Saturday, March 15, 2008

MasterCard Classic Friday: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Lorena Ochoa heads into the weekend 9 shots out of the lead after shooting her worst score in nearly a year (76), thanks to a balky driver, bad lag putting, and fantastic rounds by Jill McGill (67), Ji Young Oh (68), Ya Ni Tseng (68), Amy Yang (69), and Eva Dahloff (69), the only players to break 70 on a tough Bosque Real course yesterday. Theresa Bradley filed a solid overview for the AP, and the notes and interviews page will have to substitute for those who don't get ESPN Desportes, which is televising what look to be highlights for the first round and the final few holes of the weekend rounds.

Ochoa has her work cut out for her this weekend if she wants to get into contention on the last 9 holes of the MasterCard Classic, but as an overview of the first round will show, anything can happen over the final 2 at Bosque Real.

The Good

While only 5 players broke 70, 18 were under par in all, and another 13 were at par. Among those who played well Friday, most fit into one of two categories.

Introducing the comeback kids:

  • McGill birdied 2 of her first 4 holes on the back, but was only -1 with 5 holes to play, only to cap off her round with a birdie-birdie-par-par-eagle finish. The eagle was a 50-foot bomb following a 7-iron into the severely-downhill par 5's island green. She takes a lead of five shots and $11K in career winnings over Moira Dunn--who, like McGill, is on the cusp of breaking the $2M barrier, but who, unlike McGill, played old-school solid golf Friday, with a bogey on the 4th, a birdie on the 6th, and pars on every other hole on the course--into Saturday's round.
  • Dahloff has spent most of her long career and all of this decade on the LPGA as a non-exempt player, but she leapt out of the gates with a 32 on the back and held on for a 37 on the front.
  • Candie Kung (70) bogeyed 2 of her first 3 holes, but righted the ship with a birdie on the 4th and never looked back--all pars, except for a little birdie-eagle flourish on the par-5 12th and par-4 13th--for her second-best score of the season, but probably her best round, as Bosque Real is a much more difficult course than Ko Olina.
  • Pat Hurst (70) made an even bigger comeback, thanks to her birdie-par-birdie-birdie-birdie finish on the 14th through 18th holes, as did Jacqueline Yang (71), who made up for a triple on the 3rd with 5 birdies over her final 10 holes.
  • Il Mi Chung (72), by contrast, matched Dunn's 16-par day.
  • Brandie Burton and Wendy Ward pulled off the 14-par day, the former in uplifting and the latter in disappointing fashion, for matching 72s.

And then, the plain-old kids:

  • Oh has come back from Korea stronger, as she put it: of her 5 birdies yesterday, none was with a club longer than an 8-iron or a putt longer than 6 feet (which makes me suspect that the 410-yard 8th and the 412-yard 17th are downhill--elevation alone can't account for her hitting an 8-iron and 9-iron into them, respectively, when she didn't hit any par 5s in 2).
  • Tseng birdied two of her first 6 holes off the front, struggled on the par 3s in the middle, offset them by hitting the middle two par 5s in 2 for easy 2-putt birdies, and closed with 2 more birdies in her final 6 holes. The 18th was the only par 5 she failed to birdie on Friday.
  • Yang--whom the LPGA notetaker apparently has forgotten is a rookie, probably because she played like a vet today--made 4 birdies in her first 16 holes, the last one offsetting her bogey on the 4th and setting up her steady finish on the tough 7th through 9th.
  • fellow rookie Eunjung Yi recovered from a bogey on the 10th and a double on the 14th that brought her back to E after a hot start with 2 cool birdies in her final 3 holes, matching comeback kid Gloria Park's similar finish hours earlier. Both shot 70.
  • Sun Young Yoo had the seesaw good round of the day--5 birdies offset by 4 bogeys, which is only slightly less disconcerting than comeback kid Carin Koch's roller-coaster round of the day--6 birdies, 3 bogeys, and a double. Both shot 71.
  • Paige Mackenzie (71) finished her day with birdies on the 7th and 9th to get under par for the second time in her 4 rounds this season.
  • LET Rookie of the Year Louise Stahle bogeyed 4 through 6 but bounced back with birdies on 3 of her next 4 holes (all except the par-5 9th!). LPGA Euro-rookie Louise Friberg bounced back and forth between +1 and E all day, but a birdie on her final hole, the par-5 18th, allowed her to match Stahle's 72.
  • Jane Park was +2 through the 10th, but birdies on the 12th and 16th salvaged her round, much like fellow New Super Soph Charlotte Mayorkas's birdie on the par-5 6th hole, her 15th, did. Both shot 72.

Which is a long way of saying that there are only two people you'd really have expected to see among the leaders actually on Friday's leaderboard--Jeong Jang and Laura Diaz--who both shot up-and-down 71s to end the day T10.

The Bad

There were three kinds of players who had bad rounds today: already-established players who disappointed, players looking to make a name for themselves who fell back over par after good starts, and players looking to make a name for themselves who recovered from terrible starts.

