% of the crowd that fits the bill gets 99% of the media attention, so why feed into that even if I did see some?

5. Lots and lots of free play for the cousins. Imoto and her male counterpart are beginning to get old enough to almost interact--they had an impromptu tea sucking contest (her cousin learned to use a straw for the first time at lunch today) outside a Costco food area, fight over/share prized toys and whatever else they find on the floor, climb stairs together, and get jealous when any of the adults pick up any of the other kids. Onechan continues to tag along after her gosai otokonoko cousin and gang up with him on his three-year-old younger brother, but the difference is now they all can have real conversations, as her Japanese has improved light years since the beginning of the year when they were last hanging together.

6. Watching Japanese kids' tv together--including late evening stuff like Kurayon Shin-chan, which featured tonight a great parody of the Sunday morning live-action Kamen Rider (Masked Rider) show, using the voice talents of the actual actors from the show. This deserves a post of its own.

7. Oh yeah, and I am definitely staying up to watch the second round of the Women's British Open on Japanese tv tonight. Definitely.

Onechan Tells a Story

Dear Onechan,

Sparkychan and Gojochan just sent me a bunch of pictures they took while visiting Stranger Land in cyberspace. But they didn't tell me much about what happened. They said "Onechan will tell you all about it." So here the pictures are, Onechan. What's going on?

What's Gojochan doing here?

all along the watchtower.jpg

Why's Sparkychan sitting alone? What's Sparkychan looking at?

the innocent eye.jpg

Are they on an old log? What're they talking about?

on a log.jpg

Where are they going? Why's Sparkychan riding Gojochan?

strangers in a strange land.jpg

Is that an Astro Projection Wagon they're on?

ride the ramschackle express.jpg

Look out! Wheeeee!

mad dash.jpg

There they go. But where?

surfing the web.jpg

Thanks for all your help, Onechan.

Uncle Bill

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Ochoa Makes Statement in Opening Round of the Women's British Open

If you consider a bogey-free 67 a statement, that is. Early in the Women's British Open, Ochoa has a three-shot lead on Okinawa's Ai Miyazato, who equaled Ochoa's 6 birdies but suffered an early double and a late bogey, and England's Rebecca Hudson, who closed with 3 birdies on the back while matching Ochoa's bogey total.

There are a lot of people out on the Old Course and many groups still haven't started, but so far only Sweden's Louise Friberg has passed Miyazato and Hudson, at -4 through 16, although Brittany Lincicome gave it a good shot with 2 birdies in her last three holes (finally breaking her 3 birdie-3 bogey deadlock) to finish at -2. Slumping Super Soph Brittany Lang was -3 through 10, but bogeyed the 11th and 12th to fall back into 7th place with Korea's Sarah Lee and Na On Min, France's Karine Icher and Virginie Lagoutte-Clement, and Italy's Tullia Calzavara at -1. 2006 Rookie of the Year Seon Hwa Lee shot a fine 33 on the front but gave it all back and more with a double on 10 and bogeys on 12, 13, 14, and 15 to fall 3 behind Hawaii's Michelle Wie (who was -3 through 10) and Japan's Momoko Ueda (who was -2 through 10), who also cooled off after hot starts but managed to finish at E, along with Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak (who had two early bogeys and two late birdies, along with another pair of both in the middle of her round), 2005 Rookie of the Year Paula Creamer (who spread her four bogeys and birdies around more evenly), and Evian Masters champion Natalie Gulbis (who doubled 16 but birdied 17 and 18).

There's a lot more to report, but I want to wait until Moira Dunn finishes her round--trying to avoid the ol' Mostly Harmless jinx on her this time. Less than 2 hours until the coverage on Japanese tv begins!

[Update 1 (11:08 pm): Well, the road hole dropped Moira back over par, but she's in good company at 74 with Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Prammanasudh, among others. And she's in better shape than big names like Grace Park (75), Jeong Jang and Seon Hwa Lee (76), Cristie Kerr, Shiho Oyama, and Sakura Yokomine (+77), and Julieta Granada (78). And will be ahead of big names like Morgan Pressel (+5 through 11), Juli Inkster, Mi Hyun Kim, and Shi Hyun Ahn (at +4 through 10, 6, and 7 respectively), and Karrie Webb amd Angela Stanford (+3 through 10 and 12, respectively), unless they get their acts together.]

[Update 2 (11:13 pm): So far only Joanne Mills, Maria Hjorth, Angela Park, and Aree Song are under par among those on the course. Lang is now +1 with 3 to play. Time for a quick nap before the tv coverage begins!]

[Update 3 (8/3/07, 7:18 am): Well, I overslept and only saw Yuri Fudoh birdie the 14th with an up-and-down as nice as Annika Sorenstam's on 18 for birdie. Then I overslept again so this update will have to be brief as we're heading out in an hour to some Pokemon thing that onechan's cousins are very excited about. Moira ended up T36 at the end of the day--not a bad start, considering Laura Diaz's 81, Pressel's and Meaghan Francella's 80s, Mi Hyun Kim's, Juli Inkster's, Hye Jung Choi's, Shi Hyun Ahn's, and Laura Davies's 79s, Angela Stanford's and Angela Park's 78s, Karrie Webb's and Jimin Kang's 77s, Ji Yai Shin's 76, and Rachel Hetherington's, Maria Hjorth's, Christina Kim's, and Brittany Lang's 75s. Sure, she's 5 shots behind In-Bee Park, the only person besides Ochoa and Friberg to break 70 on Thursday, but only 3 behind Lincicome, Meena Lee, Wendy Ward, and Joanne Mills, only 2 behind Jee Young Lee, Annika Sorenstam, Sherri Steinhauer, Catrin Nilsmark, and In-Kyung Kim, and only 1 behind the big group at par, which was joined by Sophie Gustafson and Eun-Hee Ji, among others. So she's right in the mix after Day 1!]

