Unless Janice Moodie, Jimin Kang, or Jeong Jang do something special on the Corning Classic's birdie alley, first-round leader Erica Blasberg will have no one ahead of her from the morning groups as she plays the 5th through 9th holes at the end of her round today. Moodie's eagle on the par-5 5th hole has brought her to -5 for her round and -6 for the tournament, so she has the best chance to put some pressure on the leader. Kang's birdie on the 5th pulled her back to E for her round and -4 for the tournament. And Jang has already birdied 2 of her first 4 holes on the front to get to -2 on her round and -3 for the tournament as she enters birdie alley.
If you thought more players from the morning groups would be hanging with them, you thought wrong. Sure, Sun Young Yoo was -4 through her first 5 holes today (she's now -3 for the round and -1 for the tournament through 12, but besides that eagle on the 5th failed to take advantage of birdie alley for the second day in a row) and Song-Hee Kim is -2 through 14 in her round today and -3 for the tournament, but those kind of numbers aren't going to get you in contention with so many in the afternoon groups already at or better than them as they begin their rounds. What's more striking, though, is how many people in the morning groups have been moving backwards, fast. Take defending champion Young Kim, for instance. She opened with a 42 on the back to take her to +8 for the tournament--she'll need a fantastic finish on birdie alley to have even a hope of making the cut. Flirting with the cut line is Hee-Won Han, who gave back an eagle on the par-5 2nd with a double-bogey on the par-4 4th and is back to +2 on the round and tournament with 3 more birdie alley holes to play. Paula Creamer, too got off to a bad start with a 38 on the back and isn't taking advantage of birdie alley thus far; she's mired at E with Seon Hwa Lee, who probably wishes she had taken advantage of birdie alley as she enters the last 4 holes on the back.
In the time it took to write this, Jang failed to birdie the par-5 5th and Kang actually bogeyed the par-3 7th. Not a pretty start to a sunny Friday--too many lukewarm performances on a cool day....
[Update 1 (1:33 pm): Well, Moodie held steady for a 67 (-6, T1 now that Blasberg has made an early bogey), Kang fell back to a 73 (-3), and Jang has gotten to -4 with 2 holes to play. Creamer shot a 74 (E), as did Han (+2, right on the cut line as of now). And although Young Kim (+6) and Angela Stanford (+4) have gotten one birdie out of birdie alley thus far into it, they'll need miracles on their final holes to get close to the cut line.]
[Update 2 (1:49 pm): Rassin' frassin' LPGA.com! Moodie ended the day with a 68 and is at -5 (T2 for now). Jang's 69 kept her at -4 (T5). Kang ended up tied with Song-Hee Kim and Onnarin Sattayabanphot at -3 (T9)--and Sun Young Yoo has a great chance to join them, as she's -5 on her round with the 18th left to play. But don't expect -3 to stay in the top 15 by the end of the day....]
[Update 3 (1:54 pm): Young Kim's 32 on the front was too little, too late, but it did pull her into a tie with Angela Stanford and Inbee Park at +4 (T91). A whole lotta people need to make a whole lotta bogeys for them to have a chance at making the cut. I kinda saw it coming with Stanford--she's never played this course all that well--but am surprised at Kim and shocked at Park. Wonder who Hound Dog's Big Disappointment will be this week?]
[Update 4 (1:58 pm): 3 straight birdies by Na On Min have erased her first-hole double bogey--now there's someone taking advantage of birdie alley--and vaulted her into a tie for 1st. But Blasberg is almost through the difficult holes on the back and still has birdie alley waiting for her at the end of her round. Min, though, had one of the few bogey-free backs on Thursday, so there's no reason she can't keep her mo going all round.]
[Update 5 (6:55 pm): Min lost her mo on the back, but her 74 dropped her only to T11 at -3 because many of the leaders struggled, even on birdie alley. The exact same thing happened to Karine Icher, with exactly the same results. Blasberg, meanwhile, was -8 after the par 5 5th, but finished double bogey-par-bogey to fall back to a tie for 2nd with Moodie, Wendy Ward (70), and Katie Futcher (69) at -5. Na Yeon Choi was poised to take advantage of everyone else's struggles, but also failed to take advantage of birdie alley and stumbled her way to a 74 on the back to fall to a tie for 19th at -2.
So who played well? Dina Ammaccapane made 4 consecutive birdies on birdie alley and rebounded from back-to-back bogeys on the back by birdieing 2 of her last 3 holes for her 2nd consecutive 69 and the lead. Leta Lindley made a bunch of birdies on her way to a 67 that brought her to -4, tied with Jang, Johanna Head (69), Becky Morgan (70), and Sandra Gal (72) for 6th. Meredith Duncan birdied 3 of 5 holes around the turn and hung on for a 68 to get to -3 and T11.
So, heading into moving day, there are plenty of opportunities for struggling stars like Hee-Won Han (+2, T60), Paula Creamer and Mi Hyun Kim (E, T34), and Seon Hwa Lee and Laura Diaz (-1, T27) to get themselves back into contention. As the weather warms up, scores should be low over the weekend. The good news for the mix of veterans and newbies at the top of the leaderboard is that they have a cushion on the LPGA's elite players heading into the weekend. The bad news is that it's a much smaller cushion than it could--and probably should have been.]
[Update 6 (9:35 pm): Hound Dog's second-round summary rocks!]
[Update 7 (5/24/08, 6:36 am): As does John Kekis's AP story--it's maybe the best I've ever read!]