There were a good number of big-name disappointments:

  • Stacy Prammanasudh (73, T32) can claim a moral victory, at least; after a steady start off the back, she was E through her first 10 holes, bogeyed 3 of the next 4, but closed with birdies on 2 of her last 4.
  • Seon Hwa Lee (74, T45) can't even claim that much; after fighting back from a double on the 18th that had ballooned her back side to a 39 with birdies on the 2nd and 7th, she lost her momentum with a bogey on the 8th and had to settle for a par on the 9th.
  • Still, they have to feel better than Julieta Granada (74, T45), who was -2 through her first 8 holes but finished with 4 bogeys in her final 10.
  • Meena Lee's struggles continued, as she followed up an all-par back with back-to-back bogeys to open the front and could only manage an offsetting birdie and bogey in her final 7 holes. She also stands at +2 (T45).
  • In-Kyung Kim (74, T45) had 7 bogeys, 6 pars, and 5 birdies, with most of the non-pars concentrated in her first 13 holes; her last bogey on her next-to-last hole and subsequent failure to birdie the par-5 18th prevented her from claiming a moral victory.
  • Jimin Kang had 5 birdies, 4 bogeys, and 2 doubles on her way to a 75 (T67).

The deeply frustrated newbies include:

  • Eun-Hee Ji (73), who got it to -2 through 10 holes with her birdie on the 1st, but then proceeded to make 3 bogeys and a double over her final 8 holes, offsetting two birdies early in that stretch.
  • Anna Rawson (73), who had 16 pars and a birdie coming into the par-5, island-green 9th, and maintained her bogey-free round in a bad way.
  • Meredith Duncan (73), who started on the back, was -1 through 3, +1 through 8, -1 through 15, and proceeded to match Rawson's double on the 9th.
  • Kim Hall (73), who fought back to -1 on her opening 9 with birdies on the 15th and 18th, but bogeyed 3 of her final 5 holes, including the 9th.
  • Ashleigh Simon (74), who had a balanced back 9 to start her Friday--matching trios of pars, birdies, and bogeys--but couldn't recover from a double on the par-4 3rd down the stretch.
  • Song-Hee Kim (75), who was -1 through 12, but whose bogey-free play came to an abrupt end with pairs of consecutive bogeys (4th/5th and 7th/8th) down the stretch.

And the grimly satisfied newbies include:

  • Virada Nirapathpongporn, who went 40-33--her 5th bogey of the day on the 17th was the only blemish on the back, but she offset it with her 4th birdie of the side on the 18th.
  • Erica Blasberg (73), who had 4 bogeys in her first 8 holes, 3 birdies between the 4th and 10th, and parred out.
  • Na Yeon Choi (74), who threw 6 bogeys, 4 pars, and 3 birdies at her first 13 holes, but finished with 4 consecutive pars and a birdie on the 18th.
  • Carolina Llano (74), who bogeyed 4 of her first 7 holes on the back, but played bogey-free -2 golf over her final 10 holes.

Hey, it could have been worse, right? Oh...yeah. About that....

The Ugly

76/T77 Ochoa, Laura Davies, Angela Stanford, Jee Young Lee

77/T93 Hee Young Park, Su A Kim, Soo-Yun Kang

78/T103 Hee-Won Han, Brittany Lang, Minea Blomqvist

79/T117 Kelli Kuehne

82/T124 Meaghan Francella, Dorothy Delasin

83/T129 H.J. Choi

So there you have it. Scores on the 9th hole alone ranged from 3 to 9 on the scorecards I've sampled here today. There are plenty of holes that lend themselves to 3-shot swings, too. Who knows what anyone's going to shoot later today?

Since good and bad scores were mixed all over the morning and afternoon yesterday, it's even hard to guess how moving day's pairings will play out. The tournament organizers aren't using my favorite 54-hole system: reversing people's Friday sides and times, grouping those in the morning with the top players on each side going off last together, and grouping those in the afternoon with the top players on each side going off first together. Instead, they're starting off all the leading players on the front and those struggling to make the cut on the back, with players who started in the afternoon Friday getting morning times Saturday and those who started Friday morning getting Saturday afternoon times. The twist is that the people with the worst rounds get the worst times off #10--first in the morning and last in the afternoon. But the leaders go off #1 at the end of each morning and afternoon time:

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Eunjung Yi
Jeong Jang
Laura Diaz

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Yani Tseng
Amy Yang
Pat Hurst

Start Time: 1:10 PM
Gloria Park
Candie Kung
Jennifer Gleason

Start Time: 1:20 PM
Jill McGill
Ji Young Oh
Eva Dahllof

Which seems a little weird to me--almost like it's a disadvantage to have played well Friday morning, or like the tournament organizers feel those who did so had an unfair advantage.

The bottom line is, on this course, anyone can shoot anything anytime. Will someone make like Ochoa at the HSBC and seem to be playing a different course than everyone else? Or is this still anyone's tournament? Stay tuned. If you get ESPN Deportes, that is. Otherwise, come on back here tomorrow!


Hound Dog said...

Great recap. You're much better at the "no TV, internet-only" write-ups than I am.

The Constructivist said...

Experience, my friend: bitter experience!