[Update 4 (8/3/07, 2:27 pm): Back from the Pokemon event, which I'll devote a separate post to later. Just a quick note on carnage I missed in the last update--Kyeong Bae shot an 80 and Pat Hurst a 77. And the weather is supposed to get worse over the next three rounds. I'm thinking even people who blew up on Thursday can pass a lot of people Friday just by grinding and keeping it close to par. The cut could be as high as +8....]

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Incredible Women's British Open First and Second Round Pairings

The R&A deserves all the criticism it gets for its ridiculous sexism, but you have to give their people credit for putting together some incredible pairings for the first two rounds of the Women's British Open. [Update (8/4/07): Ah, too good to be true--as my anaonymous tipster points out in comments, the Ladies Golf Union deserves the credit for the pairings, not the R&A. Way to go, LGU! Now if only your website could handle some traffic!)] Putting a player from Asia, Europe, and North America in each threesome, as they generally did, is a great way to educate fans at the course, although they deviated from this pattern just enough to make it even more interesting. Here are my favorite pairings:

1. 6:52 am/11:37 am: Paula Creamer, Momoko Ueda, Se Ri Pak
2. 11:48 am/7:03 am: Laura Davies, Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster
3. 7:03 am/11:48 am: Lorena Ochoa, Sakura Yokomine, Karen Stupples
4. 7:14 am/11:59 am: Cristie Kerr, Ai Miyazato, Natalie Gulbis
5. 11:37 am/6:52 am: Morgan Pressel, Annika Sorenstam, Ashleigh Simon
6. 1:10 pm/8:25 am: Sophie Gustafson, Eun-Hee Ji, Rachel Hetherington
7. 7:36 am/12:26 pm: Suzann Pettersen, Catriona Matthew, Shiho Oyama
8. 12:37 pm/7:47 am: Yuri Fudoh, Shi Hyun Ahn, Maria Hjorth
9. 1:54 pm/9:09 am: Angela Park, Linda Wessberg, Jimin Kang
10. 7:25 am/12:15 pm: Michelle Wie, Grace Park, Beth Daniel

My only criticism is what they did to Ji Yai Shin, the top KLPGA player--not only did they deny her big-name playing partners, they have her going off at 3:16 pm on Thursday, as well.

BTW, my friend Moira Dunn is playing with Seon Hwa Lee--here's hoping she keeps pace with the Stone Buddha! Plus, the tournament is crawling with European Super Sophs who usually play on the LET--seeing how they do head-to-head against their full-time LPGA counterparts will help me when I update my monthly rankings. And I may even get to watch some of this on Japanese tv, with onechan, imoto, and their three otokonoko cousins!

[Update 1 (10:52 am): For more in this vein, check out Ron Sirak over at Local Knowledge and Dave Allen at Golf for Women. And thanks to Geoff Shackleford for the tip!]

[Update 2 (10:26 pm): Whoops, won't be watching with the kids, after all, unless any of them wake up at midnight and can't fall back to sleep!]

Zutto Zutto Tomodachi; and, The Collected Adventures of Sparkychan and Gojochan (Thus Far)

Cross-posted at Citizen of Somewhere Else

Has a better ring to it than "best friends 4evah," right? Well, it has about the same meaning. It's a line from the song onechan and her friends sang at the graduation ceremony for the older kids in her yochien this past spring. Since we're leaving Fukuoka before she can get to take part in a similar ceremony herself--in fact, we've already spent a full day in Chiba--I'm taking a break tonight from LPGA blogging to convey a big "sayonara" to all the Fukuoka friends she's leaving.

Maybe their parents can read them the Collected Adventures of Sparkychan and Gojochan (Thus Far), courtesy of Uncle Bill Benzon, and leave a comment or three here for him and onechan....

July 9: For onechan [in response to this and that]
July 10: The discussion continues
July 11: Onechan's Adventure [in response to this]
July 12: Where's Onechan? and Calling Onechan! Calling Onechan!
July 14: Help is on the way and There They Are! Yippieeee! [in response to this]
July 17: Onechan's Choice
July 19: Calling all kidz! Calling all kidz! [in response to this]
July 23: Sigh
July 28: Catch you later alligator
August 1: Where's the bunny rabbit?

[Update (8/3/07): New one--Onechan Tells a Stpry]

[Update (8/11/07): Another new one--The Little Worm from Kansas]

[Update (8/14/07): And another--Twas brillig]

[Update (8/16/07): And yet another--Sparkychan & Gojochan Adventure Time Mystery Theatre]

[Update (8/21/07): Check the comments on the last installment (thus far) for onechan's and imoto's immediate reactions to Sparkychan and Gojochan showing up in Dunkirk!]