Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stanford International Thursday: The Softer Course?

A quick look this afternoon at the leaderboard for the Stanford International Pro-Am marked the Soffer Course as softer than the Miller Course in my mind. That surprised me a bit, as the information I could find about the two courses suggested the opposite, until I realized (thanks to Hound Dog) that I was getting hung up on score in relation to par (Soffer is a par 71, Miller a par 70) rather than raw score. So here's how I'd represent the leaders in the clubhouse thus far:

68 Momoko Ueda, Paula Creamer, Juli Inkster (-3)
68 Ya Ni Tseng, Candie Kung, Annika Sorenstam (-2)
69 Kyeong Bae, Meena Lee (-2)
69 Hee Young Park, Mi Hyun Kim, Angela Stanford, Janice Moodie (-1)
70 Shi Hyun Ahn (-1)
70 Ai Miyazato, Julieta Granada, Suzann Pettersen (E)

So I would argue that it's the Miller Course that's the softer course. Until, that is, Christina Kim, Linda Wessberg, and Carolina Llano post scores on the Soffer Course that mess with my hypothesis.

More soon, including details on why so many of the leaders have to be wondering about what could have been today.

[Update 1 (4/25/08, 2:24 am): Check Hound Dog's first-round recap and Mulligan Stu's reaction to the AP story. Here's how the leaderboard ended up (note that got Juli Inkster's score wrong at the time I posted this earlier):

67 Young Kim (-3)
68 Momoko Ueda, Paula Creamer (-3)
68 Ya Ni Tseng, Candie Kung, Annika Sorenstam (-2)
69 Carolina Llano, Kyeong Bae, Meena Lee, Cristie Kerr (-2)
69 Hee Young Park, Mollie Fankhauser, Mi Hyun Kim, Angela Stanford, Janice Moodie, Leta Lindley (-1)
70 Shi Hyun Ahn, Christina Kim, Maria Hjorth, Juli Inkster (-1)
70 Ai Miyazato, Julieta Granada, Birdie Kim, Lindsey Wright, Suzann Pettersen, Rachel Hetherington (E)

So, no one on the at-first-glance easier Soffer Course shot a 67, and the Miller course gave up 1 more 68, 2 more 69s, and 2 more 70s than it. Which is the softer course, after all? If Annika thought conditions were "silly tough" yesterday playing the Miller, I wonder what she'll say about today's round?]

[Update 2 (2:45 am): Now onto the disaster reel. Let's start with Christina Kim, who was on her way to being the only player on the Soffer course Thursday to match Young Kim's 67. She finished with an 8 on the par-5 18th to fall 3 shots off the pace. What a way to almost negate a 5-birdie-barrage in her first 8 holes! But many people who started hot on the Soffer Course also finished with a whimper or an explosion. Kyeong Bae was -5 through her first 10 holes there but only managed a 69. Linda Wessberg was -4 through 12 but only shot a 71. Cristie Kerr was -4 through 11 and had to come back with back-to-back closing birdies to avoid Wessberg's fate. Juli Inkster was -3 through 10 and ended up with a 70. Maria Hjorth had yet another roller coaster round Thursday--after battling back to -3 through 16, she finished with consecutive bogeys for her 70.

And that's just the people who played the Soffer Course well. Look at its bigger numbers, mostly by people who were playing very well coming into this week (putting aside that 5 of the 8 people who failed to break 80 played it--call it the Mostly Harmless mercy rule):

76 Jee Young Lee, Jin Joo Hong (+5)
75 Louise Friberg, Karine Icher, Amy Hung, Becky Morgan, Laura Davies (+4)
74 Jane Park, Eun-Hee Ji (+3)
73 Allison Fouch, Sun Young Yoo, Laura Diaz, Karrie Webb, Pat Hurst (+2)

Softer course? I don't think so.]

[Update 3 (3:15 am): It's not that the Miller Course had no teeth--just fewer:

75 Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis (+5)
74 Seon Hwa Lee, Catriona Matthew, Kelli Kuehne (+4)
73 Meaghan Francella, Na On Min, Jeong Jang (+3)
72 Teresa Lu, Karen Stupples, Moira Dunn (+2)

On the one hand, it's better for these players that their bad rounds are lower than their peers' who started on the Soffer Course. But unless they can take advantage of its first 12 holes or so, it's going to be harder for them to make the cut, much less get back into contention. Where the trouble seemed to be on the Miller Course was its middle holes--plenty of people finished strong to salvage otherwise weak rounds there. This was just not the norm at the Soffer Course, although a few people were able to do it. It'll be interesting to see if these patterns hold up later today.]

[Update 4 (3:30 am): With the two lowest pro-am scores coming on the Soffer Course, of course it is possible to go low there if you can avoid a late collapse. Anyway, here ae the two best interview moments. The first is when James Caan is asked to describe Christina Kim's final hole:

JAMES CAAN: She'll knock me out. I ain't telling. First, I started out by hitting a ball out of bounds off 18. So I know we were 7 under and then...

CHRISTINA KIM: ...weren't.

JAMES CAAN: And then she hit one off the cart--her she second shot was an incredible shot off the cart path standing above it.

CHRISTINA KIM: And then I hit six more. Not quite so incredible.

JAMES CAAN: Then she had a lie like this. Just one of those things.

CHRISTINA KIM: Excuses, excuses.

JAMES CAAN: Excuses? You didn't miss a ball all day, which made me miss everything. (Laughter.)

CHRISTINA KIM: No, I hit my drive went left and I had to hit a shot off a cart path into a sidehill slope. From there, hit into the water; from there, hit into the bunker; from there, two putted. Sucked.

And Paula Creamer and James Blake bring the comedy:

Q. Did you ever find yourself over a shot where you were sympathetic for your amateur partner having to hit a shot into that pin?

PAULA CREAMER: There was a couple. A couple of the Par 3s are difficult pin placements definitely. Whenever we have big left to right winds I get a little nervous for him, that's for sure. He likes to hit the banana off the tee.

JAMES BLAKE: I don't like to. (Laughter.)

PAULA CREAMER: So when we're on those kind of holes I'm thinking, All right James. (Laughter) Aim it far enough left.

No, there was, it was difficult out there. Obviously. I shot 3 under and I played a solid round of golf. So that's normally the middle of the pack kind of thing.

Q. For either of you, the fact that you did shoot 3 under and you're one shot off the pace, how much do you think chemistry maybe played a part in that in being able to have some laughs and stay loose under all these conditions?

PAULA CREAMER: It helped me a lot. I made two bogeys out there, and immediately after those two bogeys James came over to me. Normally, that's not happening out there. It's just me by myself thinking. And it helped. It really did for me.

JAMES BLAKE: If I could take any sort of credit for the fact that she's as good as she is I would be happy to take it. But I don't think I could with a clear conscience take credit for her shooting 68.

Read the whole thing. Christina Kim agrees with me the Miller Course is the softer one, BTW.]

[Update 5 (5:05 am): Bill Jempty got a press pass via Newsweek and here's his first post. Nice focus on Tseng, Ueda, and Kung and front 9 report on Christina Kim and Cristie Kerr's rounds, Bill!]

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